Greatest road tests ever: Lancia Beta 1600 coupé

Greatest road tests ever: Lancia Beta 1600 coupé


Back when Lancia was flying high under the wing of Fiat and before the marque’s rust-ravaged decline, this handsome coupé impressed our testers.

Like the Beta saloon on which it was based, the Beta coupé’s twin-cam Fiat 1600 engine was mounted on a separate subframe. Suspension was by MacPherson struts front and rear, and all-round disc brakes used floating calipers.

Rapid starts produced a fair amount of wheelspin, but acceleration to 60mph mixed the Beta with rivals such as the Fiat 124 coupé and Volkswagen Scirocco TS. The five-speed manual gearbox had a positive action and used well-spaced ratios, while the brakes were both strong and fade free of fade.

The steering was accurate enough but suffered torque steer and was heavy when cornering hard or parking. Despite the relatively soft suspension set-up, roll was well contained and impressive front-end grip allowed swift progress on twisty roads, with less understeer than expected.

The cloth seats were squashy and comfortable, and the steering wheel’s rake adjustment helped create a good driving position, albeit one that suited shorter legs best, in the true Italian way. Rear legroom and headroom was tight but the boot was surprisingly capacious.

For: Decent performance, strong brakes, handling

Against: Torque steer, rear seats

Factfile

Price £2450 Engine 4 cyls in line, 1592cc, petrol Power 108bhp at 6000rpm Torque 100lb ft at 4500rpm 0-60mph 10.4sec 0-100mph 37.6sec Standing quarter-mile 17.3sec at 87mph Top speed 113mph Economy 24.0mpg

What happened next?

The quickest Beta coupé appeared in the form of 1983’s Volumex model. It used a supercharged 2.0-litre engine producing 135bhp that also featured in a version of the Beta estate known as the HPE.



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