Two years on from its launch, Fiat’s 500 is still cutting a dash in the world of motoring, helped by its cute looks, diminutive size and bite-sized price tag. Not only available as a three-door hatch, there’s a two-door cabriolet to woo sun worshipers and style gurus. Originally available with a choice of petrol engines and a 75bhp, 1.3 MultiJet unit, the baby Fiat has been treated to a power boost, thanks to an uprated version – now producing 95bhp and 148lb ft of torque.
Because of the 500C’s dinky dimensions, you would think that space inside would be compromised, but that isn’t true at all – it’s a veritable tardis inside, with space up front for two portly-sized adults. There’s also a generous amount of elbow room, and even the tallest will be able to get comfy. In the back, it’s a different story altogether, with it best left for kids, or small adults.
The dashboard design is clear and simple, with all of the controls up high and easily accessible. The gearstick is naturally placed, with a large snooker ball-style knob. The seats are comfortable and soft, though aren’t particularly supportive, meaning you can slide about when cornering with zip. The integrated speedometer and rev counter is neat, with the speed shown around the outside, and revs fluctuating on the inner circle. These two frame the central information display showing fuel levels, a clock and other important messages.
The 500C isn’t a convertible in the conventional sense, as it has a Citroën 2CV like hood – a bit like a mackerel tin. This is better for torsional rigidity and keeps costs down, as most of the side mouldings from the 500 hatch can be re-used. The electric roof folds in concertinas and in the fully open position sits on top of the 500C’s bootlid. This doesn’t do much for rearward vision, but provides a reasonably sized boot. The electric mechanism is pretty versatile and allows you to open the roof as much or as little as you require. With the roof in place, sound insulation is excellent, with only minor buffeting when the roof is rolled back.
Those expecting sports car-type agility will be disappointed, as the 500C in Pop specification is pretty softly sprung. Over speed bumps and undulations, things can get pretty bouncy, though never out of control. On the upside, the ride is smooth and soaks up minor lumps and bumps. The steering is direct and the baby Fiat handles safely and predictably. The 1.3-litre MultiJet engine isn’t the quietest of units, and leaves you in no doubt as to which pump the car drinks from. However, it’s not an unpleasant sound and the thrum from the engine is quite restful. Performance is pretty good when on boost, taking an electrifying 10.3 seconds to 62mph. This is while achieving 72.4mpg on the combined cycle. The stop-start technology employed in the 500C helps to bring the CO2 levels down to an excellent 104g/km. Apart from the similarly small smart, there’s nothing else on the market that comes anywhere near.
Fiat 500C 1.3 16v MultiJet Pop
Engine: 1248cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power output: 95bhp at 4,000rpm
Maximum torque: 148lb ft at 1,500rpm
Maximum towing weight: 800kg
Top speed: 112mph
Acceleration 0-62mph: 10.3secs
Combined fuel consumption: 72.4mpg
CO2 emissions (Taxband): 104g/km (B)
Benefit in kind tax liability: 13%
Size (length/width without mirrors): 3,546/1,627mm
Boot space: 182litres
Insurance group: 17
Star rating: 4 stars
Pros: Low CO2 emissions, exceptional fuel economy, good looks, decent performance, neat cabin.
Cons: Rear vision is compromised with the roof down, not much space in the rear.
Rivals: Peugeot 207 CC Sport HDi 112, smart fortwo cdi passion
Words & Photography: Ian Robertson