Retro for the metro Reworked Fiat is a fun little kart with a whole lot of heart
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.
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.
Great fun, perfect for the young and young at heart.