Brimming with character and great fun to drive, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER, says Fiat’s 500C is a little cracker.
WHEN Italian carmaker Fiat brought back its 500 model from the pages of our motoring history books, the company was pretty sure it was on to a good thing.
It was right too – so popular has the modern version of the 50-year-old classic proved, that you are almost certain to see one around town on even the shortest of journeys from your front door.
There are so many different ways to personalise your 500 to make it yours, the combinations are almost endless, but for me, the starting point would have to be with the convertible model.
It’s a cracking little car – and I love it to bits. Brimming with character, it’s just good fun – something so many of our ultra efficient modern motors just fail to deliver these days.
Learning from its previous models, Fiat have avoided many of the problems often associated with soft top cars by retaining much of the car’s structural stiffness. Instead of designing a car which removes the solid roof from the windscreen header rail back, Fiat has kept the sides of the 500C intact. Its canvas roof slides back, neatly folding itself as it goes, along runners. There is a choice of three roof colours, the red my test car came with, Ivory, or Black. Ingeniously, it can be opened in various stages, acting like a sunroof, or if you hold the button on the header rail for a bit longer, a full length convertible.
A further press of the button will see the rear window fold out of the way and roof retract fully, revealing a modern, stylish car with a classically retro slant.
Roof up, or down, it looks superb, and brings a smile to your face – even on a grey day in Cleethorpes!
Out of town the 500C loses none of its appeal. There are no major issues with scuttle shake, thanks to its roof design, so the car retains much of its structural rigidity, which means that because there is very little flexing of the bodyshell, it handles well.
The 1242cc engine in the car I tested may not be the most powerful thing on the market, but it is a willing little power plant, which can hustle the car along at a tidy pace.
With decent feedback from the steering, the car tackles corners with easy accuracy, the suspension is compliant without being overly firm, and the whole package just works.
You sit, or perch, quite high on the front seats, which my dad would describe as “sit-up-and- beg”, but again, it adds to the classic feel of the car and is certainly comfortable enough.
I loved the white dashboard, painted the same colour as the car’s exterior, which makes for a nice, light, airy feel to the interior, but if you use it as family transport, I wonder how long it would stay white.
There is room for four people inside, although tall adults might struggle in the back on a long journey, but my tall 16-year-old son loved it, and didn’t complain about the space in the back of the car – much!
There’s a usable boot, which is hinged on the convertible. You would struggle to get a suitcase in it, but it’s fine for some shopping, or some weekend bags, and if you need more space, the rear seats can be folded down.
The little 500 may look quite retro, but under its skin you will find all the mod cons, including climate control air conditioning on the car I tested, electric widows and mirrors, remote central locking, and so on.
There is a good choice of petrol and diesel engines which feature the latest Start&Stop technology. Boosting fuel consumption by switching off the engine when the car comes to a halt at traffic lights, or in a queue, it instantly restarts when the driver presses the clutch pedal, and avoids wasting valuable fuel. During my test, the this model averaged 41.2mpg over a distance of around 250 miles.
My car was fitted with a smooth-operating five-speed manual gearbox, while a 6-speed manual comes with the 1.4 versions, or a Dualogic semi-automatic transmission is available as an option.
To complete the package, there’s Fiat’s clever Blue&Me system which is standard on the Sport and Lounge models. Connecting your phone by Bluetooth and controlling your iPod you can even talk to it.
I love the 500 range, and the 500C in particular. Fiat really has got it right – it’s affordable, fun, and irresistibly cute.
What more could you want?
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Fiat 500C Lounge Cabriolet.
FIAT 500C RANGE: From 11.2 Pop 3dr (£9,465) to Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet (£17,500).
ENGINE: 1242cc, 69bhp four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 5-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 113g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 99mph. 0-62mph in 12.9 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 49.6mpg.
Fuel tank: 35 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 5.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.