The Fiat 500C, the retro supermini goes topless
Fiat’s re-interpretation of its iconic 1960s 500 model met huge acclaim when it launched in 2007, with the convertible joining the range in 2009. Both have enjoyed continued success, with Fiat celebrating 1 million sales in 2012. Numerous special editions have spawned throughout its life and with so many permutations of customisation available, it’s hard to find two identical 500s.
The 500C shares the chic retro looks of the hatch, but features a full length electrically retractable fabric roof. Purists may argue that it’s not a true convertible as the roof pillars are retained – and they may have a point. However, it’s hard not to be impressed by this clever compromise, which not only preserves the 500’s gorgeous looks, but also does without the need for extensive body strengthening and roll-over protection that would result in significant weight gain. As it stands, the 500C only carries a 40kg penalty.
Following recent changes to the model line-up, six trim levels are now available: (Pop, Pop Star, Colour Therapy, Lounge, Street and By Gucci) and five engine versions (1.2 69 HP, 0.9 TwinAir Turbo 85, 1.4 16v 100 HP, 1.2 69 HP EasyPower and 1.3 MultiJet 16v 95 HP).
This Lounge version comes well equipped and includes 15” alloy wheels, half leather seats, dual-zone climate control, Electric windows, Radio/CD/MP3 player and Blue&Me™ hands free system with Bluetooth® technology, voice recognition, steering wheel controls and USB port. Reassuringly for a small car, there’s 7 airbags and ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution).
In the cabin:
The baby Fiat’s cabin instantly wins you over with its sense of occasion and skilful blend of retro looks andmodern functionality. Key focal points are the body-coloured dashboard fascia and large main dial, incorporating speedometer, rev counter, fuel, and temperature gauges. Ventilation and stereo controls are positioned high on the dash, within easy reach of the driver.
For such a small car there’s a decent amount of interior space – it feels cosy without being cramped – and can accommodate six-footers in the back. Cup holders are located front and rear, although door pockets are slim and there’s only a tray in place of a closed glove box. At 185 litres seats up and 520 litres seats down, the boot is well off class best and the aperture is also a bit restricted.
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The driver sits reasonably high, with a good view of the road. Front seats are comfortable and supportive and the steering is height adjustable, although some may find the pedals positioned rather closely together.
On the road:
Despite producing a modest 69 bhp, the 1.2 litre engine offers up a sufficient turn of speed if you’re prepared to work the gears, which is no chore thanks to a slick short-throw 5-speed box that slices through the gate with deft precision. Dualdrive electric power steering is usefully light at parking speeds and weightier once under way.
The 500C handles well and feels nimble, with minimal roll and good levels of grip. The ride is comfortable and well-damped, but like the hatch the 500C bobs around a bit, due to its short wheelbase. For a city car refinementlevels are impressive and long gearing means motorway journeys are taken in its stride.
At the flick of a switch the 500C goes from city car to drop-top. Although it might not be an all-out convertible, the execution of the design makes it incredibly user friendly and easy to live with. With roof lowered you’re treated to wind-in-the-hair motoring, which adds another dimension of motoring pleasure to the little Fiat.Although rear vision is more restricted with roof fully down, this isn’t a problem when it’s up or partially open -although some wind buffeting is noticeable in this position. A bonus is that incremental adjustment of the hood can be made up to speeds of 37 mph.
Just like the hatch, the 500C has personality and desirability in spades. Although the option of going topless does come at a £3000 premium, the end result is certainly worth more than the sum of its parts. This little soft top Fiat triumphs in its ability to offer the duality of a stylish and reasonably practical city car, with the fun factor of a small convertible: if you like the 500, you’ll love the 500C.
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge
OTR PRICE: £14,360
Max Power: 69hp @5500 rpm
Max Torque: 102Nm @ 1900 rpm
Max Speed: 99mph
Acceleration: 0-62 in 12.9 seconds
Claimed MPG (combined) 58.9
C02 emissions: (g/km) 113
Insurance Group 10
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