Fiat Ritmo

From WOI Encyclopedia Italia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fiat Ritmo 105TC
Fiat Ritmo
Aka Fiat Strada
Manufacturer Fiat
Parent company
Production 1978–1988
Predecessor Fiat 128
Successor Fiat Tipo
Class Small family car
Layout FF layout
Body style 3-door hatchback
5-door hatchback
2-door cabriolet
Engine 1.0 L I4
1.1 L I4
1.3 L I4
1.5 L I4
1.6 L I4
2.0 L I4

1.7 L I4 diesel
1.9 L I4 Turbodiesel

Transmission 4 and 5-speed manual
3 speed automatic (VW)
Wheelbase 2448 mm MkI
2444 mm MkII
2432 mm (125 & 130TC)
Length 3937 mm
Width 1650 mm
1663 mm (Sport/Abarth)
Height 1400 mm
Front track 1400 mm
Rear track 1410 mm
Weight 850-995 kg (1873-2193 lb)
Related Lancia Delta
Fiat Regata
SEAT Ronda
SEAT Malaga
SEAT Ritmo
SEAT Ibiza
Similar Volkswagen Golf
Ford Escort
Toyota Tercel
Talbot Horizon
Opel Kadett
Designer Bertone
Video Fiat Ritmo Abarth 130 TC

The 1978 Fiat Ritmo, styled by Bertone of Italy, was the most distinctive looking small family car in Europe on its launch. It was badged in Britain and the U.S. as the Fiat Strada but failed to attract many Ford Escort/Austin Allegro buyers because of its unconventional appearance. Legend has it that the reason for the name change was that "Ritmo" was a make of ladies sanitary towel in the U.S.


Underneath its quirky looks the Ritmo used most of the front-wheel drive running gear which could be found in the more conventional looking 128, which continued until 1984. Ride and handling were considered adequate if bouncy, steering vague, imprecise and extremely heavy, and the gearbox was much-criticised. A cheaper alternative to many other cars in its class from manufacturers such as Ford and Renault, the Ritmo struggled to attract buyers outside its native Italy and Spain. The 1.1 L (60 bhp), 1.3 L (65 bhp) and 1.5 L (75 bhp) petrol engines were reasonably refined and economical, but were underpowered for the size of the car, and unexciting. In 1980 the Ritmo diesel was introduced with the 1714cc engine (55bhp) from the 132. In the following year the Ritmo Super was introduced with a variety of small changes and, most significantly, revised engines with 75bhp (1300) and 85bhp (1500). Also in 1981 was born the first sporting Ritmo, the 105TC. This used a 1585cc Fiat DOHC engine derived from that in the 131 producing 105bhp. A few months later the Ritmo Abarth 125TC was introduced. This was a heavily modified 105TC with a 1995cc DOHC with 125 bhp, ventilated front discs, a new ZF gearbox, revised suspension settings and strengthened components.

File:1980 Fiat Ritmo 105TC.jpg
1980 Fiat Ritmo 105TC

Technologically, the biggest innovation of the Ritmo was not the car itself, which took the underpinnings of the 128, but the way in which it was manufactured. Fiat, already an industry pioneer in automated assembly, took the ambitious step and made the Ritmo the first car to be almost completely built by robots, earning the car the advertising tagline "Hand built by robots". In the UK, a memorable television advert, showing the robots assembling the car to the strains of Rossini's The Barber of Seville was shown.

The so-called "Robotgate" system made the car cheaper and quicker to manufacture, but the Ritmo also suffered a terrible reputation for poor build quality, unreliability, fragile interior trim and electrical problems. Few Ritmos survive; they were hit hard by the infamous "rust-bug" which afflicted most Italian cars of the 1970s and 1980s thanks to the use of low-grade Soviet steel which was supplied as part of the deal to supply Soviet manufacturers with car designs and production tooling. In addition, there were mechanical problems, such as the very rapid wearing of the gearbox which some owners suffered. Selecting a gear in a hurry resulting in crashing and scraping sounds from underneath, and extremely jerky progress.

The resulting bad publicity severely dented Fiat's reputation in export markets, and although it was successful in its home Italian market, the car failed to make much impact elsewhere in the world. The severe rust and unreliability problems for which the car was infamous, led to Fiat's withdrawal from the U.S.


A 1982 facelift saw the Ritmo's styling become much more restrained and the name changed from Strada to Ritmo for the US market. (It became the Strada II in the UK.) A hot hatch version — the 130 TC — was added, with a 2.0 L engine and capable of nearly 120mph. It was sporty-looking and huge fun to drive but not an ultimate hot hatch in the same vein as the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

A saloon version, the Regata, was also launched without great success outside Italy.

The Ritmo Cabriolet was launched in 1983 but low demand saw production end after just two years. It looked striking and was better cheaper than a Golf Cabriolet but not up to Volkswagen standards in terms of quality or ability.

The year 1988 saw the last Ritmo roll off the production line and the more conventional Tipo take its place.

