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Edition # 11
Review: Fiat Semi-Tone
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I've Got A Semi
3 wheel car THE FIAT SEMI-TONE

The world of 3-wheel cars was rocked by Fiat's latest contribution to the economy debate - the Semi-Tone. Seen here before being tested by auto journos, the Semi-Tone promises fuel efficiency of up to 103 mpg and a top speed of 85 mph. Advance orders are said to be "steady and encouraging" as the consumer muses over this latest addition to the small car market. With oil prices rising again and ecology a growing concern for the modern motorist, Fiat may well have struck gold with this unassuming and reasonably priced runabout.

Wreckered road test
I took the 3-wheel Semi-Tone for a spin around the crowded streets of Glasgow and found myself both delighted and disgusted by this car. Overall, and there is not a lot of all anywhere over this car, it delivers what it says on the tin - tremendous fuel economy at the expense of style, looks, power and reliability.

Yes, you can park it between two fat women talking in a bus shelter and yes, the whole thing will fit in the back of a Luton van -but could you really cope with the amount of dog's abuse, laughter and finger-pointing which would bedevil every mile of every journey you ever make? I put it to the test..

On the road
This is no ordinary 3-wheel car. The back tyres have been replaced by a galvanised synthetic-rubber coated tube which wraps around the back axle like sponge around the ice cream in an old-fashioned Arctic Roll. While this innovation provides great stability, turning round corners takes half an hour. In the car park outside our offices, I spent most of Tuesday morning doing a three point turn trying to get the bastard to face the street.

Eventually we got rolling and found the car to be a very pleasant ride. The big wide back tyre brought not only comfort, but grudgingly admiring glances from a group of Hells Angels who up till then had been driving alongside and throwing pies at me.

280 bhp at 40 km/h in 0-60 at 24.8 seconds delivers a respectable 1st set lead of 5 games to 3 with only the pink to think of in a built up zone.

In the cabin
The Semi-Tone comes standard as a 2 seater. A surprising 38cm of space between the driver's head rest and the back window leaves adequate space for biscuits or a lizard.

It is in the cabin that the ecological New Age innovations are most apparent. A preset sensor in the steering wheel senses road rage onset by monitoring heart and pulse rate and passing instruction to a series of "calming" devices. When road rage levels are likely, a soothing ylang- ylang moisturiser is sprayed in microscopic mist over the driver's face. The usual horn sound is replaced by sixteen bars of whale song.

In keeping with the bio-degradable philosophy of the Semi-Tone, the dashboard is made of wax, the gear stick is made out of a carbon sealed banana and the seats are stuffed with the charity shop clothes so horrible that even the most destitute had said "No thanks".

This car's aspirations are worthy, but it looks like a pile of crap and it drives like a tank using mogadon for fuel. Save your money and your self respect - get the bus.

Overall rating: car review mark

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