Fiat Coupe (1995-2001)

Distinctive, great to drive, affordable and with a great club scene, the Fiat Coupé bridges the gap between used and classic, offering a lot of car for the money. The Turbo editions are especially rapid, but low values also mean these cars appeal to those who cane them at every opportunity - so you must tread very carefully before buying.

Key Dates

6/95: The Coupé is launched in normally aspirated and Turbo forms.

11/96: All cars get a 20-valve engine.

8/99: Standard car gets air-con, the Turbo gets a six-speed gearbox and the Turbo Plus debuts.

Fiat Coupe (1995-2001) Checklist

  • Look carefully for signs of abuse such as kerbed wheels, badly repaired bodywork damage and misaligned suspension.
  • Check that the red master key is provided; if it isn't and you lose the ignition key the car has to be reprogrammed - very expensively.
  • See if the cam belt needs changing; some specialists take the engine out for this (although it's not necessary), so it's costly. It needs doing every 36,000 miles or three years.
  • The parking brake pads fall apart from damp, and the debris then seizes the rear calliper pins. Can be cleaned up, but new callipers may be needed.
  • Exhaust manifolds of early 20-valve cars can crack; a new manifold will fix the problem. Air-con needs to be regassed after the work has been done.

We Like

  • Styling
  • Performance
  • Handling
  • Value

We Don't Like

  • Thrashed cars common


Ford Puma (1997-2001)

It may be little more than a Fiesta in drag, but that's not a bad thing because Ford's familiar supermini has long been a cracker. However, because the less practical Puma often appeals to those who regularly drive it on the doorhandles, you need to make sure that you don't end up with a lemon because of a previous owner's abuse.

Key Dates

6/97: Puma launched with a 1.7-litre engine only

2/98: There's now a 1.4-litre engine available

10/99: The Racing Puma arrives, with 152bhp; just 500 are made. The 1.7 Millennium limited edition also appears

10/00: A 1.6-litre engine replaces the 1.4-litre unit and the special edition 1.7 Black goes on sale

11/01: The limited edition 1.7 Thunder debuts

Ford Puma (1997-2001) Checklist

  • Look for evidence of abuse; Pumas are often driven 'enthusiastically'
  • Ford recommended fresh oil every 10,000 miles, but twice as often is better
  • Fully synthetic oil is bad news, so ask what's been put in
  • A misfiring 1.7-litre engine is usually down to leaking core plugs dropping coolant onto the spark plugs
  • Make sure the heater works properly; the valves are unreliable
  • Look for uneven front tyre wear, suggesting the front wheels have been kerbed; it can be tricky to get the tracking right after this
  • That uneven front tyre wear can also point to worn suspension bushes - clonks will usually be in evidence too.

We Like

  • Handling
  • Affordability
  • Low running costs
  • Performance

We Don't Like

  • Abused examples
  • Firm ride
  • Visibility