Every now and then, an automaker comes out with a model that no one saw coming, the kind of car that generally marks a break from the past and a leap into the future. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are cars that almost go unnoticed when they are launched. The Fiat Tempra falls into the second category. Introduced in 1990, it was essentially what everyone expected Fiat would build to replace the Regata: a four door version of the Tipo.
In Europe, the Tempra slotted between the aforementioned Tipo and the Croma as Fiat’s mid-size sedan. It was available with a variety of gasoline- and diesel-burning engines ranging from 1.4- to 1.9-liters. Early gasoline engines were carbureted, but the Tempra quickly adopted fuel injection. Perhaps the most interesting variant in Europe was a 4×4 station wagon named the Tempra SW that relied on an eight-valve, 2.0-liter gasoline engine to cope with the extra weight added by the four-wheel drive system.
The Tempra was also built in Brazil starting in 1992, but since the Croma was not available there it was positioned as Fiat’s flagship sedan. This was problematic because the European version of the Tempra was not flagship material. Fiat of Brazil made several tweaks inside and out to be able to credibly market the Tempra as an upscale car, including larger exterior mirrors, a different suspension setup to make it better adapted to local roads, and a longer list of standard equipment.
To further add to the premium image, the Brazilian Tempra was available as a coupe starting in 1993, a body style not offered anywhere else in the world. The two-door was powered by either a naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged four, but both units lost power when they were adjusted to run on Brazilian fuel, which often contained alcohol.
The coupe received a model-specific dashboard, and the rear window wiper was deemed superfluous and deleted. However, fully-loaded models came with fake wood trim on the dashboard, power-adjustable seats, leather upholstery, and ABS brakes.
The 16-valve 2.0-liter caused a huge amount of ink to flow in the Brazilian press because it was the first engine sold there to have four valves per cylinder. It put out 127 horsepower (28 more than its eight-valve sibling) and hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in 9.8 seconds. The turbocharged 2.0-liter had only eight valves, but it was rated at 165 horsepower thanks to a Garrett turbocharger. It took 8.2 seconds to reach 62 mph from a standstill, which earned it the honor of being the fastest production car in Brazil at the time.
The Tempra coupe was short-lived; production ended in 1995. The Tempra sedan was sold in Europe until 1997, but Brazilian production continued until 1999.
Industry rumors indicated the Tempra Coupe would be sold in Europe, but it never made the trip across the pond and many wondered why. In hindsight, the two-door Tempra wasn’t offered in Fiat’s home market because executives were worried it would cannibalize the Chris Bangle-designed Coupé.