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Fiat Ritmo

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Title: Fiat Ritmo  
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Subject: Fiat 127, Fiat Uno, Fiat 126, Fiat 500X, Fiat Bravo (2007)
Collection: 1970S Automobiles, 1980S Automobiles, Cars of Spain, Compact Cars, Fiat Vehicles, Front-Wheel-Drive Vehicles, Vehicles Introduced in 1978
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Fiat Ritmo

Fiat Ritmo
Manufacturer Fiat
Also called Fiat Strada
SEAT Ritmo
Production 1978–1988
Assembly Cassino, Italy
Barcelona, Spain
Cairo, Egypt (Nasr)[1](AAV)
Designer Sergio Sartorelli at Centro Stile Fiat[2] Bertone (Cabrio)
Body and chassis
Class Small family car
Body style 3-door hatchback
5-door hatchback
2-door cabriolet
Layout FF layout
Related Lancia Delta
Lancia Prisma
Fiat Regata
SEAT Ronda
SEAT Malaga
SEAT Ibiza
Engine 1,049 cc Brazil I4
1,116 cc I4
1,301 cc I4
1,498 cc I4
1,585 cc 138 AR.000 twin cam I4
1,995 cc twin cam I4
1,714 cc diesel I4
1,929 cc turbodiesel I4
Transmission 4/5-speed manual
3-speed automatic (VW)[3]
Wheelbase 2,448 mm (96.4 in) MkI
2,444 mm (96.2 in) MkII
2,432 mm (95.7 in) (125 & 130TC)[3]
Length 3,937 mm (155.0 in)
Width 1,650 mm (65 in)
1,663 mm (65.5 in) (Sport/Abarth)
Height 1,400 mm (55 in)
Curb weight 850-995 kg (1873-2193 lb)
Predecessor Fiat 128
Successor Fiat Tipo

The Fiat Ritmo is an automobile from Italian manufacturer Fiat, launched in 1978. Designed by Sergio Sartorelli's[4] Future Studies department at Centro Stile Fiat, it was seen by some as the most distinctive looking small family car in Europe on its launch in 1978 Turin Motorshow. It was badged in Great Britain and North America as the Fiat Strada. In 1979 SEAT Ritmo production started in Spain and was replaced by a facelifted version in 1982, the SEAT Ronda. During the Ritmo's production, which ran from 1978 to 1988, a total of 1,790,000 units were made.


  • History 1
    • Abarth 1.1
    • 1982 facelift 1.2
    • 1985 facelift 1.3
  • Other models or variants 2
  • Alternate names 3
    • Fiat Strada 3.1
    • SEAT Ritmo 3.2
  • Revival of the Ritmo name 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Underneath the Ritmo reused most of the front-wheel drive running gear from 128, which continued production in some regions until 1984. The 1.1 L (60 PS or 44 kW or 59 bhp), 1.3 L (65 PS or 48 kW or 64 bhp) and 1.5 L (75 PS or 55 kW or 74 bhp) petrol engines were reasonably refined and economical, but particularly the smaller ones were somewhat underpowered for the size of the car. Nonetheless, in 1979 the smaller yet 1.05 liter four built by Fiat of Brazil was added to the lineup for certain markets, with the same exact power and torque figures as those of the 128-derived 1.1 engine.[5] At Geneva 1980 the Ritmo diesel was introduced with the 1,714 cc engine (55 PS or 40 kW or 54 bhp). To accommodate this considerably heavier engine, the steering rack was slowed down (from 3.5 to 4 turns) and the suspension adjusted. Nonetheless, a 65.5% forward weight distribution was hard to mask and both handling and braking suffered when compared to petrol-powered Ritmos.[6]

In 1981 the Ritmo Super (Fiat Superstrada in UK) was introduced with a variety of small changes and, most significantly, revised engines with 75 PS (55 kW; 74 bhp) (1300) and 85 PS (63 kW; 84 bhp) (1500). This extra power was gained through slight alterations to the camshaft profile, a twin carburettor, and a twin exhaust. Other differences included lower profile tyres (Pirelli P8) and a five-speed, closer ratio gearbox. The steering was also somewhat faster.[7]

In May 1981 the first sport Ritmo, the 105TC, was launched. This used a 1,585 cc Fiat DOHC engine derived from that in the 131 and 132 models producing 105 PS (77 kW; 104 bhp). It had the same 14-inch (360 mm) wheels as the Ritmo Super, but with black centre hubcaps. UK and Irish models had black and silver Cromodora alloy wheels (5.5 x 14) as standard. The 105TC was distinguishable from other Ritmo models by its front fog lights integrated into the front bumper, integrated front spoiler combined with wheel arch trims, black lower door paint, black mesh air intake, and lower hatchback rear spoiler.


