Fiat 500


   You may, like me, not have noticed the subtle face-lift Fiat gave their loveable little 500 last year. After 8 years of production and over 1.5 million sales, Centro Stile FIAT decided it was time to refresh both the 500’s exterior and interior, whilst retaining the unmistakable looks - that were so obviously inspired by the genius of what was the original Dante Giacosa rear-engined Nouva 500 of 1957 - that helped make the present day 500 such a global success.

    In all over 1,800 detail changes, have been made. But you’ll hard pressed to spot them.  The most noticeable are the new front headlights which incorporate LED daytime running lights and give the 500 a new expression, repositioned fog and reversing lamps below the curvaceous rear bumper, and perhaps the most noticeable of all, the new “empty” rear light clusters that seem to surround a rectangular body coloured insert; although even those are pretty discreet.  A chrome front grille and trimmings, and front fog lights are also present on higher specced Lounge models. There’s also a new colour palette that would rival many a lipstick manufacturer’s (Fiat clearly know the 500’s core audience very well) and improved materials are in evidence throughout.

   According to Fiat, that all adds up to make the latest 500 “even more attractive and contemporary”, plus, “it has grown in maturity”. So, seeing as both the 1957 original and the front-engined 500 of 2007 were both launched on July 4th, and that I’ve quite a soft-spot for a city car, (even if it does come in a Glam Coral /Salmon Pink hue) and thus need no further excuse, I called Fiat’s press office and asked if they’d lend me one over the first week this July in order to see if those rather press-bumpfy type words actually rang true.

   At just 357cm long, 163cm wide and 149cm tall, and with a wheelbase of 230cm the 500’s dimensions remain unchanged and subtle changes aside, looks-wise it’s instantly recognizable. If you’re being picky you could say it’s become a caricature of the original; it resembles the 50’s icon albeit after a few too many pizzas, cappuccinos and tiramisus perhaps, but nevertheless, in these days of SUV laden suburban streets, it’s still dinky. And it feels it too.

    From the driver’s seat you can easily reach the passenger door handle, and the rear of the backseat. Taller drivers than me could probably reach the back window. A low glass-line and what feels like a huge windscreen (all things are relative) give you the impression that you’re sat in a goldfish bowl. There a parking sensors, and a City button that lightens the steering to aid maneuvering - you probably won’t ever need either.  The pedals too, are tiny, and as you sit, perched upon the 500’s high set retro tartan-trimmed seats, it’s all too easy to press two of them at once.

    Ahead of you lies Fiat’s new steering wheel which features new and easier to operate remote control buttons. Ahead of that sits the new the circular seven-inch TFT instrument cluster (in Lounge specced 500 that is, lesser specs still get analogue dials). It’s beautifully clear and allows the driver, and passenger for that matter, to read the speedometer, odometer and trip computer simultaneously. The central section of the circular display can be configured to show distance travelled, fuel consumption, range, trip time etc. The TFT display is also integrated with Fiat’s new Uconnect™ Radio LIVE and Uconnect™ Radio Nav LIVE so that the media player, telephone and navigation messages also appear directly ahead of who’s ever at the wheel. Talking of radios, the optional (£600) DAB Radio with Tom Tom Navigation would be on my shopping list too.

   Technology aside, thankfully, when it comes to the good old-fashioned driving part all is just as it should be. The ride can be a bit “bobbly” as a result of the 500’s incredibly short wheelbase, but most of the time, for a car of this size it’s perfectly acceptable. On long runs engine and wind noise can become a little tiring, and you will have to a adopt a full-on all-Italian mucho-gusto driving style if you want to make the most of the 1.2 litre engines modest performance: 0-62 takes 12.9 seconds. Making the most of the 500’s grippy nature during cornering in a bid to maintain momentum is a must.  Quite whether you’ll ever achieve Fiat’s claims of 60.1 mpg combined whilst doing so though remains to be seen.

   Ultimately though it’s in town, when you can nip in and out of traffic gaps and steal the last of the parking spaces, where this little car still comes in its own. At £12,800 upwards the Fiat 500 Lounge 1.2 certainly isn’t the cheapest small car on the market, but just like the original, as a chic, stylish and above all fun, way to explore the city, the Fiat 500 still takes some beating.



FIAT 500 Lounge 1.2 69bhp

Engine: 1,242 cc 4Cyl, 8V petrol

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  69 bhp @ 5,500 rpm

Torque:  75 lbft @3,000 rpm

0-62MPH: 12.9 Sec

Max Speed: 99 mph

CO2: 110 g/km

MPG: 60.1 combined

Price: from £12,800, (as driven) £15,300


Many thanks to Catrina at FIAT’s UK press office for the loan of the 500



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

Read More from Liam Bird