Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Epic Battles - NICK LARKIN, CON­TRIB­U­TOR

Can we re­ally pick a win­ner? Both cars be­came a sym­bol of their re­spec­tive ‘home’ coun­tries world­wide, helped by images of Twiggy and 43 Bri­tish stu­dents cram­ming into a Mini, or an Ital­ian fam­ily with smil­ing bam­bi­nos twist­ing their Fiat through a moun­tain vil­lage where ev­ery­one wears black and there’s a church bell tolling some­where.

Each had es­tate, van, open-top and leg­endary sport­ing de­riv­a­tives.

To be bru­tal, the Fiat 500 was here first, with mas­terly use of lim­ited in­te­rior space, 50mpg and un­ut­ter­ably cute looks. It was sur­pris­ingly rugged and re­li­able, too.

The Mini had so much that was unique, and is much roomer, qui­eter and more com­fort­able to drive. It also has a lot more lug­gage stor­age space.

Much as we like the chal­lenge of chang­ing gear in a 500, the triple dose of syn­chro­mesh of­fered by the Mini does make life much eas­ier. How­ever, both cars are deeply and won­der­fully good fun to drive and would be a joy to own.

The Mini Is the choice for nor­mal use and it is fun­da­men­tally a per­sonal choice, but maybe the Fiat 500 just has the edge as far as hav­ing some­thing to look at lov­ingly in the garage and use on quiet roads is con­cerned.

Surely the ul­ti­mate trib­ute to both cars is that each has a mod­ern equiv­a­lent in pro­duc­tion to­day? Pick­ing a favourite is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, but I’d take the Fiat.

Fiat 500 re­lies on a rear en­gine and swing axles, but han­dling is sur­pris­ingly good – it’s no Porsche 911-style widow-maker.

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