Cohort Outtake: Fiat 127 – The First Supermini Still At Work


To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never covered the Fiat 127 here. That’s a huge omission, given its out-sized role and influence in a number of continents other than the North American one, where it was never sold, except for its Yugo offshoot. Unfortunately, a proper presentation will have to await another day, as time just doesn’t allow me to start in on it at this late hour. But this picture of a 127 shot in Urghada, Egypt and posted at the cohort by Benoît is too good to pass up, so I’ll give its story a bit of a start, and I’m sure some of you will help me complete it.


The Fiat 217 arrived in 1971 as the replacement for the long-in-tooth rear engine 850. It made a huge impression in Europe, as it was essentially the first of what became known as the “supermini” class; modern, small FWD cars that took off where the original Mini left off: much better interior space, and all-round more developed and balanced in its qualities. The supermini class became the primary entry-level class in Europe (and beyond), and included such cars as the Renault 5, VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Opel/Vauxhall Chevette and its replacement Corsa, Peugeot 104/206, and others.

The 127 was built on a somewhat shrunken 128 platform, and shared its groundbreaking transverse engine with side-mounted transmission, which they both inherited from the Autobianchi Primula and the subsequent A112. The A112 really is the pioneer in this segment, and the 127 owes much to its advanced design and construction.

But the 127 was a much higher volume car, and really spread the gospel of what a modern small FWD car could be: zippy, efficient, good handling, and very affordable, given its performance and abilities. It set the standard that all other superminis had to measure up to and try to surpass. Which of course many did, given their later start.


The 127 and its many variants and offshoots went on to be built in numerous places around the world, including the SEAT 127 in Spain, the Polski Fiat 127 in Poland, and as the 147 in Brazil. And of course there’s the Zastava Koral, which came to the US as the much-lamented Yugo.

Yes, as other more modern and ambitious superminis pushed aside the 127 at the head of the class, it increasingly became sold on its low price, and its image gradually sunk along with it. But it’s provided transportation to millions, and I suspect on the balance, it is remembered more fondly than not.

Your turn.