Retro rocket: Fiat 500 follows Mini with a blitz of funky models
The Fiat 500 has been wowing its fans since its 2007 reinvention reprised a 1950s Italian icon. Jack Evans tests a special anniversary version.
Jack Evans tests a special anniversary version.
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.
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.