Plagued by poor product planning, Fiat’s Autobianchi division looked like the automotive equivalent of a failed state in the early 1980s. Designing an A112 successor was more challenging than Fiat expected, but Autobianchi finally replaced its Mini-fighter with the Panda-based Y10 — which was sold under the Lancia banner in some countries — in 1985.
Fiat engineers wasted no time in building a quicker version of the Y10 to replace the A112 Abarth. The hot hatch couldn’t wear the tuner’s name because it was designed in-house by Fiat, so company execs ultimately settled on the Y10 Turbo moniker. It was launched in Italy as an Autobianchi (and in a host of other European markets as a Lancia) in 1986.
Under the Y10 Turbo’s hood was a 1,049cc four-cylinder engine fed with a single downdraft carburetor. Sourced from the Fiat parts bin, the mill was upgraded with sodium-filled exhaust valves, specific piston rings, a Digiplex electronic ignition system, and, last but certainly not least, an IHI turbocharger. When all was said and done, it sent 85 horsepower and 91 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
The Y10 Turbo was capable of hitting 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in 9.5 seconds, a surprising statistic at the time. It went on to a top speed of 111 mph (about 178 km/h).
The Turbo adopted a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing look. It stood out from the regular-production Y10 thanks to discreet Turbo stickers above the rocker panels, model-specific emblems on the grille and on the famously-black trunk lid, and a deeper front bumper. The story was the same on the inside, where the Turbo was largely standard Y10 fare save for a boost gauge on the left side of the steering wheel.
A year after its launch, the Lancia Y10 Turbo carried a base price of 63,000 francs, a noticeable increase over the entry-level Y10’s 42,990-franc price. In comparison, that same year the cheapest Volkswagen Golf offered in France cost 56,150 francs, while a three-door GTI retailed for 90,500 francs.
Lancia deep-sixed the Turbo when it updated the entire Y10 lineup in 1989. It was replaced by the Y10 GT i.e., which was equipped with a 78 horsepower, 1.3-liter four-banger that was naturally-aspirated and fuel-injected. Precise production figures aren’t available, but sales were relatively low and the Y10 Turbo has become a rare sight even in its home country.