Fiat 500 is an old idea made good

Fiat 500Fiat 500
Fiat 500
IT MUST rank as one of the brightest motoring ideas of recent times.

IT MUST rank as one of the brightest motoring ideas of recent times.

The decision to revive the ancient Fiat 500 - a car which sold millions between 1957 and 1975 - was inspired.

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The new model is incredibly cool, especially with young women, and it continues to sell in huge numbers.

The credit isn’t entirely Fiat’s. I’m sure the idea came from the BMW MINI and Volkswagen Beetle, both retro models given a very modern twist.

Whatever next? A Hillman Imp for the 21st century? Maybe a Ford Anglia? How about an Austin Allegro? OK, so maybe they won’t be launched anytime soon.

But the Fiat 500 has enough cuteness and nostalgia packed into its 3.5 metre long body to make it appealing.

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It’s not cheap, though. The test model 500 1.2 Lounge is one of the better equipped versions and costs from £12,640. The test version, with various additions such as satellite navigation and a purple paint job called Avantgarde Bordeaux (I ask you!), came to £14,450.

That’s an awful lot of money for a funky city car, especially when you can get a Peugeot 108 or a Kia Picanto for thousands less.

But that’s not the point. The point is people - especially fashionable females - would rather pay lots for what they want rather than less for what they don’t want. Simple.

So, what do you get for £12,640? Well, you get a very well-packaged car with a wonderful engine and a delicious cabin.

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The plus points are the way the car manages to be both retro and cutting edge at the same time. Fiat has updated the 500 recently but it looks almost identical to one of the original new 500s from 2007. There’s no point changing a winning formula.

Inside, though, the car has changed dramatically. The dash is terrific and seems inspired by smartphones with lots of easy-to-handle data and plenty of apps already installed.

It’s spacious, too with no feeling of claustrophobia and the boot is spacious, holding 185 litres rising to 550 litres with the boot down.

There are faults, though. The stop-start system is jerkier than it should be and the three-year warranty is pitiful compared to some rivals.

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But that matters little when you realise this is a fashion accessory on wheels.

Fiat say there is more chrome on show and new LED daytime running lights and they make great play of the Uconnect information and entertainment system which is great.

There are seven airbags and a range of safety systems in the car.

Fiat say it hasn’t grown size but it has grown up. There is more of a sophistication about the car which is welcome.

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It comes as a standard model or as a cabriolet with a roll-back sunroof.

All models have six speakers, AUX-IN/USB ports and steering wheel remote controls as standard equipment. The Pop Star version adds air conditioning, body-colour mirror caps with defrosting function and 15-inch alloy wheels, while the Lounge version adds panoramic glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, a chrome front grille, front fog lights, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a five-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration.

The front seats adopt a more ergonomic shape and the interior upholstery is available in nine colour combinations.

Further improvements include a new covered glove box on the passenger’s side and a revised centre console with new cup holders and a relocated 12V power socket.

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The test model is now equipped with larger brake discs for even more effective and powerful braking. Active safety systems include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD), advanced electronic stability control (ESC), anti-slip regulation (ASR), Hill Holder and hydraulic brake assistance (HBA) to help with emergency stops.

The original Fiat 500 sold 3.8 million. The new Fiat 500 has so far sold 1.5 million. Don’t be surprised if it outsells the original in ten years or so.

Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge 69bhp

PRICE: £12,640

ENGINE: A 1,242cc four cylinder eight valve unit generating 69bhp via front wheel drive

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 99mph and 0 to 60mph in 12.9 seconds

COSTS: Town 51.4mpg; country 65.7mpg; combined 60.1mpg


EMISSIONS: 110g/km

WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles

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