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Fiat’s little 500 isn’t half grand!

PUBLISHED: 16:29 27 November 2015 | UPDATED: 16:29 27 November 2015

Fiat's 500 city car has even more character and is better connected after comprehensive facelift and makeover.

Fiat's 500 city car has even more character and is better connected after comprehensive facelift and makeover.

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Fiat’s cute 500 hatchback is now very well connected and benefitted from a facelift and makeover, says Andy Russell, motoring editor.

Turning back the clock to fast-forward to the future has made Fiat’s reborn 500 a runaway success on the highway of nostalgia, topping 1.5 million in eight years and a top 10 UK seller.

It’s a cute city car that puts a smile on your face but the problem with reviving an icon is that the next generation also has to be faithful to the original. Fiat has achieved that, even launching the new model on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 original, and doing enough to freshen up the style and substance without shedding the traditional character.

So what’s different?

Fiat 500

Price: Fiat 500 Lounge 1.2 hatchback (hatchback range £10,890 to £14,420; convertible £13,540 to £17,070)

Engine: 1,242cc, 69hp, four-cylinder petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 12.9 seconds; top speed 99mph

MPG: Urban 51.4; extra urban 65.7; combined 60.1

CO2 emissions: 110g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 17%

Insurance group: 8 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 3,571mm; W (including door mirrors) 1,893mm; H 1,488mm

The revised face is even more characterful with redesigned circular and modular front lights, aping the zeroes in ‘500’, and more pronounced ribbing.

Ring-shaped rear lights with body-colour centres are unusual and eye-catching while fog and reversing lights are relocated to the edges of the redesigned bumper.

Add in new personalisation options, alloy wheels, colours and upgraded connectivity and engines, and there are actually 1,800 changes.

Under the bonnet

Petrol to the fore with 85 and 105hp 875cc, two-cylinder TwinAir turbo engines and a four-cylinder 1.2-litre motor.

The entry 1.2 is fine around town but, on the open road, needs to be worked quite hard, picking up nicely from around 4,000rpm. The saving grace is it revs happily and has a light, snappy five-speed manual gearbox.

On the plus side, while economy is not as good as the TwinAir units, 50 to 60mpg in normal driving won’t have you regularly visiting filling stations – even with its small 35-litre tank.

How it drives

The firm ride means the 500 is fidgety on poor surfaces at speed, but no worse than many dinky city cars, but it’s not such an issue in urban driving - the 500’s natural element.

Entertaining to drive, proving you don’t need a fast car to have, it corners precisely but press really hard and the front wheels lose grip and run. The steering is nicely weighted and, for parking, it can be switched to a lighter city mode.

Space and comfort

Despite being a four-seater, the back ones are best for children. It’s three-door only, so access to the back is quite tight despite front seats tilting and sliding forward. Even with some compromise from those up front, average adults would find legroom in the back at a premium and headroom tight, especially with the panoramic glass.

The 185-litre boot is city car-sized and well shaped to make the most of the space with the smallest parcel shelf I’ve seen to hide loads. Rear seat backs drop flat 50/50 but step up from the boot floor and the black painted backs will scratch if you don’t protect them up when loading.

Connectivity

Advanced Uconnect infotainment is more intuitive, improves connectivity and has steering wheel remote controls and USB and auxiliary ports on all models. A Radio Live touch screen unit with Bluetooth, music streaming, voice recognition and an SMS reader for reading text messages on compatible phones is standard on Lounge and a £250 option on Pop and Pop Star models. DAB digital radio adds another £100.

It can also access internet radio and music, the eco-Drive app and my:Car for real-time warnings, service deadline memos and an interactive owner handbook.

The new 500 also offers voice-activated TomTom satellite navigation, Bluetooth and DAB for £600 on Pop and Pop Star models (including Bluetooth connectivity and DAB) and a £350 upgrade for Lounge.

At the wheel

The fascia is a highlight of the 500 – with gloss black trim panels, brightwork accents, colourful highlights and customisation options it looks good and works well and helps hide the hard, scratchy plastic.

My test car was fitted with the optional £250 seven-inch TFT (thin film transistor) screen with digital speedo flanked by rev counter and eco gauge with displays for fuel and temperature as well as the driver information system. It sounds a lot to fit in but is surprisingly easy to take in.

The steering wheel adjusts only for height so, with short arms, I found myself sitting closer to the wheel than I would have liked and my legs squeezed.

A big glove box helps makes up for small doorbins and not a lot of storage space apart from four drinks holders.

Final say

The 500 is the city car to be seen in and, with the latest model, Fiat has done enough to give it fresh appeal and make sure it remains very well connected with the smart set.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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