The Fiat 500 has been such a roaring success that a drop-top was always on the cards. But could a convertible 500 really match the handling, financial package and sense of fun that the hatchback offers?
First impressions are good, with a foldable canvas roof feeling like the right choice for the 500C, as opposed to a folding metal roof.
It still feels fun, brisk, stylish and just a tad irreverent. Sexy? Yes, and all those other saucy ‘topless’ gags feel apt when describing the little Fiat convertible.
Our version was in the classic 500 cream, but you can get this decked out in what can only be described as electric pink if you so which. We passed up the opportunity to take the 500C Pink for a spin. All told, there are 11 paint jobs, three roof colours, three interior trims with fabric and leather and over 100 accessory combinations – plenty of opportunities for personalisation.
We drove the top-spec Fiat 500C Lounge, paired with a 1.3-litre turbodiesel engine and found it a hugely enjoyable place to be, especially with the roof down and wind whipping around the head. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, as happened on our test drive, the roof goes back up quicktime at speeds of up to 37mph – much faster than metal-roof convertibles.
The 75bhp 1.3 is a gutsy engine that blends economy and pep brilliantly through a five-speed manual box. Capable of 67.3mpg combined, it still offers strong performance and doesn’t need to be worked hard. Low CO2 of 110g/km means road tax is a paltry £35 too. 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines come with a manual box or a semi-automatic gearbox.
Some compromise in handling is generally to be expected in a car with its roof down, but this isn’t especially obvious with the 500C, a taut little car that is more than willing on the twisty stuff. That’s because the convertible is barely different from the hatch, so there’s little scuttle shake – body flexing – in corners.
In fact, the ride is arguably improved over the traditional 500 thanks to a new suspension set-up. It doesn’t stop there, because of the 500C’s folding roof the interior is unchanged from the hatchback, meaning four can be seated in comfort, boot space is virtually unaffected at 182 litres, and the cool cabin trim remains.
And it is a cool cabin. Sitting in the Fiat 500C you can almost see the thinking that’s gone into it. As if Fiat designers looked at every traditional dial and switch and wondered ‘how can we make this better?’ The little things count, and this little car is perhaps the greatest expression of that maxim.
Somewhere else the roof excels is in noise intrusion – there isn’t any to speak of. The fabric insulated the cabin extremely well from the outside world, meaning the 500C is a relaxed place to be. More areas where the 500C drop-top benefits from similarities with its tin-topped cousin include safety – a maximum five NCAP stars in testing – and specification. Seven airbags are standard on all models and electronic stability control is standard on Lounge versions.
So, this is a purchase to be made not only with the heart, it’s a purchase to be made with the head too. A fantastic feel-good car that isn’t compromised; the Fiat 500C is a lovely little car.