In this Market Trends we take a look at three bargain Pininfarina cars; the Peugeot 306 Cabriolet, Fiat Coupé and Alfa Romeo 164…

Peugeot 306 Cabriolet (1994-2002)

The Peugeot 306 held a nearly unrivalled position at the top of the dynamic class in the 1990s hatchback class and proved itself a practical as well as handsome successor to the famous 205. Pininfarina’s work was evident in the clean, well-proportioned lines, and with the developing convertible market it was only natural for an open top version to be made. Pininfarina’s design work was showcased again, one year after the hatchback’s initial release, and this time the famed design house was credited with a panel on the sill.

Immediately considered a pretty car from new, the 306 cabriolet sold well and particularly to a soft-top hungry UK market. Nearly half a million sold, which means that the number still available today is relatively healthy. However, numbers are falling and this has had prices on the up, if only tentatively. As 1990s automotive vintage gains a footing, many 306 cabrio sellers are starting to justify higher prices on adverts – and they’re getting them, but only for the right models.

Just like the GTi-6, it’s the well cared for examples and in certain specifications, that are getting noticed today. You can pay as much as £4000 for an outstanding condition phase 1 with the 2.0-litre eight-valve, but this can be as low as £1000 if the history is missing, condition patchy, or mileage high. Prices are even lower for 1.8 models, Phase 2s, those with problematic roofs and so on. There is no doubt, though, that things are on the way up – these cabriolets used to be only £300-£1500 a handful of years ago.

Fiat Coupé (1993-2000)

After a period of relative pragmatism, Fiat was looking to stir things up and introduce some drama to their line-up. A project to put together a new coupe was set in motion and included designers – with instructions to go a little mad – Chris Bangle and the Pininfarina studio. The result was quite spectacular: wild angles cut through conventional wheel-arches, a low, Dino-evocative nose was finished with distinctive headlights, and, unlike many design specials of the time, the interior was just as intriguing and attractive.

It was the inside that the Pininfarina design house was let loose. While the exterior was largely Bangle, the Italian designers produced an interior that was modern, sporty, and made particularly special by a colour-coded stripe that wraps around the doors and dashboard. The Fiat Coupé was the whole package, not only offering great looks inside & out, but with turbocharged power, a limited-slip differential, and fully independent suspension, the great drive to back it up. No wonder that it’s quickly becoming an expensive used proposition today.

There was a time, five to ten years ago, that any Fiat Coupé was a cheap car. A turbocharged five-cylinder 20-valve car, the most desirable, was available barely over £2000, and any lesser model could be as low as £500. Not now, and the soaring prices of special editions – the LE with a six-speed gearbox among other goodies can be in the five-figures – show an appetite for Coupés about as motivated as when the cars were new. Non-turbocharged cars, even 4-cylinder turbo models, can be significantly cheaper and perhaps represent the best investment potential – given that they offer 95% of the features that make the Coupé special. Average prices are on the up in a way that echo many Fiat coupés of the past.

Alfa Romeo 164 (1987-1998)

Developed on the Type Four platform shared with Fiat’s Croma, Lancia’s Thema, and Saab’s 9000, the Alfa Romeo 164 was made unquestionably distinctive by Pinifarina styling. Well, until perhaps the similarly designed Peugeot 605 that came 4 years later. The Italian car, though, was a sharp looking thing. All finely creased bodywork and neatly proportioned on the outside, it was similarly elegant on the inside – almost to the point of impracticality. A true Alfa Romeo, in other words.

Not entirely appreciated when new, the car has been more successful with enthusiasts. Initial depreciation was quite dramatic, with cars falling into the £500-£1000 range by 2005-2012, but over the last decade, especially the last 6-7 years, values have been climbing convincingly. There are still some sub-£1000 cars to be had, but these will be less desirable 4-cylinder models of lesser condition. Top-specification cars, such as the Cloverleaf, and with the highly sought-after V6 with manual gearbox are becoming very expensive – as much as £10,000 for a really nice one. There is a remarkable disparity on condition though, which seems out of proportion to how problematic these cars really are, so an investment bargain can still be had. No time like the present.