If you want some explanation of the past decade’s styling trends, you’d do worse than to look at a 1993-2000 Fiat Coupe. Famously styled in-house by Chris Bangle (though built by Pininfarina), whose signature 2002 BMW 7-series both confounded and influenced our aesthetic sensibilities, it was a predictor of things to come. If you don’t see it, that’s okay; it’s a traditionally attractive car which doesn’t challenge the eye. The markers of “flame surfacing” and, in general, unexpected interruptions in shapes are there, however, marking a break from the minimalism of the ’80s and organic influence of the ’90s. As a style pioneer from today’s perspective, it’s uniquely subtle and if it seems unremarkable to us, it’s because so much of what has followed makes this car look clean and simple.
Unfortunately for Fiat, a lot of what followed this car has in fact, been quite simple. Without an upscale image leader or a competitive C-segment car for over a decade, the flair which characterized some Fiats is seemingly lacking (not necessarily true if one considers the 500 to have flair of a different sort, but retro appeal is fleeting). There’s certainly little with which to compare the turbocharged straight-five which powered the later versions of this car, though the 500 Abarth has one of the more (if not the most) musical four-cylinders on the market today. The trajectory of Chrysler’s current “partner” is, of course, a different story, but a Fiat Coupe is an interesting footnote in their recent history. Never sold on this side of the Atlantic, and never known for durability, keeping this car maintained and running in Ontario (where it was found by S. Forrest) is likely already a challenge. Hopefully enough car buffs ask what it is, then, because many may never realize its influence.