On face value, Fiat’s new 500 C (four-seater cabrio) is overpriced alongside the various hatches and sedans in the Micro segment.
But, starting from $22,000 (Pop manual model), it’s the lowest-priced convertible on sale in Australia today.
For 2016, the 500 has received a mild restyle (new bumpers, front and rear light systems, etc.) and equipment upgrade.
Standard on the higher-specification Lounge model are Fiat-Chrysler’s Uconnect system with 5˝ touchscreen radio and six speakers, aux-in, USB ports, Digital Audio Broadcasting, voice command and Bluetooth; satellite navigation; 7˝ TFT instrument cluster display; manual climate control; 15˝ alloys and seven airbags.
Personalisation has always been a priority with the 500, and the exterior colour palette now totals 13 hues. Interior options run to another 10 choices and there are three convertible roof colours.
Putting out 74kW of power and 131Nm of torque, the 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine isn’t particularly endowed, but with less than a tonne to lug and driven with purpose in Sport mode, the 500 C gets along okay. Fiat claims fuel economy of 5.8 litres/100km (ADR combined cycle) on 95 PULP.
Choices include a six-speed manual or, for $1500, a five-speed Dualogic (auto) transmission. The latter is – in a word – dim-witted, and shifting manually only partly masks its awkwardness. Go the manual instead.
Handling might be described as nimble and the 500 C rides compliantly around town. But Queensland is a long way from Milan and said compliance can turn to noisy and crashy on our back roads. Sport mode adds some weighting, although no more real feel, to the steering.
The driver enjoys tilt and height adjustment to their seat; not so the front passenger. No steering reach adjustment is offered and, in keeping with the little car that it is, the spare wheel is a spacesaver and boot space limited to 182 litres.
With the push of a button, the roof folds rather than slides, concertina fashion, a third of the way, two-thirds and finally, at up to 60km/h, fully open. Think of it more as a large sunroof rather than a conventional soft-top.
Once folded, the roof sits atop the boot and automatically lifts up for access. In the fold position, rear vision is severely impeded. Parking sensors assist when reversing and manoeuvring, but they are only a part fix.
The 500 C is not for everyone, but then it doesn’t try to be.