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Fiat 500 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7

After a solid price cut a couple of years ago - and a corresponding surge in popularity - Fiat's modern-day 500 galloped into its "Series 3" model refresh. The new one landed with the now-customary "Has anything changed?" styling and a few tweaks, along with a decent price hike.

With the styling intact and a commitment to improve the cabin, one of the smallest but coolest cars on the market may now also be able to add "really quite good" to its CV.

Value

The 500 S is the middle of the triple-pillared range of 500s sold in Australia. The steel-wheeled, 1.2-litre Pop starts at $16,000, before rising to $19,000 for the manual S and on to $22,000 for the Lounge. Dualogic semi-automatic transmissions add some $1500 to the price of Pop and S trim levels while the Lounge, appropriately, comes standard with the self-shifter.

(Strictly speaking, the 595 Abarth is a separate model, but yes, is based on the 500).

Your $19,000 500 S comes equipped with 15-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, remote central locking, leather steering wheel, power mirrors, sports seats and tinted windows.

No matter which way you approach, it looks terrific

Design

From the outside, this is a car devoid of a bad angle. No matter which way you approach, it looks terrific. Standing on a street corner recently in Rome, with scores of classic and nuova Cinquecento whizzing by, it's striking how well the new design sits beside the old.

The proportions are almost identical, the bluff front end smoothed but improved by the wind tunnel, the upright cabin delivering surprising space (for front passengers) and excellent vision.

These are not new observations given we're now quite used to the new 500, but worth repeating.

Inside, the Polish-built Fiat hangs together well. Everything is close given how small the car is, so there will be no reaching and straining. The dash pad looks great, capped with a plastic panel made to look like metal and the central instrument pack with a full digital display is very cool.

The only black marks are the unfortunate protrusion of the Blue&Me screen on top of the dashboard and the even more unfortunate positioning of the USB port. The interior seemed sturdy but there was a fair bit of grit and grime collected in hard to reach nooks and crannies, speaking both to the hard life of a press car and the difficulty for hard-working detailers to keep it clean.

The general breakfast preference of fellow motoring writers appears to be toast.

There isn't a lot of storage, even taking into account the car's size. That can get a bit irritating as the passenger (or passenger seat) will have to be entrusted with your valuables.

Safety

The 500 carries a five star safety rating, with nine airbags (including driver's knee airbag), ABS, traction and stability control, hill holder, brake assist and brake emergency display.

There's also disc brakes all round with brake force distribution.

Features

Fiat's Blue&Me is run by a screen perched on top of the dashboard. It was not an easy system to set up, with a big screen that should be friendly to use but isn't. However, once configured, it was perfectly easy to use and worked just fine. Given its size, the sat-nav is fiddly but once on your way, works just fine.

The six-speaker stereo doesn't have to work very hard in the small cabin and delivers reasonable sound. Blue&Me is integrated with the big round multi-purpose dial in the dashboard.

Engine / Transmission

The 500S's 1.4-litre sixteen-valve four cylinder is a terrific little engine. With 74kW and 131Nm on tap, it loves to rev although it does get a bit breathless over 4000. Those revs power the front wheels via either the six speed manual we had, or an automated single-clutch gearbox.

It's not hard to see why the 500 is a smash hit in its home country

Fiat claims 6.1L/100km on the combined cycle which we got very close to at 6.9L/100km despite enthusiastic and repeated testing of the 10.5 second dash to 100km/h.

Driving

With its willing engine, slick gearbox and excellent ride for such a stubby car, it's not hard to see why the 500 is a smash hit in its home country and a cult hit here.

Despite an uninspiring 0-100km/h time, it doesn't feel that slow in the crucial sprint to 30 km/h needed to dart around Sydney's streets.

Blasting around in the 500 S is an inordinate amount of fun

With an eager turn-in you can pull off heroic lane change manoeuvres, its low centre of gravity keeping things from getting too roly-poly. The oddly large and very comfortable seats are as chunky as the fat steering wheel. The big seats put you up high, which is a funny feeling for such a tiddler, and their position improves legroom in the back seats. The high position of the front seats does tie in nicely with the pedal box's position relative to the wheel.

Blasting around in the 500 S is an inordinate amount of fun - the gearbox is good to use, which is just as well because you will have to use it to get the best out of the 74kW. What's great about it is that it feels quicker than it is, meaning the fun is had down low without threatening life, limb or licence.

The 500 S has selectable driving modes but it doesn't make a great deal of difference - the dash changes to accommodate either driving for fun or driving for economy.

Puddling about is never tiring for front seat occupants as the ride and comfortable seats conspire to keep you happy. Once the speed goes over about 80 km/h, there's a bit of noise from the tyres but wind noise seems well suppressed.

Just look at it. How could you not love it?

Verdict

The new Fiat 500 takes up from the old(er) car by maintaining all the fun of the circus without huge compromise. Nobody's buying this as anything but an occasional four seater so it fulfils its role as cheeky chappy for two admirably.

It might cost more than other cars its size - or even Euro cars a size bigger - but it comes with plenty of stuff, style and substance.

And just look at it. How could you not love it?

Pricing Guides

$12,990
Based on 29 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,950
Highest Price
$17,380

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Lounge 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $11,990 – 17,380 2015 Fiat 500 2015 Lounge Pricing and Specs
Pop 1.2L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $9,990 – 16,990 2015 Fiat 500 2015 Pop Pricing and Specs
S 1.4L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $13,432 – 13,999 2015 Fiat 500 2015 S Pricing and Specs
Lounge 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $11,990 – 17,380 2015 Fiat 500 2015 Lounge Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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