ROAD TEST: @Fiat_UK 500C Celebrating Turning 60!

Legend is a word banded about way too lightly in the age of the Millennial, but if there's a car that embodies the term in these turbulent times, it's surely got to be the cute & irrepressible Fiat 500 – incredibly celebrating it's 60th birthday this month, not to mention the not inconsequential matter of shifting some six million-plus-and-counting models globally: WOWZERS! But then again, with an early advertising campaign like the one above, it's no wonder it was an widespread, worldwide wonder eh?!

The original (& best?) cool city car is now surely one of the most influential and best loved cars of all time – a proper Italian iconic that's stayed at the forefront of fashion and desirability for six decades. Bella bella. 

And the topless, soft-top Fiat 500, with its super-cool roll-back roof, is arguably the most desirable and stylish of the lot – back in the day as a simple, indestructible (during its first production run, which finally ended in 1975, almost four million 500s were sold internationally, a staggering 400,000 of which can still be found on Italian roads today) cult car and now again, as the re-born, re-imagined and c£13K+ 500C (range prince for the 500 is £11-21K).

Seems Italian chic no longer comes as cheap as it once did, but what does? 

To date more than two million sales of the second-generation model have been achieved worldwide – with an endless stream of special editions and industry awards in its wake, including World Car Design of the Year in 2009. And starting at £12,995, the 500C makes a pretty affordable entry into a rag-top lifestyle.

In their PR Fiat say: "Throughout its lifespan, and all incarnations and special editions, one thing has remained true – the Fiat 500 has always been at the forefront of automotive style and fashion. And in its most recent form, the model has led the way in car personalisation, providing a huge range of interior and exterior accessories and enhancements that allow buyers to tailor a car that perfectly reflects their personality and sense of style."

And Ashley Andrew, Managing Director of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK, said: "The 60th birthday of the Fiat 500 may be small in stature but it's a car that's had a massive impact on the automotive world. Few cars can claim to have made the same impression on popular culture and even fewer still have continued to inspire others and imbue passion for six decades."

To mark the 60th anniversary, Road decided to do a few miles in the re-vamped, latest spec 500C with its smart roll back roof (yes, it's not a "true cabriolet" I guess, but it's oh-so-stylish and a lot less prone to scuttle shake/sharper in the handling stakes).

The 500C is not too dissimilar from its 2009 launch guise, but now with an even fancier (5.0 or optional 7.0-inch touchscreen with DAB & Bluetooth) Infotainment touch screen, which is so-intuative and easy to use and features a brilliant TomTom navigation set-up, incredibly visibility in all lighting conditions and all the bells & whistles you could wish for on a small car.

There's also new lighting, bumpers and a few other subtle design touches, all of which serve to smarten the 500 up and keep it ahead of its rivals in styling terms... not that it really needed it. The magnitude of exterior and interior options alone offer new car buyers a plethora of options and individuality via the widespread and friendly dealer network.

It's a winning formula, whatever level of trim you option. Our test model came in Pasodoble (lipstick) red, with black and silver diamond cut 16-inch alloys with a red 500C central hub, black cloth roof and brushed black mirrors, anthracite door handles and a very tasteful (if a little muted for the options list) black & silver interior. It really worked – turning heads and instantly winning the hearts of the Road Magazine child testing department, and the Art Department wife: "I want one!" they both proclaimed! And they don't do that often, plus it was even before we unveiled the 500C's party trick roof recoil at speed. This car is family Kryptonite I warn you...

Away from fictional metals and back to speed, the twin-air turbo model we had on test – with its 'Sport' mode on and, yes you guessed it, the dash lit up red and with a boost gauge replacing the eco monitor (I'd have loved this aged 17!) – is not without a turn of it. It's not fast (feeling a little lost on the open road), but it's certainly not slow either. Nippy is the word that the wife used, admirably.

The "nippy" engine works well in conjunction with early Mini-esque wheel on each corner sharp handling, with a smashing turn-in, even if the steering feel is a vague as the ideas in my middle aged mind these days. It is a minor shame the power band is so short lived in each of the six gears and it's so easy to bounce back off the gentle rev limiter (whatever happened to bop-bop-bop-bop limiters?), but one can't expect to much.

The ride quality is not perfect either – a tad jiggly for our liking on anything other than smooth urban roads. But it's better than most soft tops and again, more than acceptable for its type and price bracket.

But the 500C ain't a race ace, nor a limo. It's about lifestyle.

Accordingly, we took our 500C deep into the darkest recesses of Thetford Forest on one evening, to see none other than another re-born old icon... Rick Ashley, there to belt out some classics (earning me many a man point).

And the 500C's raspy run into the stunning woodland, at dusk, with the birds in full evensong, deer prancing between the trees scurrying away from the imminent Northern Soul pop-fest and the heady smell of the pine trees as the moon came up was quite magical. A real 500C moment... and you can't put a price on wonderful life moments like that, which only cars with real character and a sense of fun like the 500C can deliver.

Why be dull? Get yourself a 500C. Your wife and kids will love you...


You can view a pocket history of the Fiat 500 here, or a more in-depth story of the Fiat 500 with passionate owners and motoring journalists sharing their enthusiasm for the model here.
Long live the 500! 


Popular Posts