Auto Trader Verdict:
The Fiat 500C may be a substantial price hike above a regular 500 city car, but it is possibly the coolest way to travel in town while getting your vitamin D fix. These revisions for 2015 haven’t exactly moved the game on, but a buoyant sales chart suggests the Fiat formula is pretty good as it is.
Author: Jon Quirk
Location: Turin, Italy
What is it?
The Cinquecento, or 500, is a diminutive icon of urban mobility from yesteryear, re-launched and represented for today’s global car buying audience. It is the car that has single-handedly turned the fortunes of the Fiat dynasty, as well as help spawn several siblings including the 500C convertible and more distant relatives, the Fiat 500L MPV and 500X crossover.
Now, the modern-day 500 and 500C are due a refresh, but the emphasis is on refinement rather than reinvention with core underpinnings unchanged. Instead, there are new fabrics and colours, including Glam Coral (a £350 option, pictured) while all versions now receive a five-inch ‘Uconnect’ infotainment screen, a lidded glovebox, seven airbags and stability control.
This range-topping and best-selling Lounge trim level also boasts air conditioning, a height adjustable driver’s seat and leather trimmed steering wheel, as well as Bluetooth with voice recognition, rear parking sensors, 50/50 split folding rear chairs and 15-inch alloy wheels as standard. Our test car also features digital DAB radio and TomTom satellite navigation (a £350 option on Lounge trim).
What’s it like?
Truth is, the retro modern reinvention of the 500 was executed so sympathetically and successfully in 2009, that the styling tweaks for this new-for-2015 model are barely noticeable. There are re-profiled bumpers that house more chrome and a second set of elliptical headlights, which give the front end those de rigueur daytime-running LEDs.
The painted dashboard and print-laden fabrics used in the interior promote that feel good retro vibe too, but there are basic ergonomic issues that frustrate. The driving position - there is no reach adjustment on the steering wheel - poorly located switchgear and hard, cheap-feeling plastics conspire to take the edge off the experience, while the new infotainment screen (touch sensitive on Lounge trim level) is susceptible to glare and has such a languid processing speed, you’d be better relying on your smart phone for directions.
The low speed ride is fidgety, the boot aperture is postbox narrow, rearward visibility with the roof down is limited enough to value the standard fit parking sensors and the 1.2-litre petrol engine feels neutered unless you rev it like a rental car through all five gears. Everywhere.
And yet, you still can’t help falling for the 500C. No modern small car seems to have such an alluring appeal across multiple generations, and the convertible makes an even stronger case than the hatchback. Because the baby Fiat retains its B-pillars, door frames and fixed rear side windows, the cabin remains free from buffeting at speed, albeit at a slight cost of never really feeling totally exposed to the elements like a true convertible.
Should I buy one?
We’d prefer a two-cylinder TwinAir petrol for city life, thanks to its lower CO2 emissions, snappier power delivery and more characterful thrum, but yes, you should. If you’re not that fussed about dynamic finesse and are more interested in some unrivalled curbside chic, then you’ll be very happy.
Mini Cooper Convertible
Similarly retro positioning with better build quality and driving dynamics. It’s pricey, though
Matches the 500C for al fresco frolics and offers more standard equipment
The most impressive small car to take on city life. Convertible version due late 2015