Gareth Butterfield takes a drive out in the revised Fiat 500
THIS is the new Fiat 500. No, really, it is. Apparently, Fiat has made 1,800 changes to its ridiculously popular runabout. I looked around it during my time with it and found five. Or maybe six, if you count the fact they no longer come with a diesel engine.
But, actually, it’s not really that important. The 500 didn’t really need changing. BMW changed its retro rival, the Mini and they ruined it a bit. Fiat has stuck with the same nod to the original 1950s 500 and it still looks fab.
That said, it’s not a car I’ve been entirely comfortable driving. While testing it I had to take a run down to Surrey and back, from Derbyshire and my observations now remain very similar to my observations the last time I spent time in a Fiat 500.
The bad bits are: It’s really effeminate. I’m comfortable with my sexuality, so that’s not such a big deal, but I don’t know many blokes who would profess to covet one. And that’s important because 50% of the country is a bloke.
There’s some really hot versions on offer; I drove one recently with 190bhp and it was one of the most thrilling cars I’ve ever piloted, but they all suffer from another affliction that seems to bother men more than women. Its “lofty” driving position.
The seat is set quite high and the steering wheel adjustment just isn’t low enough. You can get used to it pretty quickly, and I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable. In fact, it’s probably quite well-suited to its native urban settings, but it’s not for me.
It’s not exactly exciting to drive, but you’d get away with calling it nippy; maybe even “fun”, in a cosmopolitan sort of way.
Inside is where you’re most likely to notice the changes in the new one. The iconic dash design is still there, but now it’s available with a much better infotainment system and the whole setup feels more competently thought out.
The new revisions, which aren’t yet available across the entire 500 family, also extend to the engines. There’s the default choice, a 1.2 petrol, and a clever 900cc, two-cylinder TwinAir. Both are a bit more frugal, but there’s a diesel on the way later in the year if you’re still not convinced.
The models include a Pop, a Pop Star and the top-spec Lounge. Prices start at around £10,500 for the basic model, rising to around £15,000 for the Lounge.
It might not be at home on the motorway, but that’s not the point. The newcomer has fresh styling options and a few choice tweaks that, refreshingly, add more than they take away.
It will always be a popular car and now that’s even more justified than it ever has been.