The Fiat 500 has been wow­ing its fans since its 2007 rein­ven­tion reprised a 1950s Ital­ian icon. Jack Evans tests a spe­cial an­niver­sary ver­sion.

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE BY JACK EVANS

EVO­LU­TION We’ve just passed the 60th an­niver­sary of the orig­i­nal Fiat 500. The com­pact fore­bear to the mod­ern 500 was im­mensely pop­u­lar, of­fer­ing low-cost, af­ford­able mo­tor­ing to the masses. The new car took on the cutesy styling of the clas­sic 500, bring­ing it into the mod­ern age with bet­ter prac­ti­cal­ity and a lot more safety.

To the unini­ti­ated, the Fiat 500 is a two-door, four-pas­sen­ger, front wheel drive city car that comes in a range of body styles in­clud­ing coupe and cabri­o­let.

There are other Fiat 500s, in­clud­ing the 500X and 500L, which, in true MINI style, are big­ger than the orig­i­nal.

In­spired by a 2004 Fiat con­cept car, the 500’s styling de­lib­er­ately echoes a car etched in Ital­ian con­scious­ness: the 1957 Fiat 500, nick­named the Bam­bino.

The “lit­tle baby” sold over 4 mil­lion mod­els be­tween 1957 and 1975, and pop­u­larised mo­tor­ing in post-war Italy.

The 500 uses Fiat’s award-win­ning Mul­ti­air engine tech­nol­ogy, with moden tech and driver as­sists care­fully blended with its retro looks.

It was of­fi­cially un­veiled on July 4, 2007, and up to 250,000 peo­ple flocked to 30 Ital­ian cities to take part in the cer­e­monies.

WHAT’S NEW? To cel­e­brate the car’s birth­day, Fiat has re­leased this – the 60th. It gets a range of retro touches ideal for any­one look­ing to stand out from the crowd – though noth­ing has changed me­chan­i­cally. The fa­mil­iar 1.2-litre tur­bocharged engine is un­der the bon­net, linked to a five-speed man­ual gear­box. LOOKS AND IM­AGE A range of spe­cial-edi­tion 500s have been cre­ated through­out the car’s life­time. There

was a Riva model, built in part­ner­ship with the fa­mous boat builders, as well as a range of cars made in con­junc­tion with sev­eral fash­ion brands. This is the lat­est spe­cial-edi­tion, and as such comes with a host of ‘ look at me’ ad­di­tions.

There are retro Fiat badges dot­ted through­out the in­te­rior, as well as on the ex­te­rior of the car. A unique ‘dol­cevita’ two-tone paint­work has been ap­plied to the body, giv­ing it all of the retro looks of the orig­i­nal, while chrome ‘ hub cap’ style al­loy wheels cer­tainly ape those fit­ted to the old 500.

A new seven-inch TFT dis­play has also been fit­ted in­side, hous­ing satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and me­dia func­tions. Speak­ing of me­dia, both Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto have now been in­cluded in the 500’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, giv­ing driv­ers a bet­ter way of pair­ing their smart­phones to the car’s sys­tem.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY As men­tioned ear­lier, there haven’t been any me­chan­i­cal changes made to the 60th, mean­ing that the 500 is just as com­pact as the stan­dard car.

There’s still a good amount of room for those in the front, while those in the back strug­gle for both leg and head­room. Both driver and pas­sen­ger sit quite high too, which will ap­peal to those who like to con­fi­dently sit over the car – but won’t ap­peal to those who feel more com­fort­able sat lower down.

The 60th comes with a fold­ing cloth roof, and to fa­cil­i­tate this sys­tem Fiat has fit­ted it with a clamshell-style boot. It’s not as prac­ti­cal as the stan­dard car, there­fore, which is worth re­mem­ber­ing if you’re plan­ning on us­ing the 60th as an ev­ery­day ve­hi­cle.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL Our test route took in the nar­row, cob­bled streets of Turin – the 500’s home ter­ri­tory. Its swift and nim­ble han­dling makes dart­ing in and out of traf­fic a breeze, while the peppy engine suits the car’s fre­netic, ea­ger char­ac­ter.

The ride re­mains quite firm, though the 16-inch spe­cial-edi­tion wheels fit­ted to this car likely play a large part in this prob­lem.

Of course, the 500’s ‘city steer­ing’ but­ton re­mains, which light­ens the car’s steer­ing to al­most comedic lev­els, but makes the 500 ideal for trav­el­ling through ur­ban ar­eas – as well as chang­ing par­al­lel park­ing into a ma­noeu­vre that only takes a mo­ment’s no­tice.

VALUE FOR MONEY As men­tioned ear­lier, the big­gest ben­e­fit to the 500’s in­te­rior is the all-new, larger in­fo­tain­ment dis­play. It’s rel­a­tively sim­ple to nav­i­gate, and has de­cent enough sen­si­tiv­ity. How­ever, its lack of a cowl means that it’s dif­fi­cult to read in di­rect sun­light, some­thing which, in a car with a fold­ing roof, is bound to hap­pen.

Else­where, ev­ery­thing feels of a rel­a­tively good qual­ity. How­ever, the red fin­ish ap­plied to the 60th An­niver­sary Edi­tion’s dash feels scratchy and hard, some­thing that you’d think would have been avoided in a com­mem­o­ra­tive car.

The retro Fiat badges do make the car feel spe­cial how­ever, while most peo­ple will no doubt be at­tracted by the car’s uber-retro styling touches. It’s also fit­ted with a com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque, sig­ni­fy­ing the car’s lim­ited-edi­tion sta­tus.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE? The Fiat 500 60th is a good choice for those who want to stand out from the crowd, and like a lit­tle ex­tra magic with their 500.

The ba­sic recipe re­mains un­changed, but given its lim­ited-edi­tion sta­tus, it’s one that is likely to ap­peal to many.

“To cel­e­brate the car’s birth­day, Fiat has re­leased this - the 60th. It gets a range of retro touches ideal for any­one look­ing to stand out from the crowd.”

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