Tutti frutti cu­tie

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST -

THERE’S a new Fiat 500 in town. The lit­tle cu­tie looks much the same yet it dis­plays a new-found ma­tu­rity that should put it on more shop­ping lists.

The unloved two-cylin­der turbo en­gine has gone and in its place are con­ven­tional 1.2 and 1.4-litre four-cylin­der en­gines.

Still avail­able is the jerky Dua­logic robo­tised auto , a $1500 op­tion that should be avoided.

The big story is in­side, where Fiat has in­stalled its user friendly Ucon­nect in­fo­tain­ment unit.

DE­SIGN

There’s not much to dis­tin­guish the 500C Cabrio Lounge from the last edi­tion, ex­ter­nally at least. Bumpers and grille have been changed, the lights are slightly dif­fer­ent and that’s about it.

Thank­fully the ba­sics re­main in­tact, be­cause it’s a de­sign that makes the 500 ar­guably the best of the ret­ros.

In the fa­mil­iar cabin, the dash has been re­ar­ranged to ac­com­mo­date the Ucon­nect head unit, re­lo­cat­ing the two cen­tral air vents to the sides of the screen.

An im­port from the Chrysler side of the busi­ness, the award­win­ning tech is al­ready in the larger four-door 500X wagon.

At five inches, the screen is a lit­tle small (it’s a small car af­ter all) but it’s more user friendly than Mi­crosoft’s Blue & me.

Too bad the car didn’t also share the 500X’s rear-view cam­era and cruise con­trol. Among other over­sights, there is no fuel-sav­ing en­gine stop­start.

The in­stru­ment clus­ter is now fully dig­i­tal, an­other point of difference from the out­go­ing model.

ABOUT TOWN

Yes, it’s small but the Fiat 500 is a city car, de­signed for short hops and small spa­ces. With the speed limit gen­er­ally 60km/h or less in most areas, the tiny hatch makes more sense than a pow­er­ful V8.

Prices start from $18,000 ris­ing to $25,000 for our top of the range 500 Cabrio. For now it’s $26,000 drive-away.

You get to chose colours (in­clud­ing cool tri­colour paint­work) and trims, en­abling myr­iad com­bi­na­tions.

The Lounge’s 1.4-litre en­gine claims fuel con­sump­tion of 6.1L/100km in man­ual form.

The Cabrio’s power op­er­ated fold­ing fab­ric roof amps up the fun fac­tor.

Given its city role it’s not sur­pris­ing to find the seats are small with short squabs that you seem to sit on rather than in. Given the steer­ing wheel lacks reach ad­just­ment, find­ing a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion can be chal­leng­ing.

The ride on 15-inch al­loys is firm but OK for a Euro­pean.

This one doesn’t have a safety rat­ing yet but, with no struc­tural changes, there’s noth­ing to sug­gest it won’t copy the pre­vi­ous model’s four stars.

Its TomTom nav­i­ga­tion setup gives a warn­ing when ap­proach­ing school zones and speed cam­eras. It has none of the 500X’s hi-tech fea­tures such as blind spot, for­ward col­li­sion and lane de­par­ture warn­ing.

ON THE ROAD

Yeah, baby — not only is it cute, this one goes too. Need­ing a few revs to get mo­bile, the 1.4-litre is a will­ing worker and the note from the ex­haust is re­ward­ing.

Out­puts of 74kW/131Nm (the lat­ter from a rel­a­tively high 4250rpm) mean the dash from 0-100km/h takes a pedes­trian 10.5 sec­onds, though it feels faster.

In fact, be­ing so small and light, with plenty of feed­back, it feels as if you’re get­ting along at a good clip most of the time.

Push­ing the Sport but­ton (which stays ac­ti­vated between starts) makes an ap­pre­cia­ble difference to the way the car re­sponds.

The steer­ing loads up and the car be­comes more re­spon­sive to the throt­tle, with a chor­tle from the ex­haust un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Cor­ners can be tack­led con­fi­dently, with han­dling that re­mains con­trolled and pre­dictable, even when pushed

CHRIS RI­LEY chris.ri­ley@news.com.au

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