Since it launched in 2007, Fiat’s ‘new 500’ flew out of the showrooms, with buyers being completely won over by its cute retro charm coupled with modern functionality. A soft-top version – the 500C followed in 2009.
In keeping with the theme of the 1960s original, the 500C isn’t technically a cabriolet, as although it features a full length fabric roof, its roof pillars remain. The resulting benefits in torsional stiffness mean minimal additional strengthening, so consequently there’s hardly any weight gained over the regular hatchback.
Throughout its seven years in production, the 500 has seen numerous model variants and special editions. Here Drive.co.uk reviews the Fiat 500S Convertible 0.9 TwinAir – with this new sporty S trim now available on both 500 and 500C models.
It certainly looks the business with 16 inch alloys, chrome trimming along the flanks and body coloured spoilers. Inside the usual 500 retro-styling is fused with a sporty theme. Say goodbye chrome and mock Bakelite finish, say hello matt and silver tones, red stitching and chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel and embroidered ‘S’logos on the sport seats, which provide a good balance of comfort and support.
Ergonomically it remains unchanged, which means a decent driving position, if slightly cramped footwell. There’s still the large main driver information cluster, while the high positioned heating and stereo controls are easy to hand. The cabin is surprisingly spacious, given this tiny tot’s diminutive exterior dimensions. Headroom is good, both front and rear, but while legroom is fine up front, taller passengers are likely to feel the pinch in the back of the Fiat. At 185 litres, the 500’s boot is on the small side, and in Convertible guise the opening aperture is rather small, although the rear seats still fold to reveal a 520 cargo space.
It certainly looks the business with 16 inch alloys, chrome trimming along the flanks and body coloured spoilers.Despite this two-cylinder TwinAir motor’s diminutive 875 cc capacity, the engine’s use of turbo charging, high combustion and clever valve management, result in a surprising 84 bhp at 5550 rpm and generous 145 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. Consequently, you don’t have to change gear anywhere nearly as frequently as you might expect… and when you do it’s certainly no chore, as the 5 speed box is such a sweet unit to use.
Going on an A or B-road at 40-50 mph in fourth, floor the throttle and with a throaty gurgle, the little TwinAir motor obliges, pulling strongly. A long top gear also enables it to settle down to an easy cruise on the motorway. For such a small car refinement levels are good at lower speeds, although some external noise does seep in through the soft-top).
The bonus of the Fiat Cabrio’s folding roof arrangement is that you can access alfresco motoring at the touch of a button (up to speeds of 37mph.) Downsides of driving with the roof open include some wind buffeting (cured by fitment of a wind-deflector) and restricted rear vision when the hood is fully lowered. Fortunately, when partially raised, this niggle is easily overcome.
The 500S strikes an appealing balance of sportiness and comfort. The bigger wheels, slightly firmer suspension and chunkier steering wheel all add up to make this 500 more engaging on a twisty B-road, but there isn’t the crashy brittleness that afflicts the more hardcore 500 Abarth variants. It’s cheap to run as well, thanks to a very low 95g/km CO2 output, while you’ll easily achieve 45 mpg, even during spirited driving.
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Although not without fault, there’s simply no denying the sense of fun and character that the 500 Convertible brings to almost any journey. This S guise spec also adds a sporty flavour to the chic little Fiat, making it feel considerably more focused than before.
However, if you’re not so fussed about the wind-in-your-hair factor, the 500S hatchback offers similar fun appeal, coupled with better boot practicality – for nearly £3000 less.
Fiat 500S Convertible Tech Data:
Fiat 500S Convertible 0.8 TwinAir 85hp
OTR PRICE: £15,760
Max Power: 84 bhp @5500 rpm
Max Torque: 145Nm @ 1900 rpm
Max Speed: 107mph
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.0 seconds
Claimed MPG (combined) 70.6
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 95
Insurance Group 10
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