Pint-sized power made the Fiat Uno Turbo a default choice...

The 1990s were great times for car enthusiasts. Volkswagen, Opel, Honda and more all had interesting and often exciting models on offer. And Fiat decided to join the fray with the Uno Turbo. The version Uno South Africa received was the Mk2, the variant first produced in 1985. Built at the Nissan factory in Rosslyn, this was a car destined to become an icon.

Packaging

To improve rigidity and reduce mass (we weighed one at just 690 kg), only the two-door bodyshell was used for the Turbo. Flared wheelarch trim and red striping were added to bolster the boy-racer looks.

Back then, there was no ABS, airbags or power steering, but electric windows were standard. The drivetrain was beefed up and the gearbox had a slick action. Shorter, stiffer springs were fitted, braking featured discs on all four wheels and quicker steering meant fewer turns lock to lock.

Powertrain

Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection sorted out the optimum fuel supply and Marelli took care of the electronic ignition. Using lightweight pistons with strengthened crowns, the compression ratio of the Pacer 1,4-litre engine was reduced from 9,2 to one to 7,2 to one. A reprofiled camshaft allowed better breathing and the boost pressure was limited to 0,8 bar for reliability purposes.

The standard Uno Turbo developed 85 kW with 161 N.m, up from the stock model’s 52 kW and 106 N.m. Of course, many owners wanted more power and changed the turbo, management system and injectors, plus fitted larger intercoolers and the like.

The final drive was lowered from 3,73 to 3,35 to increase the top speed to above the genuine CAR-tested 200 km/h (with the speedometer reading 220).

Which one to get

Try to obtain one that hasn’t been modified, if at all possible. Many examples require some restoration but that’s normal for older cars. Even heavily modified units may be in reasonable condition if the owners were fastidious.

What to watch out for

The strain on all the vehicle’s components from the increased power would have taken a toll and it would be safe to expect the engine, gearbox and brakes will need some attention. If the engine has been heavily modified, it may be wise to detune some of the excess power to preserve the mechanicals. Inspect the CV joints for wear as they have a tough job.

Availability and prices

Because this was a bestseller, there are plenty of Mk2s around. Most are in some stage of modification or “project” status but there are a sufficient number of original cars offered for sale from time to time. Look inland for rust-free examples. Prices are generally reasonable.

Interesting facts

Air-conditioning was not available because there was no space under the bonnet with so much turbocharger plumbing filling every gap. Although no Abarth badges were placed on the bodywork, a neat touch was the Abarth Scorpion in the centre of the alloy wheels.

A prediction worthy of a Nostradamus prize formed our conclusion in the Uno Turbo test in November 1990: “There is a school of thought that holds that turbocharging is the way to go in future automobile design and, if this turns out to be correct, then Fiat has a head start, as their turbomotors are extremely good.”  Remember this was written some 28 years ago...