Meh Car Monday: There's a Reason You've Never Heard of the Fiat Tempra

Sometimes I feel like, because of their oppressive familiarity, I tend to unfairly pick American, especially GM, cars for Meh Car Monday candidates. So, in the interest of spreading the thick, featureless gray paste of Meh more evenly over the globe, this week I’ve found a very reasonable and capable car that is richly and deeply meh: the Fiat Tempra.

The name “Tempra” I think is some variant of the Italian word for time, tempo, much like another very meh car, the Ford Tempo. I guess the concept of time is popular for makers of meh cars, maybe because it’s something that has no actual form but somehow relentlessly keeps going, like so many boring-ass cars we can think of.


The Tempra is one of those examples of a Meh Car that’s so competent and reasonable for its targeted job that it just sort of disappears into the very fabric of the universe; it almost ceases to be a Fiat Tempera, and just somehow becomes the generic concept of Car, Probably in Europe.

The Tempra was a child of the ‘90s, being built from 1990 to 1999. It was built on the same compact platform as an Alfa and a Lancia, both of which are just a bit weirder enough to be less meh than the Tempra, but just barely.

The Tempra was fiercely conventional mechanically: FWD, with a few uninspiring engine choices, ranging from a 1.4 to a 2-liter inline-four, ranging from a sad 69 horsepower to a just-fine 113 hp. You could get it with a five-speed manual, because this is a car for Europe and that’s the manner in which they roll there, but just to really drive home the meh-ness and insure no excess fun will be had, a CVT was also available, a first for Fiat on a four-door family car this size.


The styling of the Tempra was firmly within the popular Competent Bland school of auto design, and being asked to describe one after just seeing a Tempra would be about as hard as being asked to describe a particular rock in a gravel driveway you’re currently standing on.


It’s just sort of... car-shaped. They often seem to be silver, because of course they are.

Sure, the car had some less-Meh options, like a useful-looking station wagon version and an optional all-digital dash that looks like it was lifted from the display on a treadmill at the gym, but none of that is really enough to make the car actually interesting.


Advertising the Tempra faced the usual Meh Car challenges, since you’re effectively just advertising the concept of “this car will do just fine, really” which is a hard concept to convey. In this ad, they don’t even bother having the car drive; it’s just lifted off a boat and plopped down, like “Here. Here’s a car.”

Did anyone ever actually want, like actually desire, one of these? Is that possible?


In Brazil, they did have a coupé variant, but, even without that back pair of doors, it’s still a pretty bland machine. It looks like a Tercel without the pizzaz:


Man, there’s so little notable or interesting about this car that I’m just going to take a moment here to tell you about this stupid idea I had. It’s for a new superhero. Here’s the deal: imagine a superhero who has the ability to summon fax machines from an alternate dimension and have them materialize at any point in space, all with their mind.

So, let’s say our hero needs to save a bunch of people from an armed hostage situation. The hero shows up nearby the standoff, focuses on the armed hostage taker, and uses his or her mind to summon a fax machine that materializes right inside the armed gunman’s chest, killing him, gruesomely. Problem solved!


Really, the fax-summoner could be an incredible assassin. If they know where a person is, they can just summon a fax machine to materialize in the same place as their head, and boom, job done.


Fax machines could be materialized, in great numbers, in the engines of jet fighters, rendering whole air forces useless. A massive amount of fax machines could be summoned a half mile above a given building, which would then be bombarded by heavy fax machine-bombs.

The Fax Machine Summoner would be a very worthy adversary and a powerful hero. If anyone is interested in movie rights, please contact me.


What were we talking about? Oh, right, the Fiat Tempra. Yeah, even as rare and unseen as this thing is in America, if you had one here the most interesting thing about it would be the story of why the hell you wanted to import a Fiat Tempra at all. Because there would have to be a good reason, right? Right?

Maybe it’d made a good car for the Fax Summoner, if it took place in Europe. I’ll think about it.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)