Retro for the metro Re­worked Fiat is a fun lit­tle kart with a whole lot of heart

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

NEW

REKIN­DLING the past is a risky busi­ness. Just try on a pair of flares from the ’ 70s and you’ll get the idea.

But car mak­ers have dived into the retro pool, risk­ing their past glo­ries by try­ing to re­vive mem­o­ries of clas­sic old models.

Some­times it works, as with the Mini. Other times it hasn’t — takeVW’s Bee­tle.

Fiat joined the cir­cus in 2008 when it launched the new-age 500, a re­make of the clas­sic lit­tle car from the ’ 50s and ’ 60s.

In Fiat’s case it worked a treat, with looks that evoke fond mem­o­ries of the lit­tle car that was a favourite in the good old days. Fiat’s de­sign­ers cap­tured the orig­i­nal car’s cute looks while giv­ing their mod­ern model an up-to-date look.

The down­side is that the 500 is small, just as the old car was, which makes it im­prac­ti­cal if you’ve got a tribe to trans­port. But it’s per­fectly sized for those with­out kids who want to nip around town, park on a postage stamp and save on fuel bills.

The retro yet mod­ern theme con­tin­ued in­side the cabin, dom­i­nated by a large in­stru­ment bin­na­cle con­tain­ing ev­ery­thing you needed to know.

The seat­ing was com­fort­able for those in the front but those con­signed to the rear weren’t so lucky. The 500 was a twoplus-two, not a full four-seater.

Fiat had three en­gine op­tions. The choices started with a 1.2-litre four-cylin­der, which pro­pelled the 930kg car well enough if you weren’t too fussed about beat­ing the guy in the next lane.

Then there were a 1.4-litre four that was more than enough for such a small car and a 1.3-litre turbo diesel that de­liv­ered big-time on the fuel front, with claimed thirst of 4.2L/100km.

The trans­mis­sion choices were five-speed auto and five or six-speed man­u­als.

The diesel was avail­able only with the man­ual.

As might be ex­pected with such a com­pact package with a wheel at each cor­ner, the 500 is a hoot to drive with sharp steer­ing and kart-like han­dling.

Fiat ini­tially had three hatch vari­ants. The Pop was the starter, with the Sport and Lounge tak­ing the spec up. A con­vert­ible was added in 2010.

NOW

Own­ers gen­er­ally love their 500s and heap praise on the han­dling and fuel econ­omy in par­tic­u­lar.

Crit­i­cisms are few, mostly about the lack of stor­age in the cabin, but there are some ad­verse com­ments about deal­ers not car­ing when things go wrong.

As with any car, check for a ser­vice record and make sure all ser­vices have been car­ried out as per Fiat’s rec­om­mended sched­ule. Oil changes are crit­i­cal; miss­ing them can end in an ex­pen­sive dis­as­ter.

Also check for body dam­age. The lit­tle Fi­ats are mostly used in the city com­mute and liv­ing in in­ner-city ar­eas can be hard on a car. Park­ing scrapes, kerb dam­age, bird drop­pings and the like are com­mon haz­ards, so go around the car care­fully— don’t for­get the wheels— look­ing for scarred pan­els and stained paint.

Me­chan­i­cally, the 500 is a con­ven­tional lit­tle de­vice so there’s noth­ing to be specif­i­cally con­cerned about. Con­duct a thor­ough road test in any case. When you do, lis­ten for odd noises, squawks, squeaks, rat­tles etc and lo­cate the source.

SMITHY SAYS

Great fun, per­fect for the young and young at heart.

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