A few months later, at Frankfurt, the Ritmo Abarth 125TC was introduced in Europe; it was never officially sold in the UK, as the position of the exhaust downpipe would have clashed with the right hand-drive steering gear. The 125TC was a modified and revised 105TC with a 1,995 cc DOHC four with 125 PS (92 kW; 123 bhp), ventilated front discs, a new ZF gearbox, revised suspension settings and strengthened components. Outwardly, the 125TC differed only slightly from the 105TC - it gained the chunky four-spoke 14 in alloys later seen on the Bertone Cabrio models, featured a joint "Fiat Abarth" badge on the rear hatch, and the side badges featured an Abarth Scorpion. The 125TC version had top speed of 190 km/h (120 mph) and it could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.7 seconds.[8] Significantly the Abarth models were the last true Abarth cars to be assembled on a separate Abarth production line following the Fiat buyout in 1971.

Fiat Strada (Ritmo) of the first generation, rear view

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 "Handbuilt by robots".[9]

Press leaks ahead of launch indicated that the car would be named Fiat 138,[10] highlighting its role as a successor to the successful Fiat 128, but by the time of its announcement Fiat had resolved to follow the precedent set by the Fiat Mirafiori of giving the car a public name, Ritmo, rather than a mere three digit number. "138" remained the internal code for the Ritmo though. The Italian word "ritmo" is usually translated into English as "rhythm". "Strada", the name applied in certain anglophone markets, is the Italian word for road.

1982 facelift

Fiat Ritmo 3-door 2nd (1982) series.
Fiat Ritmo 2-door 2nd (1982) series cabriolet with open top.

An October 1982 facelift saw the Ritmo's styling become more restrained with more conventional re-designed front and rear ends.[11] Base models sold on the continent featured the by-now familiar corporate five-bar grille with single round headlamps set in a conventional grille, whilst all other models featured twin round headlamps (in the UK, all models of this generation featured twin headlamps). The rear gained conventional light clusters either side of the rear numberplate. The 1.05 litre "Brazil" engine was no longer available.

The 105TC was relaunched with revised interior trim, a dashboard mirroring that of the earlier Ritmo Super, and an upper hatchback spoiler in place of the lower one. In the UK, 7-spoke alloy wheels replaced the earlier Speedline ones. The advertising name was revised to Strada II in the UK, although the car remained badged as a Strada. The US version was unchanged but was finally discontinued at the end of the 1982 model year, leaving only sports cars in the US Fiat lineup (the X1/9 and the 124 Spider).

Most significantly, a hot hatch version — the Abarth 130TC — was added. This model was based on the 125TC with a 1,995 cc engine, but with performance increased to 130 PS (96 kW; 128 bhp) by replacing the single Weber carb used in the 125TC with twin Solex/Weber carbs on a side-draught manifold, and improved cam profiles. The 130TC was capable of 195 km/h (121 mph) and accelerated from 0 to100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.8 seconds.[8] It was a raw hot hatch fitted with Recaro bucket seats as standard in the UK (optional in Europe), and significantly it was the only 1980s hot hatch to continue utilise carburettors instead of fuel injection coming with either twin Solex ADDHE or Weber DCOE40 carburetors. Ignition timing was controlled electronically. Although appearing outwardly similar to the restyled 105TC with its lower door & wheelarch trims, the 130TC could be distinguished by its polished four-spoke alloy wheels (continued from the earlier 125TC), aerodynamic perspex front door wind deflectors, and lower hatchback spoiler. The raw powerful twin-cam mated to a close ratio ZF gearbox made it a handful to drive, with the performance to outpace many of its contemporary rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTi, Ford Escort XR3i, Vauxhall Astra GTE and the MG Maestro.

There was a minor change in the spring of 1984, mainly consisting of a shuffling of the roster. Aside from the three-door, four-speed "L" versions ("60" and "Diesel"), all non-sporting Ritmos now had five-speed gearboxes and five-door bodywork. The upper-class 85 Super version was dropped in Italy, where smaller-engined versions ruled the marketplace. The 1.1 litre 60 CL and 60 Super models were new to the lineup.[11]

1985 facelift

Fiat Strada 130 TC Abarth (1985) Series 2.
Fiat Ritmo 3rd (1985) series.

1985 saw a minor facelift to the Ritmo range, featuring new rectangular door handles to the five-door versions only (the three-door versions retained the circular door handles). In truth, these were simply Regata parts. Other changes included restyled front & rear bumpers, and lower plastic panels on the doors (again, taken from the Regata). The rear bumper now housed the number plate at low level, whilst the space between the rear lights was filled with a plastic panel. The 1,714 cc diesel engine was replaced with a 1,697 cc unit from the Uno 60D, developing 60 PS (44 kW; 59 bhp). The 105TC three-door model was replaced with the five-door 100S (also fitted with a 1,585 cc DOHC engine). The 130TC Abarth benefitted from the same external changes as the other models, in addition to new wheels and interior trim. In 1986, a new diesel version was launched with a 1,929 cc intercooled turbodiesel (80 PS (59 kW; 79 bhp)), and was badged as the Ritmo Turbo DS (as a five-door only). While marketed across continental Europe, the 100S and the Turbo DS were not sold in the UK or Ireland, nor were any of the fuel injected models.

The year 1988 saw the last Ritmo roll off the production line and the more conventional Tipo take its place as Fiats C-Segment Car. Also 75 i.e. and 90 i.e. with catalytic converters were made to some markets, these had slightly lower power output.

