Fiat's little 500 gets more connected in special edition 'Mirror' guise. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
City people like to feel connected. But citycars aren't usually at the cutting edge when it comes to media sophistication. Or most of them aren't anyway. Here's an exception, the Fiat 500 'Mirror' edition.
The Fiat 500 is the car that built its brand and since this modern era version was first launched in 2007, the Italian brand has never stopped trying to improve it. The most recent changes concern media connectivity. Specifically, the addition of a sophisticated 'Uconnect' infotainment system.
This set-up's now been enhanced with 'Apple CarPlay' / 'Android Auto' 'phone connectivity and to highlight the fact, Fiat has introduced this special 'Mirror' edition model based around hatch and convertible versions using the volume 1.2-litre petrol engine.
And on the move? Well the Italian brand enhanced refinement and improved the braking performance of this model with a package of changes introduced in 2015 but in truth, the dynamic feel of this car won't be a very important consideration for most potential buyers. They'll be more interested in the super-tight 9.3m turning circle and the way you can twirl this car into the tightest parking space thanks to the super-light 'City' steering feature. These people will often be urban-based - hence the relatively high take-up for the clutchless 'Dualogic' transmission option. And over 80% of them tend to opt for the powerplant used with this 'Mirror' edition model, the 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol unit.
Potential owners will like the light steering, with its 'city' option that lightens it even further so that you can twirl the car into the tightest space. They also might want to test out the super-tight 9.3m turning circle. It helps enormously here that the high driving position and big windows make this car so easy to see out of and place on the road. It's urban-friendly through and through you see.
Design and Build
The Fiat 500 Mirror is available in hatchback and convertible guises with a choice of five exterior colours, including Electronica Blue. This special edition aims to enhance its classic look with chrome finished door mirror covers, a brushed aluminium "Mirror" badge on the B pillar and 16-inch wheels.
Otherwise, this is just like any other Fiat 500, which means that it's just 3.5m long, 1.6m wide and 1.5m high, enabling it to fit into spaces that even a MINI would have to avoid. If you choose the 500C variant rather than the fixed-top model, you get what amounts to a full-length canvas sunroof which electrically retracts into a concertinaed bundle just above the boot.
Inside, delicious details are everywhere, the coloured fascia panels featuring iconic '500' badging and colour-matched against the bodywork. This 'Mirror' model gets exclusive black upholstery and white interior detailing. Plus a large 7-inch 'Uconnect LIVE' infotainment display screen mounted high on the dashboard, right in your line of sight.
As for practicalities, well there's obviously not much room on the rear seat but in the boot, the 185-litre space is no smaller than an ordinary mainstream citycar like Toyota's Aygo would give you.
Market and Model
Pricing for this 500 'Mirror' model is pitched at £13,965 for the 3-door fixed-top hatch version. That's about £2,300 more than you'd pay for this car in its cheapest base-spec 'Pop' guise when fitted with the 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol engine that features in this special edition. There's a significant £2,600 model-for-model premium if you want the '500C' version with its electric fabric folding roof.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, various visual embellishments, a speed limiter and integrated controls on the leather steering wheel. The main feature that 500 'Mirror' buyers will want though, is this car's sophisticated 'Uconnect' 7-inch HD LIVE touchscreen which comes with Bluetooth, USB and AUX-IN ports and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto 'phone connectivity.
The introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means that users can access the main applications of their smartphones directly on the 7-inch screen of the 'Uconnect' system. Apple CarPlay enables iPhone users to access Apple Maps, Apple Music, messages, phone and more with Siri or the 'Uconnect' touchscreen, while Android Auto integration also allows drivers to manage the compatible content and features on their device directly from the integrated touch screen or by using the system's vocal commands.
Cost of Ownership
The more time we spent with 500 in base 1.2-litre form, the more we understood why over 80% of buyers of this car choose this unit. For one thing, a lot of these people know that the quoted figures for the pokier, pricier TwinAir versions are very difficult to achieve in the real world. If fact, they're impossible to achieve unless you drive a 500 TwinAir model with its 'Eco' mode permanently activated. Almost nobody does this because the 'Eco' feature significantly limits the extra pulling power that would have prompted you to pay extra for the TwinAir model in the first place.
On top of that, the four cylinder 1.2 has been getting progressively more class-competitive when it comes to efficiency, able to deliver 60.1mpg in this latest Euro6 guise - or 62.8mpg when mated to the Dualogic clutchless gearbox. The CO2 figures aren't bad either - 110g/km with a normal stick-shift or 105g/km in Dualogic form.
If you've always liked the Fiat 500 but you've always wished it was a little better connected, then this 'Mirror' version might be exactly what you're looking for. You get the 'Apple CarPlay' / 'Android Auto' 'phone connectivity normally limited to much more expensive cars and a smarter exterior look, all at a price that isn't too far above stripped-out base spec.
Usual '500' model issues like restrictions in bootspace and rear seat accommodation remain, but otherwise, this still feels like a modern product. Choosing a 'fashionable' little runabout can often be a risk. Here though, is one you can enjoy without a worry.