Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
FIAT 127 1 THE FIRST 127 WAS A PIONEERING SUPERMINI
Most mainstream European car makers were offering a supermini by the mid 1970s. These compact, four-seater family cars took the best of the transverse, front-wheel drive technology found in Britain’s revolutionary Mini and installed it in to a more spacious and versatile bodyshell. The 127 was certainly in at the start in terms of its packaging and front-wheel drive. But the 1971 launch model had a bootlid not a hatchback, despite its ‘two-box’ profile. Fiat hastily gave its new baby a tailgate a year later.
2 IT WAS A BRAND NEW DESIGN
The 127 was actually a canny mishmash of hardware from other Fiat cars. Its front-wheel drivetrain had been around in limited numbers in the Autobianchi Primula/A112 since 1964 and its platform was an abridged version of the Autobianchi-derived Fiat 128 saloon’s. As for the 903cc four-cylinder water-cooled engine, that was an updated and improved version of the motor used in the Fiat 850 saloon. Whatever its provenance, however, the 127 was an excellent little car, with genuinely fantastic roadholding and ride.
3 A TRUE TRENDSETTER, THEN?
That’s something that would be hotly contested by fans of the Renault 5. The 127 was popular but the Renault 5 outsold it by more than a million examples. The 5 was behind the curve in one way, in that its engine sat in the conventional, in-line position, driving its front-wheels. Yet its interior felt roomier than the 127’s, and it had the benefit of a hatchback third door that opened down to sill level – getting a heavy suitcase into a 127 meant hefting it over a high lip. Giles Chapman
127 was a clever and popular partsbin special, but rivals still outsold it.