The Spanish twin

Spanish car maker SEAT began their history as a Fiat licensee, making rebadged clones of Fiat cars, until the agreement was dropped in 1982. From 1979 to 1982 a Spanish version of the Ritmo, the SEAT Ritmo, was produced in Spain near Barcelona. When the licence expired, SEAT had to change the least possible number of pieces in their model range so that Fiat could not sue them on the basis of patent infringement, and the SEAT Ritmo yielded the SEAT Ronda, under production until 1986. Before the Volkswagen Group takeover, SEAT showed to the press a black Ronda unit with all the in-house developed parts painted in bright yellow to clear all doubts about their rights to go on assembling the car, and also about the future of the firm SEAT and their factories.

Later, a 4-door version of the Ritmo was developed on the same underpinnings, called the Málaga. SEAT's subsequent takeover by Volkswagen saw the Fiat heir models being quickly killed off, including the Málaga.

See also

  • The Fiat Strada light pick-up produced in Brazil. This car is based on the Fiat Palio 'world-car' platform and has nothing in common with the Ritmo-based Strada of UK and US markets.


External links

Preceded by:
Fiat 128
Succeeded by:
Fiat Tipo

<- Older Models Fiat car timeline, European market, 1980s - present
Type 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5
City cars 126 Cinquecento Seicento (1998-2005) / 600 (2005-2010)
Panda I Panda II
Supermini 127 Uno Punto I Punto II
Grande Punto Punto Evo
family car
Ritmo Tipo Bravo / Brava Stilo Bravo II
131 Regata Tempra Marea Linea
Large family car 132 Argenta Croma I Croma II
Coupé Coupé
Roadster 124 Spider Barchetta Barchetta
Sports car X1/9
Panel van/Leisure activity vehicle Fiorino I Fiorino II Fiorino III
Mini SUV Sedici
Mini MPV Idea
Compact MPV Multipla
Large MPV Ulysse I Ulysse II
Van Daily* Scudo I Scudo II
Ducato I Ducato II Ducato III
Mini Pickup Strada
Off-road Campagnola (1107)
*Rebadged Iveco model
Fiat S.P.A.
Current models Albea | Barchetta | Croma | Doblò | Ducato | Fiorino | Grande Punto | Idea | Linea | Marea | Multipla | Nuova 500 | Nuova Panda | Palio/Palio Weekend | Punto | Scudo | Sedici | Seicento | Siena | Strada | Stilo | Ulysse
Historic models 1 | 1T | 2 | 3.5 CV | 4 HP | 8V | 10 HP | 12 HP | Fiat 16-20 HP | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 128 | 130 | 131 | 132/Argenta | 133 | 147/Spazio | 2B | 24 HP | 242 | 500 | 502 HP | 503 HP | 508 | 508C | 509 | 510S | 514 | 518 | 519 | 520 | 524 | 574 Corsa | 60 HP | 600 | 750 | 850 | 1100 | 1200 | 1400 | 1300/1500 | 1800/2100 | 2300 | 2800 | Albea | Balilla | Bianchina | Bravo/Brava | Campagnola | Cinquecento | Croma | Coupé | Dino | Duna/Prêmio | Elba | Mod 5 | Oggi | Panorama | Panda | Regata | Ritmo/Strada | Siena | Tempra | Tipo | Topolino | Turbina | Uno | X1/9 | Zero
Fiat Group brands Abarth | Alfa Romeo | Ferrari | Fiat | Iveco | Lancia | Maserati
Major interests

CNH Global (90%): Case IH · Kobelco · New Holland · Steyr · Case · New Holland Construction
Chrysler Group, LLC (20%): Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, GEM

Commercial brands

Iveco: · Irisbus · Astra · Iveco Magirus

Defunct marques

Autobianchi · Innocenti · Zastava · Seddon Atkinson · Pegaso of Spain

Fiat Group Corporate Website | Fiat Auto Website

Models - Abarth 204A Berlinetta | Abarth Bialbero | Abarth 2000 Formula | Abarth 207A Spyder | Abarth Simca 1300GT | Abarth Corsa Periscope 2000 | Abarth Sport Spider Tubolare | Alfa Romeo Abarth 2000 Coupe | Autobianchi A112 Abarth | Abarth OT 1300 | Abarth Monomille | Abarth 695SS | Abarth 1000 SP | Fiat Abarth 595SS | Fiat Abarth 850TC Berlina | Fiat Abarth OT2000 Coupe | Fiat Abarth 1000TCR Berlina | Fiat Stilo Abarth | Fiat Punto Abarth | Fiat Ritmo 125 TC Abarth | Fiat Ritmo 130 TC Abarth | Fiat 124 Abarth Rally | Fiat 131 Abarth Rally | Fiat Punto Abarth (rally version only)

New cars produced under Abarth & C. S.p.A. - | Abarth Grande Punto (2007) | Abarth Grande Punto SS (2007)
And coming: - | Abarth 500 | Abarth 500 SS