Autobianchi A112

Autobianchi A112

Online Classic World

When you think of Autobianchi, almost automatically the A112 comes to mind, by far the most loved model in the history of this Italian marque. It is no coincidence that it was produced from 1969 to 1986, albeit under the Lancia label for export markets in the latter years. With its front-wheel drive and practicality, it always managed to maintain its relevance. Even today, its southern European charm remains irresistible.

Autobianchi A112 Abarth

The Autobianchi A112 was a popular choice

The Autobianchi A112 was a car in which fashionable ladies liked to be seen, spoilt hockey girls got one from their fathers, and young men enjoyed testing the fast Abarth version. This car always impressed. It had a spirited look and in the process delivered performance that did not disappoint, with excellent handling. It was slightly different from the masses of Fiats that were in demand by the general public.

Despite its rust-prone bodywork, the A112 was known as a gadget. It did not have to meet the expectations of a sales director who wanted to sell huge numbers, allowing it to remain more exclusive.

Autobianchi A112 - open roof

Fiat and Pirelli founded Autobianchi

In 1955, Fiat and Pirelli jointly founded Autobianchi, stemming from the former car manufacturer Bianchi. After two years, however, the tyre brand pulled out. As a large manufacturer, Fiat could not afford conceptual missteps with its models, so the creations under this brand served as a testing ground.

The Autobianchi Primula, for example, paved the way for front-wheel drive in the Fiat 128, and the technology for the 127 was developed in the 1969 A112. The resemblance in appearance to the Mini is no coincidence: this compact hatchback had to counter Innocenti's version of the famous Brit.

Autobianchi A112 - white

It offered an innovative chassis with front-wheel drive and independent suspension, mature handling, lively engines, an accessible body with a large tailgate and a convenient fold-down rear seat. However, customers had to put up with the considerable step-in height. To compete with the Coopers of the world, a fast and beautifully equipped Autobianchi A112 Abarth was introduced in 1971.

Nuova A112

One advantage of a progressive concept is that it usually lasts a long time. Despite rumours of a new model from Autobianchi, which fell under Lancia in 1974, in 1977 they proudly introduced the Nuova A112, an updated version.

This version was notable for a redesign of the front and rear panels, with modernised bumpers, lights and other details. The more luxurious models received an updated dashboard, while the middle model, the Elegante, received a smaller Abarth engine to emphasise its position in the range.

Five-speed gearbox

Just two years later, the only Autobianchi series received another refresh, both in appearance and interior. At the same time, the five-speed gearbox was introduced, standard on the Abarth and the new Elite.

The Elite shared its engine block with the Elegante, with the 'e' at the end of the name disappearing for our region. The Junior formed the basis and came standard with a sunroof, which was made available as an option after a few years.

Autobianchi A112 Elite

Last facelift

While Autobianchi continued to make regular modifications, the last facelift took place in 1983. From then on, the A112 was given a slightly fuller look, with thicker bumpers and stylish alloy wheels for the Abarth. The Elegante was no longer available. In the last year of production, 1986, only the Junior was still on the programme, but it was soon joined by the new Lancia Ypsilon.

Incidentally, the A112 had long been sold under this brand name; the Netherlands was among the last markets where the term Autobianchi disappeared in 1982.

What to look out for when buying an Autobiachi A112?

Without detracting from the famous Mini, we can say that the A112 is exactly the car for people who find the British product a bit too simple and possibly too generic. The Autobianchi belongs to a rare breed, with unfortunately a serious case of rust problems.

Current owners should take hefty preventive measures to enjoy this fun car for a long time, as an untreated example from Italy will not survive here for long. Southern Europe offers the best chances of finding an A112, with an Abarth representing considerable value. Keep in mind, however, that this fast version has some more sensitive drivetrain technology and higher maintenance costs.

Autobianchi A112 interieur

The other variants certainly don't perform badly, but the lightest engine in the base model without much insulation creates more noise in the interior. In this respect, a five-speed A112 is an attractive option. Autobianchi has fitted decent seats in the car and provided a balanced suspension that allows for a sporty driving style. The suspension is quite firm, but certainly not too harsh.

Maintenance and repairs

A novice car enthusiast will not easily get stuck tinkering with an A112, as it is easy to assemble. Fortunately, the availability of parts is well maintained by a limited number of specialists in the Netherlands, so this need not be an obstacle to buying such a nice Autobianchi.

However, it is advisable to choose one in good condition, as body parts are not abundant. If you prefer the convenience of electronic ignition, you will end up with the Elite or Abarth. In all cases, the Autobianchi A112 is a quirky and well-equipped little car that puts a smile on the face of its passengers and other road users alike.