June
2008
DRIVING
 
Vol. 4 No.5  
 

Retro drive

Italian design icon the Fiat 500 strikes back, as Adrian Ion takes the most powerful version of this little car for a journey into history.
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The reinvention of car models which have witnessed past success is a trend that is on the increase. And the recipe has proved to be sucessful for popular designs such as the Mini and the VW Beetle, the latest addition of which is
the Fiat 500.
The original Fiat 500, designed by Dante Giacosa, was launched more than
50 years ago and soon became an iconic car. Almost four million were produced until 1975, but this wasn’t enough - so the Italians relaunched the model last year.
The incarnation is better than everyone hoped for and even the designers have been caught by surprise by the immense interest and response from the public. The use of the Internet and inventive marketing transformed the car into a must-have even before its launch.
We took this little beauty for a spin, in its most powerful version, the 100 horse power Lounge. Seated in the car, the first thing that strikes the driver is the retro charm that spreads though the chequered upholstery to the multi-layered speedometer with counter/trip computer arrangement that looks like a tuning dial from an antique radio.
Below the comfort control panel, the gear selector is placed in a high position
with the gearknob which is also designed in a late 1950s style. A dualogic, automatic and sequential shift is available as an option on the petrol-engine versions,
The car is comfortable, drives decently well on the motorway but in town
is amazingly nimble due to its size. The safety specifi cations are plenty for the
500, which is fi tted as standard with ABS, ASR, EBD or ESP for the 1.4 Euro model.
The NCAP tests awarded the little vehicle with a maximum 5 star rating for safety.
Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, AC and adjustable glass sun-roof are all features available either as standard or options depending on the trim level.
The Lounge version we tested has automatic air-conditioning, 15-inch alloys,
chrome exterior trims, body-coloured door mirrors, leather-covered steering
wheel with Blue&Me controls that offer hands-free communication with voice
recognition, which also works with Bluetooth mobile phones. The controls on the steering wheel enable scrolling through the mobile’s phone book or it can be fully installed on the system and updated whenever the mobile is detected. There is also a dedicated USB port between the front seats to allow the playback of music files from a flash drive.

Small but mighty

The engine fi tted in the car we tested is the 1.4 litre and 100 hp, which is the
most powerful choice. In my opinion this suits the car best as it can offer a
decent performance for the cheeky 500.
Still, on the downside it’s not amazingly economical, with a consumption of
around eight litres in city traffic. Its suspension is very soft, perfect for rough
urban roads, but it does roll a bit.
All three engines are Euro 5 compliant even though those emission regulations don’t come into force until next year. All Fiat 500s are fitted with Dualdrive electric power steering which makes driving even more easy and pleasant in the city. By pressing the ‘city’ button, it makes the steering lighter for easier turning.
The boot space is easily accessible and has a capacity of 185 litres, which is decent for this car size and, by folding the rear seats, boot space can be
increased to 550-litres. For those who like to make their car stand out from
the crowd, there is a list of optional extras, including 100 items of accessories,
stickers and colour options.
A joy to drive and encounter in the miserable city traffic, this is another success story in the reinvention of a classic car.

Fiat 500: vital statistics

  • There are three trim levels: Pop, Lounge and Sport.
  • There are three engine options:
    1.2 litre - 69 hp petrol
    16v – 100 hp petrol
    1.3 litre - 75 hp Turbodiesel
  • Prices without VAT start at 9,664 Euro and go up to 11,597 Euro
    depending on engine choice and trim level

 
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