The Fiat Uno arrived in 1983 and replaced the sassy little Fiat 127 with a taller, more rectangular design that looked decidedly utilitarian next to its predecessor.
The boxy shape was certainly roomy and practical, but it couldn’t possibly be aerodynamically efficient – could it?
Apparently it could. Other car makers were going for lower and slicker body shapes, but Fiat adopted a completely different approach and one now copied by just about every supermini – the chunky ‘Kamm-tail’ design.
It turns out that an abruptly squared-off back end is almost as aerodynamic as a tapered-off teardrop shape, and the first generation Uno backed this up with a drag co-efficient (remember those?) of just 0.34, which was pretty good for a small car.
A new nose and tailgate design on the second generation Uno, which arrived in 1989, dropped the Cd to just 0.30.
It was just as well the Uno was slippery, though. The base mode was the Uno 45 which, as the model name indicates, had just 45hp. Initially it used the 903cc motor from the old Fiat 127, which was willing enough but pretty hammery.
Later, Fiat swapped to a 1-litre FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine), which was a big step forward in simplicity, weight and efficiency, if not power.
On a good day, a Uno 45 would eventually haul itself up to around 90mph, so this was cheap, mass-market transport not a crazy Italian hot hatch.
Though that would come. In 1985 Fiat launched a 1.3 105hp Fiat Uno Turbo, and followed up with a slightly more powerful 1.4-litre version for the second-generation model.
In between were a range of petrol and diesel versions, all quoting the power output as part of the model name.
The fastest non-turbo, if ‘fastest’ is the word, was the SX75, though today’s drivers might approach even a 75hp supermini with a certain amount of gloom.
But the Uno’s peppy driving style, practicality, ride and handling won over almost 9 million people. Six million cars were made in Italy alone, and it carried on being made in other countries right up to 2013.
In fact, according to those wonderful folk at Wikipedia, it’s the 8th most produced car in automotive history.