What is it? The retro styled little Italian has unashamedly taken its top down and produced a convertible version of the ever popular Fiat 500, teamed with a 875cc two cylinder engine Fiat have produced a very attractive city car package. If only the British weather meant the roof could be down more than a handful of times each year.
Who is it aimed at? With the funky styling and oodles of colour combinations available the Fiat 500 is primarily aimed at the younger driver, the unforgiving ride quality, cabin vibration and the noises from outside are issues I could only have put up with in my first years of driving when looking good was better than refinement. The small engines, low insurance and zero tax also make the Fiat 500 an ideal option for a first time driver.
Styling? Fiat have retained all the charm of the old 500, the jelly mould type body style and rounded head lights make the 500 unmistakable. As its not a full on convertible it can retain its shape easily and the fabric roof really does look the part. The model I tested had front fog lights, chrome detailing, black wing mirrors and 15” alloys as standard. Fiat have kept the 500 small, unlike the Mini which is at least double the size of the original Mini, which makes the Fiat an easy car to nip in and out of tight spaces. The Fiat 500 is one of the commonest cars on our roads, and that popularity is mainly down to the 500’s charming retro Italian styling, both inside and outside.
Under the bonnet? Some motorbikes on the road now have bigger engines than this dinky powertrain, but what this engine lacks in number of cylinders and size it certainly makes up for in the performance stakes with the fitted turbo, Fiat claim that the Twinair engine has a top speed of 117mph, a 0-62mph figure of 10 seconds and 105 bhp. This was teamed up with a 6 speed gearbox that was easy to use and compliant in traffic. The engine is never going to win prizes for refinement but it gets up to speed quick and on heavy acceleration lets out a small meaningful roar. The turbo does lag when pressured by a flat accelerator pedal and the stop start technology gets annoying when in the city, I turned it off after a few minutes of driving.
What about inside? With the exterior being so brazenly retro, the interior has a lot to live up to and it really doesn’t disappoint. The dash has a swish of shiny white plastic that surrounds some of the controls, the dash is simple with all buttons and switches at a reasonable height for the driver. The seating position is a little awkward and the lack of movement on the seat and steering wheel mean that getting that perfect driving position for some may be unobtainable. Space is good for such a small car, and there are plenty of spaces and door pockets for belongings, but the cup holders aren’t deep enough and any drinks bottle will find itself on the floor after even the flattest of bends. Unfortunately the cabin feels slightly cheap with the abundance of plastics.
Visibility is good until the roof is fully lowered and then vision out of the rear is poor. Fiat in conjunction with Microsoft have developed the ‘Blue & Me’ technology which connects to your phone and allows hands free communication, its fairly easy to use but extras such as the satellite navigation cradles are expensive.
On the road? The Fiat 500 Convertible is a city car, its been developed to be driven within busy towns and cites where going in and out of traffic and parking in miniature parking spaces is needed. And that is where this car is best suited, its nippy, fun and gets up to speeds without any fuss, but take it out onto B roads and motorways and the ride suddenly becomes fidgety and vague. The steering being so light is good in town but lacks confidence in fast corners. Speed bumps are a particular problem for such a small car. As the roof is only retractable in the centre the Fiat 500 keeps its shape well unlike some more conventional convertibles. When the roof is down there is some buffering as expected, even when the roof is up there is a lot of noise from vehicles passing.
Safety? The regular Fiat 500 gained 5 stars on its Euro NCAP test. The Fiat 500 convertible also comes with 7 airbags as standard, and having the type of retractable roof that it has makes it a safer environment for passengers.
Options? The options available on the Fiat 500 range is huge, every colour combination is possible and this is what attracts this little convertible to the younger members of the buying public. Growing up we all wanted to have something different, I even tried to make my Mk3 Ford Fiesta different from the rest, but the options that Fiat provide such as colour combinations, stripes, alloy wheels and interior specs mean that you can definitely have a car that no one else will have.
What about Economy? The Twinair engine on paper seems an extremely economical engine with just 99g/km of CO2 and a combined MPG of around 70, but I have to admit I didn’t get anywhere near those statistics. The dash includes an Eco monitor which gives you a green light when you are driving at your most economical but I was rarely presented with that light. The reason being is that the engine sounds and feels better when revved, this driving style and extra revs means worse fuel efficiency, I just couldn’t help myself!
Verdict My usual daily driver is a Land Rover Freelander so when the Fiat 500 convertible turned up on a cold winters morning impending doom did set in, but that soon disappeared when I started to drive it, the un-refinement and the inability to get a decent driving position are quickly overlooked by the way it drives and the smile it produces on your face. The Fiat 500 convertible almost reminds me of a go kart, the ride and handling is jumpy and the short wheel base makes zooming around town a hoot. The roof is easy to get up and down and the cabin is a pleasurable place to be seated. Its hard to overlook the Fiat 500 Convertible, the cute Italian styling make it a superb option to the Mini, Citroen DS3 Cabrio and Vauxhall Adam Rocks.
Why you’ll buy one? Cute; Fun; Options
Why you won’t? Harsh ride; Noisy
Vauxhall Adam Rocks – prices starting from £14,695
Citroen DS3 Cabrio– prices starting from £14,595
Mini Convertible -prices starting from £16,420
Fiat 500 Convertible S
Engine: 895cc, 105bhp 170Nm
Max speed: 117 mph
0-62 mph: 10.0 seconds
Emissions: 99 g/km
Model price range: from £13,420
No of Doors: 3 doors
Euro NCAP : 5 stars
Fuel type: Petrol
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 71 mpg
Boot Capacity Seats up: 185 litres
18th February, 2015