The Fiat Strada 130TC Abarth of the Eighties was a fantastic hot hatch that gave even the Great Golf GTI a run for its money. With a brilliant Abarth-tuned suspension, exceptionally sharp steering and impressive performance figures, it was one of the best handling hot hatches of the time. However, it was a completely different story with the regular hatch from the previous decade.
The Fiat Ritmo hatchback, launched in 1978, was badged as a Strada in most of the export markets. There was a lot of hype surrounding this model, with its ‘Handbuilt by robots’ slogan signifying the automated bodyshell assembly and welding process using robots. It was potentially a great advertising idea for a new car. But when the car came out, it turned out to be the worst publicity robots could get. Build quality was woeful, and rust wreaked havoc across the Strada’s body, suspension, floors and even engine mounts. And the asthmatic 75 horsepower engine didn’t help its cause either.
With customers in the US filing lawsuits against the company citing premature corrosion, Fiat had to pull out of the all-important US market altogether. Things were no different in Europe. A cabriolet version was introduced in 1981, assembled by Bertone, but didn’t stand a chance against rivals like the Volkswagen Golf cabrio in terms of performance or quality. And after plodding along for nearly a decades the model was killed off, to be replaced by the Tipo.