Seven-seat version of Fiat 500L revealed with new ‘Multi Purpose Wagon’
Fiat 500C review (2009 onwards)
Image © Fiat
What – Fiat 500C 1.2 PopWhere – Poole, DorsetDate – 25 June 2009Price – £11,300 Available – July 2 2009Key rivals – Mini convertible, Nissan Micra C+C, Mitsubishi Colt, Peugeot 207CC
Enormous fabric roof transforms little Fiat in more ways than you might expect
We like – Practical easy to use roof, improved ride quality in convertible, interior and exterior styling We don’t like – Big price hike for “C”, strange steering feel, tiny boot
Fiat's 500 has been a massive success. Though half of sales are in Italy, it's sold in 51 countries and there is still a waiting list. The 500 has successfully taken on the Mini and seems to be beating it at its own game.The 500C is the convertible version but it's not a convertible in the conventional sense, more of a giant fabric sunroof that slides right back to the boot lid. The design is a homage to the original 500 of the 1950s which used the same principle.
The advantage is that this is more useable than a regular convertible on a day-to-day basis, because occupants are well protected from wind buffeting even with the roof in its most open of the three positions. The downside is that it costs £3,000 more than a regular 500 hatch.Fiat says extra equipment accounts for the part of this. The 500C Pop gets aircon over the hatch, the Lounge even more. Still, even if the real difference is only £2,000 to £2,500, that seems an awful lot to pay for what is, effectively, a giant sunroof.
So for this test we pickled the most affordable version of the 500C, the 1.2 Pop. The four-cylinder engine produces 69hp, which doesn't sound like much and initially it feels slightly overwhelmed at low speeds. But you get used to it and once this 500C is bowling along, the 1.2 is a surprisingly eager performer.There will, we feel, be many 500C buyers who will find this entirely adequate. This Fiat's appeal is rooted solidly in its style, yet both as a city car and one for motorway trips, the 1.2 is generally fine. If the 1.4 and the diesel were remarkably better perhaps we'd change our mind, but they are not.
Ride and handling
Ride comfort on the 500 is massively dependent on the wheel size; the bigger they are, the worse it gets. The standard 15-inch wheels are in our opinion, the ones to go for, providing a noticeably more comfortable ride than the more stylish 16-inch options.The 500C seems to ride better than the hatch too. It's common for car manufacturers to soften the suspension in convertibles, and although no one from Fiat could be categoric about the changes, we suspect this is the case. In terms of roadholding, there's plenty of grip and much entertainment to be found, even though the power steering feel is a bit unnatural.
The interior has always been the trump card of the new 500. Contrived it may be, but in an elegant and pleasing way, completely unlike the glitzy, almost bling details inside the latest Mini. The clever use of the exterior colour on the dashboard never fails to please.We particular like Pop, which has classic rotary knobs for the air condioning, more in keeping with the 500 ethos than the push-button climate control system you get in the more expensive Lounge versions. The seats are well shaped and comfortable, with some upgraded materials over the hatch.
It's cramped in the back seat, of course. But the 500C has a high windscreen to allow rear passengers a better view forward; everyone has a great feeling of being in the open air with the roof right back. Yet with the side of the car pretty well unchanged from the hatch, there is a greater feeling of protection.The roof itself has two intermediate positions before being fully open, operated either from within or via the key fob. Roof up the 500C feels as solid as the hatchback. The boot is very slightly smaller but the rear seats still fold. There's a party trick too. Press the boot release and the open roof slides slightly upwards to allow the lid space to open.
Economy and safety
Another advantage of the 1.2 engine is the great numbers it produces for economy and emissions. On the combined cycle it returns 55.4mpg, a fabulous figure for a petrol car. The CO2 is under the magic 120g/km at 119g/km. In contrast the 1.4 does 46.3mpg and produces 140g/km of CO2.All 500s comes with seven airbags as standard (two front, two window, two side and one knee airbag). There's nothing to better its five star EuroNCAP safety rating in the city car class.
Like the Mini, Fiat 500 list prices are just the kicking off point for building the car to your own specification. It means that the £3,000 premium for the 500C can rack up into an even more expensive car than you first thought of. Yet we liked this 500C enormously, and reckon the roof was so convenient it would get a lot more use than a traditional convertible. And, we'll admit, we kinda like the nostalgia trip too.
Need to know Engine Petrol 1.2, 1.4Diesel1.3Power (hp)69-100Torque (lb/ft)76-1080-62mph (secs)12.9-10.5Top speed (mph)99-113Economy (mpg)46.3-67.3CO2 (g/km)/tax (%)110/13-140/16
Rating: Fiat 500C 1.2 Pop Performance***Ride and handling****Interior****Safety*****Price***Practicality***Fuel economy*****MSN Cars verdict****
Others to consider
Driven: MINI Convertible
Driven: Mitsubishi Colt CZC
Driven: Nissan Micra C+C
Driven: Peugeot 207CC
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