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Road Test: Fiat 500C - cute, cheerful & a surprisingly good drive.

Road Test: Fiat 500C - cute, cheerful & a surprisingly good drive.

By Swansway Motor Group 29-08-2018

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The Fiat 500’s been around for over a decade in its current form – astonishing for any small car, let alone a niche, fashion-conscious model such as this. Motoring journalist, Tom Wiltshire, takes the latest facelifted model for a drive, in drop-top convertible form.

Should I buy a Fiat 500C?

Is this Fiat 500 still as head turning today as when it was first launched? From its sales it would seem so; should you be considering this cult car?

 

  • Still a head-turner, which can be masculine or feminine, depending on its trim
  • Almost infinite possibilities to personalise and make totally unique to you
  • TwinAir engine added extra fun to the drive
  • Fun to drive, nipping in and out of traffic around town
  • Funky interior and exterior keep the Fiat 500 the cult car of choice

What is the Fiat 500C?

It can be quite difficult to take yourself seriously behind the wheel of a car like the Fiat 500C. With its pastiche retro styling details, full-length fabric roof, tiny dimensions and eye-popping colour schemes, it’s certainly a car that stands out. Fiat’s system of regular small updates means that while there’ve been few major alterations to the 500 since it launched back in 2007, the current car looks rather different to the original, while still being instantly recognisable.

Red Fiat 500C seen two thirds profile from the rear

Explore the Fiat 500


What’s new in the Fiat 500C?

The latest 500 facelift back in 2016 was the most comprehensive yet, with a raft of styling revisions inside and out. The headlights and taillights see the most noticeable changes, with smart LED daytime running lights at the front and new ring-shaped LED taillights. Inside, there’s a fresh five-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the option of a full LCD instrument display.

Under the skin, the existing engine line-up has been revised and, although there’s no more power on offer, the car’s economy and emissions have been given a boost. All but the basic 1.2-litre petrol now dip below 100g/km of CO2. Finally, there’s additional soundproofing to improve high-speed refinement.

Red Fiat 500C under a spiral roof


What’s under the bonnet of the Fiat 500C?

Our car was fitted with one of the most interesting engines on sale today – the TwinAir. It’s just 875cc in capacity and only has two cylinders, but a turbocharger means that in this form it pushes out a respectable 105bhp, making it somewhat a warm — if not a full-blown — hot hatchback.

Best of all is the TwinAir’s soundtrack, which is metallic, thrummy and downright charming – it sounds like an old motorbike.

It also offers decent efficiency, though you’re unlikely to see anywhere near the official 67.3mpg figure that Fiat promises. Expect somewhere in the low to mid 40s and you won’t be disappointed.

The rest of the range isn’t quite as inspiring. There’s a 1.2-litre non-turbocharged petrol, which is as old as the hills and lacks urgency, or a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel which doesn’t really fit the car’s cheeky character.

 


What’s the Fiat 500C like to drive?

The 500 is at its best darting around town. Quick steering, a high-set seating position and tiny dimensions make it effortless to slot through traffic and round tight bends. Having the convertible model just makes matters even more fun.

The more powerful models are decent fun on a back road, too. The steering is too light to inspire a lot of confidence in bends, but the tiny Fiat grips tenaciously and can make surprisingly rapid progress without a fuss.

Long-distance cruising isn’t so great, with a lack of motorway refinement, awkward driving position and bumpy ride thanks to that short wheelbase. The car’s firm suspension ensures you’ll feel the bumps, and its tiny size isn’t best suited to mixing with lorries.

Red Fiat 500 from two thirds front and side on


How does the Fiat 500C look?

Looks are undoubtedly a key selling point for Fiat 500 owners. The car’s cute proportions and retro styling details are appealing without being a total caricature, while it’s possible to customise the overall look in a virtually unlimited number of combinations.

Our car was in sporty ‘S’ trim, which attempts to beef the 500 up and make it slightly more masculine with dark metal detailing, chunky 16-inch alloy wheels and less chrome trim than Lounge or Mirror models.

Regardless of trim, the 500 looks perfectly at home in the city – especially a cosmopolitan European street peppered with coffee shops and fashion boutiques. It’s not that bad-looking in Chester, either.

Speedometer from the Fiat 500


What’s the Fiat 500C like inside?

You sit high in the 500, in a driving position that’s unfortunately not particularly adjustable. Taller drivers take note and be sure to try before you buy.

However, the interior styling is every bit as charming as the exterior. The rounded dash comes in a variety of shiny finishes, and a myriad of seat upholstery options allows you to really make your 500 your own.

There’s decent space for two up front, though the back seats are only really suitable for children. Boot space is also limited – there’s only 185 litres, significantly less than the 251 litres on offer from a VW up. Access is compromised too in our convertible version, with a tiny popup tailgate only providing a very narrow opening.

Interior of red Fiat 500


What’s the Fiat 500C spec like?

Entry-level 500s are sparsely equipped, with Pop trim missing out on essentials such as alloy wheels, air-conditioning or a touchscreen infotainment system. Pop Star adds the first two, but you’ll have to step up to Lounge to gain a 5-inch colour touchscreen infotainment display. That also brings stop-start tech and cruise control, plus foglights and rear parking sensors.

Sporty S upgrades to a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display, adds extra speakers and Apple CarPlay functionality, while range-topping Mirror also adds a TFT instrument display.

The 500C range looks very pricey alongside city cars of a similar size, but in the fashionable small convertible class it undercuts the Mini Convertible by several thousand pounds.

Design your own Fiat 500


Verdict

Chances are you’ve already made your mind up whether you want a Fiat 500C or not. As far as small cars go, it may be a little impractical, but as a fashion statement the 500C takes some beating, with a timeless design and effortlessly funky style that appeals to motorists worldwide.

Add in enough practicality for its target audience and a decent driving experience, especially with the peppy TwinAir engines, and it’s an appealing proposition. The convertible model tested here is even more charming than the hatch, and its popularity is well-deserved.


 

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