about to get objective
reporting here. It is, believe
me, impossible to judge
impassionately the
Barchetta on the go,
simply because of the way
it is when it's static. It's just
so special, so particular.
It was designed by people
who loved it, who were
enjoying themselves,
refusing to get heavy.
    To design a cabin as
individual as it's sheetmetal,
the Barchetta crew
concentrated on building
shapes and colours that
invite and amuse and
intrigue. But because all
these parts do their jobs
perfectly well, they're never
infuriating in the way Italian
over-design can be.
    So you slip down into it's
snug little driver's post, and
you're already smiling
within. (Yes, you're on the
left, but so what?) Then
you drive, and the feeling
grows. The Barchetta is the
difference between fun
and serious fun. An MGF is
serious fun. The Barchetta
is simply fun. It doesn't
actually take very long to
root out the Little Boat's
imperfections. But — and
here I guess is the
peculiarly Italian
characteristic that we're
exploring — the Barchetta
isn't really the less for it
because it doesn't cloak
them in mystery.
    The Barchetta is front-
drive, supermini-derived,
which is not normally the
layout of a serious sports
car. Instead the Barchetta
stays light-hearted: keen
and sharp on the turn-in,
lively but reassuring. The
Barchetta knows the
difference between test-
track theory and the real-
life smiles of down-the-
road practice.
    The engine is goading,
cheerful, keen from the first
tickle of the throttle right
up to the last sprinting
moment when it breasts
the tape of the rev-limiter.
It's happy to let you hear its
efforts, by turns panting
and barking and rumbling.
It's a petrol engine godammit.
    The blokes biased, but
Fiat design boss Peter
Davies once opined to me
that because of things like
the Barchetta, we hardly
need classic cars anymore.
He has a point. It satisfies
your leaning towards the
oddball, a desire for
interesting shapes and
unusual sounds, a craving
to get close to the
machine. But it won't break
all the time, it doesn't leak,
it's exhaust doesn't wilt
every flowerbed in your
neighbourhood, and it has
an airbag.

by Paul Horrell



  'The engine is goading,
  cheerful, keen from the
 first tickle of the throttle
right up to the last
  sprinting moment'