From its snub nose and rounded headlights to its curvaceously retro rear, the quirk-packed Fiat 500 is cute enough – but how does it stand up to a busy weekend flitting around Glasgow?
It’s dinky and delightful – a bit like a black cab that got shrunk in the wash. Or a remote-control toy that’s been blown up to 200x magnification. What makes the Fiat 500 special is its throwback appeal – and with its wide-eyed headlights, twinkling front grille and eager stance, I’m already smitten when I pick up my test model – a three-door, 1.2 litre in the mid-level 500 Lounge trim.
The first thing that strikes me when I clamber inside is just how airy and bright it is, thanks to the fixed glass sunroof. This is amplified by the cream trim on the roof and pillars, which bounces light around to create the illusion of a much bigger space. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the decent ride height (shout out to the 15-inch alloys) and commanding visibility that’s made possible by the 500’s curving A-pillars and high wheelbase.
In fact, there are just as many playful departures from convention in the interior as there are on the outside – from the natty checked upholstery and tadpole-shaped chrome door handles to a nubby, gleaming little lever that looks more like an arcade joystick than a gearstick. Factor in the round analogue speedometer and generous steering wheel, and on a sunny day, you’ll feel like Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant in Roman Holiday.
But if you’re starting to worry that this is sounding a bit too retro, you’ll be relieved to hear there’s plenty of newfangled tech, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. There’s a responsive touchscreen infotainment system and Bluetooth. And the Lounge edition is kitted out with rear parking sensors, which, coupled with its compact back end, will help you commandeer even itsy-bitsy city spaces. (If you’ve ever seen the micro cars crowding the cobblestones for space in Rome, the Fiat 500 starts to make perfect sense.)
Speaking of compact… let’s be clear. This is a three-door car, so you do sacrifice a bit of boot and head room in the back. Tall people might not appreciate a prolonged road trip, because they’ll have to hunch. But as a driver or front passenger, the Fiat 500 never feels cramped or imposing, and in the back, there’s a clear view of the road ahead – and even a couple of cupholders, if you need them.
But all of this means very little if you can’t enjoy the driving experience. And to be frank, I’d imagined toiling through the gears and dealing with a fair whack of acceleration lag with just 69bhp to play with. How wrong I was.
Weaving through Glasgow’s Merchant City on a Saturday afternoon is nothing short of joyous. Acceleration is eager, and once I’m used to the height of the gear lever and boxy gait, I’m soon smiling at how fun it all is – somewhere between whizzing around in a dodgem and playing Mario Kart.
We set off with a little trepidation, but soon we’re bounding happily along the motorway. Granted, there are a few yelps and giggles from the back seats – especially when we pinball through the many roundabouts that punctuate the drive – but overtaking is surprisingly effortless, and for a moment, it’s almost like cruising the Italian Riviera. Albeit we’re in Inverclyde, and there’s a thunderstorm forecast.
On Sunday, it’s off to a retail park for some art supplies. Time to run the car park gauntlet and see how this bold little Fiat fares. And it’s fun. Instead of cautiously approaching the ramps in fear of my alloys getting grated, it’s easy to ascend the concrete helter-skelter because there’s loads of space on either side. Plus, the airy vantage point takes the edge off tight corners, concrete bollards and the many other obstacles you have to contend with in a multi-storey maze.
It’s only when I’m making my way back to the car, joyfully toting a 100cm by 120cm canvas under my arm that I remember the 500 is much smaller than my five-door, mid-size Vauxhall Astra. There’s no way I’m fitting in the equivalent of a 60-inch flatscreen TV… is there? Lo and behold – the flat little back seat bench flips down obligingly, and with the skimpy parcel shelf stowed and the front seats pushed forward a smidge – the colossal canvas is in.
Like a freshly brewed macchiato, the Fiat 500 has a decent bit of kick lurking beneath its frothy surface. This is not a car for people who want to sit back, relax and cruise through life. But if you’re looking for a perky city car that’s full of beans, you should give the 500 a shot.
|Torque||75 lb/ft at 3000 rpm|
|0-62mph/Top speed||12.9 secs / 101 mph|
|CO2 emissions||114 g/km|
|Personal contract purchase representative finance example – 19 Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge 3dr|
|Monthly payment||Deposit||Term (months)|
|Fixed interest rate||Cash price||Credit amount|
|Completion fee||Guaranteed future value||Total amount payable|
|Contract mileage||Excess mileage charge||Representative APR|
|32,000||6.0p per mile||5.9%|
Arnold Clark Automobiles Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for general insurance and consumer credit purposes. Harry Fairbairn Limited is an appointed representative of Arnold Clark Automobiles Limited.
Offer subject to status, terms and conditions. Click here for details including our panel of lenders.