Other models or variants

A saloon version, the Regata, was also launched in 1983, with limited success outside Italy. Mechanically similar to the Ritmo, it was offered in 1.3, 1.5 and 1.6 (all petrol) and 1.7, 1.9 and 1.9 Turbo diesel models. An estate version, the Regata Weekend, was launched in 1984, and featured a folding rear bumper section to create a level loading bay. The Regata received a minor facelift in 1986 (bumpers, doors, interior) as well as fuel injection being available with some engines, most notably on the 1,585 cc "100S i.e.".

The Ritmo Cabriolet was launched in 1981 styled and assembled by the Italian design house Bertone. This model was facelifted at the same time as the Ritmo hatchback models; however, instead of the 1982-on 5-bar grille, the Bertone Cabriolet models featured the simple Bertone roundel. It looked striking and was cheaper than a Golf Cabriolet but not up to Volkswagen standards in terms of quality or ability, despite Volkswagen having entrusted assembly of the Golf Cabriolet to Karmann, and Fiat the Ritmo to Bertone.

The Bertone Cabriolet was sold in various European markets in petrol-engined form only (75S/85S/100S, some with fuel injection) until 1988. There were various special editions, including the Chrono and Bianco (all white) models.

Alternate names

Fiat Strada

A 1982-83 Fiat Strada.

The Ritmo was sold on the British market as the Strada from the autumn of 1978[12] until it was replaced by the Tipo in June 1988.[13]

In North America, the Fiat Strada was introduced for the 1979 model year to replace the 128.[14] It used the same 1.5 SOHC engine as the X1/9, generating 69 hp (51 kW), and featured a standard 5-speed manual gearbox. In spite of a roomy interior, the Strada failed to convince enough buyers to forget reliability issues from previous models and was withdrawn from North America in 1982.

SEAT Ritmo

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. The original SEAT Ritmo was equipped with license-built pushrod engines from the old Fiat 124.[15] When the licence expired, SEAT changed 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 to the facelifted "System Porsche"-engined SEAT Ronda, which remained in 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 in order to expunge any doubts about their right to continue assembling the car, and also about the future of the firm SEAT and their factories.

The reason for the name change in the United States, is rumoured that "Ritmo", was a brand of sanitary wipes.

Later, a four-door saloon version of the Ritmo was developed on the same underpinnings, called the Málaga. SEAT's subsequent takeover by Volkswagen saw the Fiat derived models being quickly killed off, the Ronda almost immediately and followed by the Málaga a short while later.

The Fiat Ritmo underpinnings continued in the first generation SEAT Ibiza sold between 1985 and 1993 before being replaced with a Polo based model after the Volkswagen buy-out.

Revival of the Ritmo name

The Ritmo name has subsequently been revived by the Australian Fiat Importer, Ateco Automotive, by badging the New Fiat Bravo as Fiat Ritmo upon its launch in October 2007. Japanese car maker Mazda, already uses the name Bravo for the B Series pickup truck in the region, hence preventing Fiat from also using the name in Australia. Pre-launch indication were that the Ritmo name was to appear on New Zealand bound cars, but this never eventuated and they use Bravo.


  1. ^ "Arab American Vehicles Co". Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  3. ^ a b "Fiat Ritmo / Strada". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Sergio Sartorelli, 1500 VW Karmann Ghia". Beetle Blog. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (March 3, 1982). "Automobil Revue '82" (in German/French) 77. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag, AG. p. 289.  
  6. ^ Costa, André & Georges-Michel Fraichard, ed. (September 1981). Salon 1981: Toutes les Voitures du Monde. l'Auto Journal (in French) (Paris: Homme N°1) (14 & 15): 90. 
  7. ^ Salon 1981, p. 91
  8. ^ a b "Fiat Ritmo Abarth 125TC / 130TC". 125tc (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  9. ^ "Fiat Strada Handbuilt By Robots Commercial". HudsonFilmLtd. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "Der neue Jahrgang: Neue Automodelle für 1977 und 1978".  
  11. ^ a b Mazzocchi, Gianni, ed. (April 1984). ""Ritmo": Si veste meglio" [Ritmo: Better dressed]. Quattroruote (in Italian) (Milan, Italy: Editoriale Domus) 29 (342): 78. 
  12. ^ "Birmingham Motorshow". Glasgow Herald. 1978. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  13. ^ "Fiat Tipo Review Covering 1988 - 1995". GB: CompuCars. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  14. ^ http://www-examiner-com/auto-review-in-national/retro-car-revew-1979-1982-fiat-strada-fiat-s-end-of-the-road
  15. ^ Mazzocchi, Gianni, ed. (September 1984). "Prove su strada: Seat "Ronda 1.2 GL"" [Road Test: SEAT Ronda 1.2 GL]. Quattroruote (in Italian) (Milan, Italy: Editoriale Domus) 29 (347): 168. 

External links

  • Strada Abarth 130TC and Fiat 131 Owners Club
  • Ritmo-World
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