Cheap and cheerful: 2003 Fiat Barchetta
If you want a sporty, reliable, compact roadster that won't cost you dozens of thousands of pounds, the market is full of excellent options, most from the already well-established manufacturers. Think of the Mazda MX-5, the Audi TT, the Alfa Romeo Spider, the BMW Z4, and the Mercedes SLK. If you want to be a bit different and go against the grain, you can even opt for something like a Lexus SC. Alternatively, if you want to go completely left field and buy something unique, you can have this: the Fiat Barchetta.
I know that most of you have probably already seen a Barchetta, but this little Italian roadster is getting rarer by the day. At the moment, this is the only example for sale on our website, which is interesting, because even most Ferrari and Porsche models have at least half a dozen ad listings on our site at any moment. This particular example is a 2003 model which has done just 54,000 miles on the clock. If you average that out versus how old the car is, you'll see that that equates to roughly 3000 miles per year. It's an example which has been well taken care of then, and one that seems in thoroughly good shape.
The term Barchetta, when translated to English, means 'little boat'. It's also a type of open-top sports car body style that was popular in Italy throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. The Fiat Barchetta is one of the last affordable Italian sports cars today. Apart from the Alfa Romeo Spider which is much larger than the Barchetta, there really haven't been that many Italian Roadsters since the little Fiat.
This example is selling for just under £6,000, which I know is quite a lot of money, but it's more than worth it if you stop and think about it. Not only is this car becoming increasingly rare and will undoubtedly be a future classic, but it's got insanely low miles which means it will hold its resale value well. If you're looking for a potential future classic which can be driven and enjoyed in the meantime, instead of just sitting in the garage, then I think you've found your vehicle.
Weirdly enough, the term 'Barchetta' perfectly describes the little Fiat. It's been designed and styled to look like a classic Italian yacht from whichever angle you look at it. Its entire silhouette is dominated by boat-like figures and lines, starting with that incredibly sculpted body. The bonnet is elongated and the sides are raised with little humps, almost like the guardrails on a boat's hull. The front overhang is also quite long, giving the impression that the car is longer than it actually is.
I love the simplicity of that front end too. There are no unnecessary splitters or winglets, just a pair of beautifully crafted headlights and a really clean bumper design. The back end is just as gorgeous as the front. Each taillight consists of two distinct rectangular sections which are joined inside a housing, but that can only be seen from the inside. I'm not the biggest fan of the centrally-mounted third brake light slapped in the middle of the boot, but I do love how clean and elegant the bumper is.
Inside, the Barchetta is everything you'd expect an old Italian Roadster to be. Most of the plastics are cheap and scratchy, and even the vinyl feels outdated. The build quality is questionable but these cars have a tendency to stay put together despite that, and it isn't what you'd exactly call full of tech. One thing I can't criticize it for is the interior design though. It manages to look elegant and sophisticated without being too outlandish or ghastly.
I absolutely love the red and green dials in the instrument cluster, as they remind me of old Italian sports car classics, namely most Maseratis. The steering wheel has an amazing shape too. It's almost as if Fiat predicted that 3-spoke steering wheels would be popular and in demand in the future. The seats are lovely as well, but you might struggle to squeeze inside or get comfortable if you're significantly taller or bulkier than average. Being a two-seater, you obviously don't have room for passengers in the back, but the boot is decently sized.
Engine and Performance
All Fiat Barchettas are powered by a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine. Because the Barchetta shares the same platform as the Fiat Punto (176), it uses the same engine and most of the same drivetrain components. The 1.8 is good for 129 horsepower at 6,300 RPM and it produces 121 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 RPM. It might share most of its underpinnings with the Punto, but the Barchetta drives very different altogether.
At 1,056 kilograms it's an absolute lightweight compared to the Alfa Romeo Brera Spider, which weighs in at an astonishing 1.6 tons. Despite being front-wheel drive, the Barchetta is an absolute riot to drive. It's incredibly nimble and agile, especially at low to medium speeds, with really communicative steering that's full of feedback. Because it's a 5-speed manual, you have to row your own gears, which is always fun in a small roadster.
Model: Fiat Barchetta
Trim: 1.6 16V 2dr
Is it the best car ever made? No, of course not, but it's one of the most affordable Italian sportscars that's a potential candidate for becoming a future classic. If you've been following our article section closely you'll know I highlighted an Alfa Romeo Brera a few weeks ago, but the Brera has nothing on the little Barchetta as far as driving involvement is concerned. Despite being less powerful and older, I'd choose a used Fiat Barchetta every time because it's that much purer and more visceral.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8.5 out of 10