The Fiat 500 is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month – is any classic car loved more than the baby Italian? Well, how about the Mini? Nick Larkin puts the two head to head
Fiat 500 V Mini
Two of the smallest mass production cars ever made were born out of necessity. Not to be cuddly and appealing, but to maximise interior space and use minimal fuel. They may have charmed multiple generations for generations, but Fiat’s 500 BMC’s bouncing baby Mini were both introduced in the second half of the 1950s as vehicles for the frugal.
However, these cars crossed every social divide, much to the surprise of their respective makers, with even top celebrities wanting to be associated with them. They sold in the millions.
The Fiat 500 was intended to mobilise postwar Italy – no lofty aspirations there then – and remove a significant section of the populace from dependence on scooters.
The Mini, introduced in 1959, two years after the Fiat, stemmed from the 1956 Suez Crisis, which led to petrol being rationed and spawned microcars that made a Raleigh bicycle seem like the height of luxury.
Before we take the Mini and Fiat 500 apart, figuratively speaking, and try to pick a winner, two important facts must be remembered. Each car is an engineering marvel masterminded by a brilliant designer, and each has character in spades. Both have their shortcomings, of course, but we love them nonetheless.
Now, start your engines!
Mini can cruise comfortably, if a little noisily, at 60mph, and its rubber cone suspension offers excellent roadholding. The Mini offers truly amazing interior capacity – it’s can genuinely seat four adults. BMc a-series engine powered all Minis in assorted states of tune and cubic capacity. interior is best described as ‘utilitarian chic’. it’s really only an occasional four-seater. Tiny air-cooled twin (eventually enlarged to 499cc) is a rugged and reliable unit.