We en­joy the Giar­diniera and put it fully to the test

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving -

1 DAILY DRIV­ING Like the 500 sa­loon, the Giar­diniera was de­signed to be threaded through the tini­est gaps in crowded town and city cen­tres, de­spite its larger in­te­rior and boot space. And what works in the im­pos­si­bly tight back streets of Bel­la­gio works equally well in Bolton. It’s a dod­dle to park, the con­trols are light and easy to use, and it can make a gal­lon of petrol last 45 miles. All-round vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cep­tional too, and the squared-off rump makes its ex­trem­i­ties de­light­fully easy to judge when re­vers­ing in even the tight­est of spa­ces. 2 IN THE SER­VICE BAY The Giar­diniera’s two-cylin­der en­gine is easy to ac­cess – just lift the flap in the lug­gage area, and there it is. It’s a sim­ple unit, with plenty of space around it to work on. Don’t be sur­prised to find that a reg­u­larly used car has had a few tweaks over the years, though – the con­denser and ro­tor arm are par­tic­u­larly no­table for be­ing un­re­li­able, so plenty of Fiat and Au­to­bianchi mod­els we’ve seen have now been up­graded to elec­tronic ig­ni­tion. Whether you value strict orig­i­nal­ity more than mod­ern-day con­ve­nience is a mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence. 3 ON THE SHOW CIR­CUIT You may have some ex­plain­ing to do when cu­ri­ous show­go­ers ask what this car is – most peo­ple in­stantly as­sume that it’s a Fiat 500 – but the cute looks and tiny pro­por­tions have a habit of win­ning just about ev­ery­one over. The Fiat 500 Club is pretty proac­tive at or­gan­is­ing show vis­its too, so if you sign up you should have plenty of like-minded friends to en­joy your baby clas­sic with. All but the very last Giar­dinieras are tax-ex­empt too, so it should be waved through at the gates of just about any show you visit, in­clud­ing Brook­lands’ Auto Italia show in April. 4 THE LONG WEEK­END The Giar­diniera’s in­creased lug­gage ca­pac­ity makes it eas­ier to take a few friends and their lug­gage away, but it’s go­ing to strug­gle with long mo­tor­way jour­neys even with the larger 499cc en­gine from later Fiat 500s. It can man­age a gen­tle 50mph cruise, but it’s a noisy com­pan­ion on longer jour­neys and you won’t be do­ing much in the way of over­tak­ing. It’s worth hav­ing a look at the Fiat 500 Mods and

Con­se­quences fea­ture that we ran in last week’s is­sue – many of the tweaks aimed at the 500 work equally well, and they’ll re­sult in vastly im­proved per­for­mance. 5 THE B-ROAD BLAST The Fiat 500 lacks the Mini’s ul­ti­mate pin­sharp steer­ing, but you’ll still find any 500 de­riv­a­tive, in­clud­ing the Giar­diniera, has an ad­dic­tive qual­ity on coun­try lanes. The lack of straight-line oomph means that you have to con­cen­trate on mak­ing the most of its han­dling, and there is some­thing hugely re­ward­ing about thread­ing it through corners, par­tic­u­larly tighter ones where larger clas­sics will strug­gle to con­tain body roll at the same speeds. Be warned, though – it’s ad­dic­tive stuff. You’ll def­i­nitely want to hop in for an­other go!

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