The lit­tle Fiat that could

No mere nos­tal­gia ex­er­cise, the 500 is a mod­ern city car

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH grah.smith@big­


The nos­tal­gia wave that swept over mo­tor­ing pro­duced a num­ber of new mod­els that re­called clas­sics of days gone by.

There were the Mini, the Bee­tle, the PT Cruiser to name a few but only the Mini has eclipsed the im­pact of Fiat’s baby 500.

Re­call­ing the won­der­ful lit­tle 500 pro­duced be­tween 1957 and 1975 the new gen­er­a­tion 500 was as cute as a but­ton. No mat­ter which an­gle you chose to view it from it tugged at the heart­strings, it was a car you could eas­ily fall in love with on first sight.

Fiat of­fered three hatch mod­els in the range, which kicked off with the Pop and fol­lowed by the Lounge and Sport. Its small size made it per­fect for city use. It wasn't much good for a fam­ily, but was per­fectly sized for sin­gles or cou­ples with­out kids who wanted to nip around town, park on a postage stamp and save on fuel.

Fiat of­fered three en­gines, two petrols and one diesel. These started with a 1.2-litre four-cylin­der that was suf­fi­cient for town use, there was a 1.4litre four that gave more use­ful per­for­mance and there was also a 1.3-litre turbo diesel that was the fuel miser.

Promis­ing 4.2 L/100km the lit­tle turbo diesel was the most fuel-ef­fi­cient en­gine on of­fer at the time of its launch. T here was a choice of three trans­mis­sions depend­ing on the en­gine cho­sen.

Buy­ers could choose five or six-speed man­u­als or five-speed auto, al­though turbo diesel buy­ers were limited to the fivespeed man­ual.

With a wheel at each cor­ner the 500 was pure fun on the road with sharp steer­ing and go-cart like han­dling.


Ital­ian brands have al­ways built cars with pas­sion but the ex­pe­ri­ence has of­ten been soured by seem­ingly end­less vis­its to the shop to have them fixed af­ter they broke down.

But own­ers of the 500 tell a re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent story, say­ing they are happy with their 500s and love them to bits. Those who have con­tacted us praise the fun feel of their cars, they also cite their fuel econ­omy and re­port few if any prob­lems with them.

Graeme Smith’s daugh­ter has owned a 2008 man­ual 1.4litre Lounge from new and loves its ver­sa­til­ity and econ­omy. She also loves that it is dif­fer­ent. It is her ev­ery­day work ve­hi­cle, which she uses to visit clients and finds it easy to park in the city and ne­go­ti­ate the traf­fic. It per­forms well on the high­way, even when fully loaded, and has given her no trou­ble.

Peter Cheong and his wife have owned a 2009 Fiat 500 diesel from new. It was her dream car and she loves it. It has now done 68,000km and he says it has been re­li­able and eco­nom­i­cal. Apart from front tyre wear and warped brake discs, is­sues that af­fect many of to­day’s cars, there have been two war­ranty is­sues: a cracked fuel pipe and a bro­ken wiper arm.

Me­chanic Bruce McCann bought a demon­stra­tor Fiat 500 Pop 1.3-litre turbo diesel in 2009 and has had five years of bril­liant ser­vice from it. It has cov­ered 113,000km and has had nor­mal 15,000km by-the-book dealer ser­vic­ing. He does an additional en­gine oil and fil­ter ser­vice at 7,500km in­ter­vals.

Apart from the ser­vic­ing he changed the front disc ro­tors and pads at 75,000km and fit­ted new tyres at about the same time.

There has been one small grem­lin with the cen­tral lock­ing sys­tem, which was fixed by the dealer. Apart from that there are no squeaks or rat­tles and noth­ing has fallen off.

He reck­ons the turbo diesel per­for­mance has been bril­liant, with smooth torque de­liv­ery. It has been quite spritely through city traf­fic, good when hill climb­ing and very quiet.

It doesn’t use oil and reg­u­larly does 4.5L-4.9 L/ 100km. He de­scribes han­dling and steer­ing re­sponse as a joy.

In sum­mary, he says, it is a clever city car that eas­ily copes with in­ter­state trips — when diesel fuel con­sump­tion touches the “old”60 miles per gal­lon on cruise.

Re­tained value has taken a hit. Orig­i­nal im­porter Ateco priced the 500 like a mini lux­ury car. Now im­ported by the fac­tory, a new 500 starts from a far more real­is­tic $14,000.


Fun lit­tle car that’s per­fect for the young and young at heart.

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