Sunday 21 January 2018

Fiat take let's-not-mess-with-success approach with their 'new' 500 model

Changes may be subtle but its hard not to be seduced by the Italian exuberance of this Fiat

The latest 500 has 1,900 new parts
The latest 500 has 1,900 new parts
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

It's now eight years since Fiat launched the new 500, a modern interpretation of a car that first hit the road in 1957. With classic good looks and clever engineering it has become one of the most successful small cars around with almost 1.5 million sold. So how do you update something that is already deliberately caught in a time warp?

The 2015 Fiat 500 has over 40pc new components and offers more advanced technologies, improved engines, even more colours and customisation possibilities.

Changes to the exterior are subtle but include front LED daytime running lights, a re-styled grille, new headlights and driving lights designed to echo the zeros in the car's '500' badging.

Inside the interior shares the exterior's charm and while it may be retro-inspired there is nothing dated about it and new to the 500 is Fiat's latest Uconnect infotainment system offering Bluetooth, aux and USB connectivity. High spec models also gain the Uconnect LIVE system that offers internet radio, music streaming from Deezer, news feeds from Reuters, plus Facebook and Twitter access.

An important element of the appeal of the 500 has always been its compact shape. Although the new car retains its city-friendly dimensions front and cabin space is good but headroom is a little limited. Back-seat passengers don't fare quite as well where legroom is barely okay for short journeys.

The engine options of the 500 remain unchanged but the range is now cleaner and more economical to meet Euro-6 emissions levels. Choices include the 94bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, the 0.9-litre 84bhp Twinair petrol and the 69bhp naturally- aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine.

At the launch in Turin we tried the Fiat 500 1.2 69bhp which is super fun around town but take it out of the city and it quickly runs out of steam. But this is to judge the 500 too harshly; this city car has all the features that has made it a success since it first launched - in essence few cars will make you smile quite so much.

We also particularly like the 500 colour palette; from the pastel hues of the "Glam Coral" to the metallic "Avantgarde Bordeaux" it's all very retro chic and now includes 13 hues (seven pastel, one solid and five metallic). There is also an optional 'second skin' - a choice of five patterns that wrap around the upper part of the car covering the pillars and roof and in some cases the bonnet and tailgate as well.

The new 500 will be available with three trim levels - Pop, Pop Star and Lounge - and in hatchback and convertible versions.

All the safety boxes are ticked with seven airbags, including a driver knee airbag as standard.

The prices and final Irish specification will be announced closer to the launch date in November but prices are expected to remain the same as the current model.

The Fiat 500 is as much a fashion accessory as a serious mode of transportation but the refreshed 2015 model blends vintage chic with technical sophistication. This result is a car that is much the same but slightly better and it is still one of the best examples of Fiat's fine small car heritage - cheap to buy, cheap to run and such fun to drive.

Sunday Independent

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