Unfortunately many believed
the Fiat 132 was a somewhat backward step, particularly given that the car, as a replacement for the Fiat 125, retained both rear-wheel-drive and a live back-axle. The new and lower line met with a mixed reception, some people considering that the 132's shape was "Japanese-inspired
The 132 was released in April 1972, and with its twin-cam engine and optional 5-speed gearbox it promised to be competitive with both Japanese and British cars, including the new British Leyland six-cylinder f.w.d. 2200 model, and with the single-o.h.c. 2-liter Datsun and Toyota offerings.
Once behind the wheel, it would take a little while for the 132 to show its real talent. The engine would tend to hunt and stall in traffic, and there were plenty of shortcomings evident. For instance, while the accelerator was much too heavy and its cranked stalk seemed all too likely to snap off, the disc brakes were over-servoed. This made the right leg tired and the left leg flustered, and the high-set accelerator pedal made heel-and-toeing impossible.
The throttle also tended to stick, ruining a decent tick-over. The central handbrake, which was often used by owners to prevent the engine from stalling when stuck in traffic-jams, was incredibly heavy to pull up. The facia-mounted hand-throttle-cum-choke was equally stiff, and owners often reported that a stong petrol smell was all too evident.
Although the instruments - speedometer, tachometer, oil-pressure gauge, electric clock, and combined heat/fuel gauge, by Veglia - were recessed in the imitation wood panel, they were sometimes difficult if not impossible to read, due to reflected light. They were also of three different sizes, but neatly spaced.
The steering wheel had an uncomfortably thick rim and parking called for considerable effort. Although a facia shelf and door pockets were provided, the under-scuttle cubby had a very awkward catch and one that tended to claw any hands that were thrust into the invisible well. The lid of the very spacious boot flew up when released, hoping to smack you on the chin, the rear doors were often difficult to open (although this varied car to car), and the engine was not a particularly prompt commencer from cold.
If you switched-off the ignition the brakes almost immediately became ineffective, because there was no reasonable vacuum reserve. It would seem, therefore, that the Fiat 132 was a below average offering - but that would not be telling the whole story. Out on the open road, the 1,756 c.c. twin-cam 104 m.p.h. Fiat got along very well. The suspension was apt to lurch laterally to some extent and the gearbox was inclined to be baulky. But this was a comfortable way of driving quickly and by judicious use of the fifth gear it was possible to achieve impressive fuel ecomony approaching 30 m.p.g. on a long run.
If you didn't mind the Fiat triple-stalk levers on the steering column, most of the controls were well contrived, and items like a heated rear window, red light on the door extremities, flush-fitting door handles, dual headlamps, cigarette lighter, etc. were included. The comfortable seats were cloth-upholstered, and the ventilating system worked extremely well. Standard kit included an adjustable steering column, thermo-electric fan, all-disc dual-circuit brakes, single-speed wipers with electric washers and an intermediate action for light rain, etc.
The Fiat 132 came with 7 different engine combinations:
- 1.6 liter petrol producing 98 hp (73 kW) 1592 cc (later 1585 cc after 1977)
- 1.8 liter petrol with 107 hp (80 kW) 1756 cc
- 1.8 liter petrol with 111 hp (83 kW) 1756 cc
- 2.0 liter petrol 112 hp (84 kW) 1995 cc (from 1977)
- 2.0 liter petrol with fuel injection producing 122 hp (91 kW) 1995 cc (from 1977)
- 2.5 liter diesel with 60 hp (45 kW) 2435 cc
- 2.5 liter diesel with 72 hp (54 kW) 2435 cc
The second major facelift of Fiat 132 came in 1981, along with a new name, the Fiat Argenta
. Other changes included new trim, wheels, dashboard, mirrors and rectangular headlights.
The Argenta came with a choice of 4 different engines (market dependent):
- 1.6 liter petrol producing 90 hp (67 kW) 1585 cc
- 2.0 liter petrol with 113 hp (84 kW) 1995 cc
- 2.0 liter petrol with Bosch L-jetronic fuel injection producing 122 hp (91 kW) 1995 cc
- 2.5 liter diesel with 75 hp (56 kW) 2435 cc
Digiplex electronic ignition was fitted to some 2.0i models. In 1984, the Argenta was face-lifted. The grille was renewed with the then corporate 5-bar grille, and an anti-roll-bar was mounted on the rear axle. The front axle was widened by 40 mm (1.6 in), and new wheels with flat wheel trims & chrome embelishers used. Some minor changes were made inside the car, most notably to the style and color of seat trim. The Argenta also had two new engines: Fiat's first turbodiesel, 2.5 liter producing 90 hp (67 kW), and for the Argenta VX a supercharged engine with 135 hp (101 kW), derived from the Lancia Volumex models.
The car remained in production until 1986 when it was replaced by the Croma.