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Why the Fiat 500 is still a winner

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: December 10, 2012

By Gareth Butterfield

  • The Fiat 500 is a genuinely fun car and still looks sharp despite its age

  • With its plethora of stylish touches, the 500's interior strikes a perfect balance between modern and retro

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THERE aren't many cars these days that can put a big smile on your face as soon as you step inside them. But the Fiat 500 is one of them.

It's a familiar sight on the roads and for good reason - it's a fab little runabout which is priced well, drives brilliantly and manages to pull off the trick of looking 'retro' without looking old-fashioned or dull.

But in a world of fast-moving technologies, and in a sector where price and economy are absolutely key, does the 500 still have what it takes to hold its own? Let's start with the interior. It really is one of its best features.

Every inch of its internal design is stylish and, above all, fun. It pulls this look off without going over the top or looking cluttered and messy and, at the same time, it's very practical.

There are four main model ranges to choose from; the basic 'Pop', the jazzy 'Colour Therapy', the mid-range 'Lounge' and the top-spec 'Street'. Three engines can be selected too - from the tiny but high-tech TwinAir to a 1.3 diesel.

To some extent, it's best avoiding the top and bottom of the 500 range, steering away from high prices or low specs, so I opted to test the Lounge, with the conventional 1.2 petrol engine.

The 69bhp base engine is, arguably, the best option as it loves to be revved and its lively nature seems to match the car better than the noisy turbo-charged Twinair or the punchy diesel.

The Lounge starts at £11,360 and comes with voice-activated bluetooth, a glass roof and alloy wheels among its kit list and although it's not at its best on the motorways - a sixth gear would help - the tiny four-cylinder lump copes well and if you stay in the inside lane fuel economy will be bearable.

On smaller A roads, where it's at its most fun, the MPG will always stay on the happy side of 50 - as long as you're not being too rough with it.

But take the 500 into the city and it's right at home. In the urban sprawl you can switch the power-steering into a much lighter "City" mode, reap the benefits of the stop/start function and enjoy all the quirky retro touches.

If you look really closely, there are a few pieces of cheap trim dotted about but there are seven airbags tucked away and plenty of space and storage.

Fiat is going to have its work cut out improving the 500 when they launch the new generation. It does everything it's supposed to do very well and makes many of its rivals look decidedly dull.

But while some of its competitors are doing a great job of making the 500 look cumbersome and expensive there's still life in the 500 yet. Familiarity, in the case of the Fiat 500, has done nothing to diminish its overall appeal.

And surely that's what a stylish car should be all about.

 

FACT FILE

Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge Price: £11,360

Engine: 1.2 litre, four cylinder petrol

Power: 69BHP Torque: 102NM @ 3,000rpm

0-62mph: 4.4 seconds

Max speed: 99mph

CO2 Emissions: 110g/km

Fuel efficiency: Combined 58.9mpg, urban 49.6mpg, extra-urban 65.7mpg

Boot space: 185 litres

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