THE CCW VIEW
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.