It’s difficult to get excited about the Fiat 500, not that it’s a bad car, quite the opposite, it is a fab little city car but the fact that they are everywhere, more common than the common cold means that you take the 5oo for granted almost. As testament to it’s popularity, 2018 saw the little iconic Fiat 500 break new records for Fiat with more sold than ever and if you drive down almost any street you are sure to see a 500 sat outside somebody’s house.
So how do you review something that is obviously good because so many are driving round our roads? Well the answer is pitch up in a funky colour and make it a convertible, just in time for the snow at the start of a cold February.
Yes our friends at FCA sent us a Fiat 500C in ‘Glam Coral’ (not salmon pink as seems to be the verdict around here!) ready to Road Test for a week, and the convertible version of the Fiat 500 arrived to conincide with the snow and freezing temperatures…this was going to be fun!
The model we had was the 1.2 Lounge and in it’s funky retro colour the 500C looks pretty good it has to be said, the colour really suits it and I have always said that the 500 should be in a fun colour because it is after all, a stylish fun car. The distinctive shape of the 500 in it’s modern incarnation works well, the whole shape enveloping the car, creating an almost bubble design.
With it’s smart alloys, revised lights, bumpers and chrome finishing, it all add’s a bit of style and class to the 500C. It’s true the 500C isn’t a full convertible, the roof goes down and sits on top of it’s pert rear as opposed to hiding away underneath but it all kind of adds to the look, plus with the sides still up there is less buffeting for those rear passengers, meaning that with the cross bracing, certainly with the top down there is nothing lost in the ride, that dreaded body flex isn’t an issue.
On the inside
Climb into the 500c and the whole experience is pretty familiar, the retro look continues on the inside such as the seats, which are tad on the firm side but at least supportive, with it’s colour coded facia it makes the whole car feel connected to the stylish exterior, certainly that retro feel works well and thankfully it isn’t over kill. The chrome styling extras continue inside meaning if at least to look at it has a quality feel to it, unfortunately the feel isn’t always the same, the handles for moving the front seats forward don’t feel strong enough to do the job long term, the door handles and stalks on the steering column also just feel a little bit too cheap, especially for a car costing around £18k. The other thing which we noticed was the drivers height adjustment seems to be in the way, I wasn’t the only one who commented they had got hold of it when they reached for the handbrake.
But let’s be honest these are minor quibbles, everything is easy to access, buttons are thankfully large enough even for us blokes to use without switching something else on or off at the same time. With rear parking sensors, front foglights, ISOFIX and inertia reel rear seat belts, DAB radio and infotainment system the Lounge model is fairly well kitted out. Our test car had the optional 7in Fiat touchscreen infotainment system taking centre stage on the facia, a worthy option over the 5in standard version. Some people say Fiat’s system is a little out of date but I’ll be honest I think it works really well, like the one on the Fiat 500L which we tested last year, it is simply to use, connecting your smart phone is simple and allows access through the Connect system. So despite a retro looking car you also have modern conveniences.
If the 500 has any shortfall it is the rear space, it might be a four seater but the reality is anyone over the age of 11 is going to feel pretty uncomfortable in the back, its lack of legroom are noticeable over say a Fiat Panda, however the headroom is adequate. That said, despite it’s airy interior it really is a car for single people or couples. The boot has a 182 litre capacity, surprisingly just three less than a standard 500, we managed to load up 3 large shopping bags with enough groceries to feed a family, but it required a special twist and turn of the bags to get them in without the contents spilling all over the floor. That said our model had the optional split rear seats fitted which to anybody carrying more than a few shopping bags round could be invaluable.
Out on the road the 500C drives just like the normal hatchback version, with the exception of a little more wind noise thanks to the canvas roof but it is barely noticeable. Keeping most of the original bodywork in place due to the style of the fold down roof, the little Fiat suffers from next to no scuttle shake, even over the UK’s pot holed roads. As you would expect the 500’s small size means it is easy to nip around town, with no problem getting into parking spaces, the City mode making parking even easier should you need it and with the steering being direct, it is fair to say you can have a little fun whilst you zip through town.
Its true the 69hp under the bonnet won’t break any land speed records but for around town it is just about enough, any hills though will mean dropping down a gear in the 5 speed manual gearbox to give it enough oomph to continue it’s journey. Whilst hitting 62mph from 0 will take around 12.9 seconds it doesn’t feel that slow and will happily coast down the motorway at legal speeds so it’s top speed of 99mph really isn’t a worry. On most roads the 500C drives happy enough but you do find the ride a little crashy at times over particularly bad road surfaces, but none the less this is a city car and if you want to glide around then you need to spend more money on a different kind of car.
Despite our car arriving to coincide with the snow and lowest temperatures seen in years, the 500C had no problems navigating the occasional slippery surface, suffering no real loss of traction, in fact whilst other larger cars seem to tiptoe around in the sub zero temperatures, the 500C just went about as if it was business as normal. Not that you can expect a 500C to be happy dancing on ice but from what we had ‘Up North’ it didn’t pose a real threat on a day to day drive.
Whilst the country seemed to be grinding to a halt with Snow and Ice everywhere, we did have enough sunshine breaking through to drop the roof and enjoy the convertible aspects of the 500C. And sure enough it was still a good drive, still looked good and proved that convertible motoring can be enjoyed any time of year.
Our fully specced up Fiat 1.2 Lounge would set you back around £18k, it seems a lot of money for a small car, but then compared to it’s most direct rival from Mini, it is cheaper and certainly in our eyes looks better. Not only that but the 500C is more desirable we would say than a standard 500 therefore you can expect residual values to be more favourable.
Overall it is hard to fault the 500C, yes we could complain about rear space for passengers maybe, but since when did you buy a convertible of any description and worry about rear passengers? Like the hatchback version, the 500 is fun, it has a retro look about it that is modern and stylish, drop the roof and it looks even more chic.
It’s a pretty cool car and not just in the Winter!…