The Fiat CR.32 was designed by Celestino Rosatelli. Derived from earlier Fiat CR.30 designs, the CR.32 was a more streamlined and smaller biplane fighter. The prototype MM.201 first flew the 28 April 1933 from the Fiat company airstrip at Turin.
The fuselage had same structure as the CR.30, utilizing aluminium and steel tubes covered by duraluminium on the nose up to the cockpit, on the back, in lower section under the tail, and with fabric on the sides and "belly". The wings and tail also had mixed structure, with aluminium frame covered by fabric. A notable feature was that the lower wing was shorter than the upper wing making it sesquiplane. Ailerons were only on the upper wings. Armament included initially two 7.7 mm (.030 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns (later two 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT), located on top of the engine cowling, with 350 rounds each.
The engine was the water-cooled Fiat A.30 R.A.. Designed in 1930, it was a 60° V 12, producing 447 kW (600 hp) at 2,600 rpm, inspired by the American Curtiss D-12. It drove a 2.82 meter two-blade metal propeller with variable pitch ("a passo variabile") but only adjustable on the ground, not in flight. The engine did not use the usual avio-petrol but a mixture of petrol (55%), alcohol (23%) and benzole (22%). The main fuel tank, located between the engine and cockpit, carried 325 liters. There was another small tank (25 liters) in the "torpedo" fairing in the center of the upper wing.
Although fully instrumented, the RA.80-1 radio was optional.