We enjoy the Giardiniera and put it fully to the test
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!