Italian job now looking more like it’s a steal
NOW the retro cutie is positioned where it always should have been
A drive-away price of $14,000 for the 500 Pop gives Fiat the cheapest three-door hatch in the light-car class. Fiat says the mix of mainstream pricing will help reignite Australians’ passion for the Italian marque.
At this price they could be right but the ‘‘DuoLogic’’ roboticised manual transmission won’t be a selling point. VALUE Fiat has gone one up on VW with its pricing. The driveaway deal undercuts VW’s $13,990 Up sticker price and is thousands cheaper than the other three-doors— Kia Rio, Opel Corsa and Toyota Yaris.
The 500 Pop uses a 1.2-litre engine with a five-speed manual that drives every bit as well as the Up. Moving up to the Sport adds another ratio to the gearbox and a 1.4-litre engine with auto stop-start.
The range-topping Lounge uses Fiat’s ‘‘TwinAir’’ twocylinder engine that is the pick of the range but can only be had with the DuoLogic auto.
Cabrio versions are $2400 dearer than their hatch equivalents but only have the DuoLogic. All models have electric mirrors and windows and voicecontrolled Bluetooth software. TECHNOLOGY The 875cc TwinAir engine uses valve management to determine how much air to pump into the turbocharged twin, regardless of throttle opening.
Fiat says this lowers fuel consumption and emissions by about 10 per cent, while giving 10 per cent more power and 15 per cent more torque compared to a conventional engine of the same size. DESIGN Retro chic is the 500’s signature look and turns heads as few small cars can. The front seats are good for the intended use — city driving — but lack the bolstering to support enthusiastic driving.
The rear seats are for the kids except in emergencies but the same applies to many light cars.
The interior is a spread of hard plastics, broken up by a colourcoded strip along the fascia. Not surprising, given the car dates from 2007, but fit and finish generally are good.
The big interior issue is the lack of a glovebox. The 500 has a storage compartment under the passenger’s seat but it isn’t nearly as convenient as being able to keep the valuables out of sight in the glovebox. SAFETY Seven airbags and a solid chassis earn the 500 five stars from the crash-testing authorities. ANCAP rated it at 34.91/37, noting there was a ‘‘slight risk of serious chest and leg injury for both the driver and passenger’’ in the offset crash test. In
Top Gear host Richard Hammond drives a Fiat 500 (the TwinAir), so it’s not a girls’ car, apparently.
He drives a manual, though, and Australian buyers can’t get that combination here. As it is, the DuoLogic slushbox does its best to subdue the TwinAir engine’s torquey nature by slurring upshifts and consistently using too high a gear. It might be good for fuel economy but it isn’t fun in fully automatic mode.
And the 500 is a fun car to drive. The lightweight steering still has good feel and having the wheels pushed out to the corners gives the little car surprising competence through the turns.
Suspension is firmer than Asian rivals but it rides respectably at city speeds and fits into gaps that will amaze others. VERDICT Fiat is on the money with the revamped 500 range. The price and specification are more than competitive and it’s enjoyable to drive. All it needs is an automatic with the ability to match the rest of the car.
The Fiat 500 offers retro good looks and fuel economy at a very competitive price