Sunday 23 April 2017

Fiat 500: 'The cutest car on the block has been given a mini-makeover'

Fiat 500
Fiat 500
The 'new' Fiat 500

Sinéad McCann CarsIreland.ie

The cutest car on the block has been given a mini-makeover for 2016. But fans of those doe eyes needn't fret, because Fiat have gone with an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach for this latest incarnation of their iconic little city car. Some minor tweaks to the head and tail lights and a new set of bumpers do freshen up those retro looks, but the real improvements are in comfort, quality, and the arrival of some new gadgets to the cabin.

Performance & Running Costs

The 500 is one of the very few city cars to offer a diesel option in the 1.3l Multijet. Turbo-charged with 95hp, it can offer a staggering 83 miles to the gallon. Although its tiny dimensions  make it unlikely to be the first port of call for the serious mile-munchers who tend to prioritise comfort.

The fun option is the 0.9l Twinair Turbo-charged petrol. Available in either 85 or 105 hp guise and offering an average fuel economy of 70MPG, it's certainly a tempting proposition. Whether it's worth the substantial premium though will be one for the hardcore fans to decide.

The logical choice is the 1.2l four cylinder petrol, which with 69hp and returning a still not-shabby 59 MPG, should be all the 500 its typical city-based fans need. By a happy coincidence, its also the most affordable.

 

Handling

The 500 is fun to drive in the sense that it will put a smile on your face rather than shivers down your spine. It may not be fast or furious, but it is incredibly light on the road, and even with the standard 1.2l in our test car – reasonably lively. The tiny kerb weight helps those 69 horses propel it from the lights without the slightest hesitation, and the tiny turning circle and light steering make you feel like you could whiz in and out of any unexpected obstacle course that the suburbs might throw up.

 

What’s in the cabin

After the funky looks, the 500's interior could well be its second biggest draw - even more so now that the quality of materials has improved. It's a lesson in understated cool – the colour-coded dash, high-mounted gear stick and rounded headrests making it a cheerful place to be, without ever trying too hard. They've kept the overall layout simple, and it just works.

The facelift also adds the Uconnect system, which with its miniature screen manages to bring all the latest smartphone and app-streaming connectivity into the cabin, without ruining those retro vibes.

 

Value for money

The range starts with the Pop! at €13,600 with LED daytime running lights, steering wheel mounted controls and Uconnect as standard. It's let down by the lack of alloy wheels and air-con which you'll need to upgrade to the Pop Star for, at a more realistic €14,700. The Lounge tops the range with upgraded styling features including a very striking 3D effect chrome grille, a glass sunroof and rear parking sensors.

 

Safety

Image is all well and good, but nobody cares how 'cute' their car is in the event of an accident. Which is why its reassuring to know that the 500 is one of the safest small cars on the road. It scored a full five star NCAP safety rating (not that common in the city car class) and comes equipped with no less than seven airbags, including one for the driver's knees.

 

Ownership

Bar perhaps the larger, more expensive MINI, no other car can touch the 500 when it comes to sheer urban-cool kerb appeal. While it will always be associated with a young, female audience (whose judgement is as good as anyones), the wide range of personalisation options and sport packs available now have widened its appeal hugely in recent years. No-one would dare call it a 'girl's car' these days, and more fool them if they did because they'd be missing out on a cracking little package, and a whole lot of fun.

Always in huge demand on the used market, resale values tend to hold pretty well too.

 

Conclusion

Is it as much a fashion statement as it is a mode of transport? Yes. Does that mean it's not still a sensible choice? Absolutely not. The low running costs combined with those city-friendly driving features make this new and improved 500 much, much more than just a pretty face.

 

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