Fitting into the highly niche market of being a entry-level car with great looks, retro-styling done right and boasting high levels of usability, the Fiat 500 offers great value for money, lots of features absent from competitor products and a style that will never get old.
Waking up every morning and seeing the baby blue little bug parked snugly in the garage fills you eagerness to get behind the wheel and go wherever the road takes you. Competing in the A-segment (the base-model Pop at least) faces fierce competition from cheaper Chinese and Indian counterparts, such as the entry level Tata’s, Chery’s, GWM’s and so on… but the 500 is also competing against the established name-brands, such as VW, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and
In this day and age new car specification is increasingly becoming the buzzword, especially in the A-segment, with an increasing number of brands building ease of use into their entry level offerings. Gone are the days of wind-down / wind-up manual windows and non-remote control locking. Today, vehicle owners want their cars, regardless of which segment they fall into, to have the latest technology to improve their daily commute and make life easier in general.
In addition, driver and passenger safety is becoming increasingly relevant and essential, with the manufacturers including safety features such as air bags and anti-lock braking systems, as standard items.
Fiat have realised this trend, which is highly evident in the Fiat 500, which boasts unprecedented levels of technology and usability in an A-segment offering, such as that of the 500 base model the Pop.
Fiat also offer an up-specced Pop Star, which incorporates larger mag wheels, park assist, fixed sunroof and fog lights among other additional features. The top-end Lounge version offers even larger mag wheels, satellite navigation, sunroof and leather and chrome styling aspects.
Remaining relevant with retro styling is a challenging feat in the rapidly changing world and an aspect which many car manufacturers fail to undertake. It can be argued that the VW Beelte is far-removed from its original styling – having a much larger/wider body than the original, and the Mini is far from, well small any more.
However, Fiat seem to have struck success with its consistent modelling of the iconic “peoples car” which the auto maker begin production of in the 1950s. Today, the iconic rounded edges and classic aspects of inner and outer aspects are still relevant and highly desirable.
Fiat introduced its latest face lifted model in 2016. Among other new features is an interactive infotainment system, featuring a 5-inch touchscreen on the Pop Star and Lounge models. The base-spec Pop model comes with a smaller version infotainment system, but still boasts high levels of menu-based set up features for the car and sound system. The Lounge comes with Bluetooth compatibility (which is also standard on the Pop Star).
In terms of safety, all models are fitted with seven air bags, which are situated in front of driver and front passenger, side and window bags and a knee bag for the driver. Emergency-stop flashing indicators are also standard feature on all the models, as is stability control, traction control, braking assistance programmes and hill-holder assist for those tricky pull-offs from an incline. Every model also comes factory-fitted with central locking and a remote alarm system.
Another unique feature is the day-time running lights fitted to the face-lifted 500, which employ circular LED clusters around the high-beam headlights for a very chic appearance. The rear lights are a new look with perimeter LED technology and solid central body colour panels.
In terms of driving performance, the new 500s come with one choice of power plant: a tiny two-cylinder 900 cc turbo. Yes, that is all… and yes, it does sound like a scooter. But do not be fooled into thinking this miniscule engine does not deliver around the city and even on the open road. Although very chunky, and far from smooth, Fiat’s (almost decade old – first introduced in a Panda concept in 2007) Twinair provides ample power from very low down in the rev range and very high into the soft rev limiter, which kicks in at about 5500 rpm.
Fiat does offer two power-output options using the same Twinair engine: a standard version producing 62.5 kW, and a tweaked version that produces 77 kW.
The Twinair is spritely, and clever gearing from the 5-speed gearbox on the less-powerful Twinair engine (6-speed on the 77 kW version), easily allows the 500 to cruise at highway speeds, as well as easily overtake slower moving vehicles with its little, but mighty, turbo. That said, the 500 also performs exceptionally in its home environment – the city, where U-turns and tight parking spaces can be navigated with great ease, thanks to feather-light power steering and a very short wheelbase.
Having only three doors means the rear passenger space is severely limited, as is boot space with room for not much more than a handful of groceries, a handbag and maybe a tea-cup Yorkshire Terrier! Just kidding – the Yorkie will look well at-home peering through the massive side windows, sitting very comfortably next to the driver.
All in all, the new Fiat 500 offers great value for its price tag, with plenty of higher-end spec and tech in an entry-level segment, with plenty of room to upgrade to even higher levels of luxury with the Lounge model.
Words and photos by Dylan Slater
Thanks to Fiat South Africa for the drive,
a great little car, so zippy, so cute.