Sunday, July 26, 2020

European hatchbacks: fourth in a series.

Welcome to the fourth and final (for now) post in our series on a number of econoboxes, and their "hot hatch" variants, that were not available in the North American market. In this post we'll journey to Italy and Japan!

First to Italy to have a look at the Fiat Tipo. This subcompact first went on sale in the European market in June of 1988 and in the UK the following month.It was only available as
a five door hatch until a facelift in 1993 when a three door version was added to the line. In its most basic form there was a 1.1 litre powerplant producing 56hp. It was considered underpowered at the time which was evidenced by its 0-100kph time of 17.20 seconds, the seventh slowest of the eight hatches featured in this series. Its top speed of 150kph (93mph) put it in the bottom half of this group as well.

Tipo 3 door hatch.

Tipo 5 door hatch

This basic Tipo had been good enough to win European Car of The Year in 1989 and in 1991 a hot-hatch variant was introduced. The Fiat Tipo 2.0 Sedicivalvole or16 valve almost doubled the engine size, doubled the number of valves and added 90hp for a total of 146. All this extra "oomph"  brought the 0-100 time down to 8.4 seconds and increased the top speed to 208kph (129 mph)! A body kit was added along with 15" alloy wheels to complete the transformation. It remains popular with enthusiasts today and even has its own Facebook page.

 A later 3 door hatch version of the 2.0l Sedicivalvole

Last, but certainly not least, of the featured hatches in the 91-93 Nissan Sunny. Offered as a front wheel drive five door wagon, four door sedan and three door hatch. The Sunny for these years was a basic econobox that served its purpose as a people mover.

91-93 Nissan Sunny line up.

The entry level version featured a 1.4 liter normally aspirated 16 valve four cylinder engine producing 75hp which was good for a 0-100kph time of 12.5 seconds (second best in this group) on its way to a top speed of 170kph (106mph). The late eighties and early nineties saw a number of Japanese car builders delving into automotive competition arenas. Honda went into Formula 1, Mazda into sports cars and Nissan chose Group A rallying!

Sunny GTi-R

The Sunny GTi-R hot hatch was the result and it was quite a bit different from the mundane econobox version. It sported a 2.0l, 16 valve turbocharged engine producing a significant 200 horse power! All wheel drive was added to better get that power to the ground. It only took 6.4 seconds to reach 100kph from a standing start and the speedometer read 233kph (139mph) once this hot hatch reached its top speed. The best result in Group A rallying was an eighth place finish in the RAC Rally of 1992 with Finnish driver Tommi Mäkinen at the wheel.

I hope you've enjoyed this series. Please let me know in the comments of your favorite econobox or hot hatch that we didn't get in North America

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