Never change a winning horse.
When the Fiat 500 got a facelift last year, I had expected more drastic changes. After all, this retro model has been in production for 10 years, and only minimal changes have been made along the way. The explanation is simple. The Fiat 500 sells better and better. You don’t change a winning horse!
I think the modern Fiat 500 is one of the most successful car designs ever. Last year’s facelift was a small one. I noticed a new horizontal chrome strip in the front and a new grill between the fog lights. I also noticed that the front lights, as well as the tail lights, are changed. Inside, an infotainment system with touch screen is in place. The panoramic glass roof allows a lot of light to flow into the cabin. It makes the cabin look spacier, but all the bright light from above makes the instruments sometimes hard to read.
The look of the Fiat 500 oozes class. It fits in everywhere. Curbside on dingy side streets, at downtown cafes between Italian Vespas, – or in the driveway of a luxury villa. At least it decorates my village in the South of France.
“- I like the car”, my wife said. “But it looks tiny with you behind the wheel”. I do not feel like an elephant in a cage, but realize that she might have a point. You don’t expect to see a tall Nordic guy behind the wheel of a Fiat 500. However, it feels far from cramped inside.
In the South of France, mini cars like the Fiat 500, are more popular than in the Nordic countries. This is due to two things – insurance rules that make it impossible for young drivers to drive anything but the smallest cars, and that parking sometimes can be a challenge. A tall man driving a small car, does not create any negative attitudes, I believe. Everyone knows that a Fiat 500 may well come from a family with more than one vehicle in the garage. Maybe a Ferrari, or something similar?
I notice that the driver’s seat provides good thigh support when I jack it down, which is the only height adjustment option. I think if you have shorter legs than me, you may be forced to sit quite high – or close to the steering wheel – to reach the pedals. The wheel can be adjusted in height, but not in length. If you have short legs and long torso, you might find it difficult to find a good position – but these are only speculations. I’m sitting comfortably, but I find the pedals, especially the clutch pedal, a little too much to the right. There is simply no room at the left because of an intrusive wheel arch.
I like the steering wheel and the controls. The interior colors are fresh, with white leather steering wheel, white center console and inserts in the dashboard. I love the way the interior has captured the car’s paint color. Everything feels chunky and solid. A couple of times I have pulled the seat height adjustment lever instead of the handbrake. The two “handles” are placed side by side.
The Fiat 500 runs like a regular, modern car. It was surprisingly steady on the highway. I have also taken it across a lot of mountain roads, some with rough surfaces, tight turns and steep climbs. I haven’t found anything wrong about the car’s ability to handle different surfaces under different conditions, given the fact that it is a mini car.
I could wish for a more powerful engine, though …
My Fiat 500 had the simplest engine option, a 1.2 liter engine (SMPI VVT) – 69 HP and a torque of 102 Nm / 3000. The engine is what it says on the paper. It seemed to hesitate a little when accelerating. I think it was because the car only had 1000 km on the counter, and that the air conditioner worked really hard to cope with outside temperatures of 35-38 degrees Celsius.
To keep up with the local traffic along the mountain roads, I had to accelerate and brake more than I was comfortable with. The 5-speed manual transmission was easy to work with. The gear lever is placed high up and close to the steering wheel, making it possible to shift quickly. But why hurry? In vacation mode, we chose to pull over frequently to let the the local cars pass by.
The front room is good for two adults. The back seat has room for two. In fact surprisingly good space, since you sit quite upright in the front seats. Two tall people will hardly sit comfortably in the same longitudinal direction. You cannot expect that within three and a half meter. By the way, I’m pleasantly surprised by the trunk. It holds more than you would think, but requires that you stow smartly.
Fiat 500 is tested by NCAP. The results are not quite as good as competitors like Volkswagen Up! and Citroën C1. The Fiat 500 was punished because the dummies in the front seats were measured for severe retardation at their heads. Even though there were no physical damage to the heads, NCAP considers that there may be a risk that people inside the car may be subjected to internal head injuries. Sideways collisions and sideways to pole worked well.
Fiat 500 is considered relatively expensive cars for its class. It has been produced almost unchanged for 10 years, but still sought after in the secondhand market. Better than most other cars on the market. During the end of the 80s, the importer and dealer network in Norway was shut down due to bankruptcies. Fiat owners were left on their own with cars that had quite many quality issues at that time. This is something your dad would like to tell you about. But don’t worry! Today’s Polish-built Fiats have proven to be working well since the launch in 2007. Sales and after-market of Fiats are now taken care of by new enterprises.
I have not yet measured the fuel consumption in detail. So far, with driving on mountain roads and highways, our consumption seems to end up around 0.61 liter / 10 km. I don’t think that consumption will ruin anyone, but if you choose the TwinAir engine, you’ll probably get much better consumption figures.
The Fiat 500 blends well in everywhere you go. It has a great look. I am pleasantly surprised by the space and the comfort. There are no problems driving this car for hours on the highway. I have been driving my Fiat 500 a few days in southern France and feel lucky to spend a couple of days more with it. You might expect me to say that Fiat 500 1.2 liter may not be a good choice for keen drivers. But as it happens, I have already been more on the road with this little Fiat than many bigger cars I’ve had here …
Maybe it’s because I’m in vacation mode?