This is easy ? you can?t have missed the ad campaign for the new Fiat 500, there?s been stuff everywhere, plus an amazing interactive community website and a massive launch event at the London Eye. I?m wondering at the time of writing how they got it in there?! Fiat have really done a great job this time.
It used to be that Fiats were, well Fiats. They had their place and I?ve always liked them as they had character, but build quality and styling did sometimes let them down. The quality has improved over the years but the last couple of years in particular have seen a dramatic change, and this is the clever bit, Fiat have decided to get the style back, and they?ve done it really well.
Thinking about it, they were sitting on a great opportunity waiting to happen. Small cars have been boring for a long time. Only the new Mini has made any serious attempt in the style department and you could say that it?s based more on retro style generally than much of it?s own heritage. The new 500 really maintains the character of the original.
There are several engine options for the 500; 1.2 litre to 1.4, and 3 main levels of trim ?Pop?, ?Lounge? and ?Sport?.
Pop is the entry level though still very well kitted out with power steering, remote central locking, electric windows and door mirrors, ABS, seven airbags, height adjustable driver?s seat and steering wheel and CD Radio with MP3 connectivity.
Lounge is the comfy version, with a soft, more opulent interior, leather steering wheel with built in audio controls, air conditioning, something called ?Blue and Me? – Microsoft Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition (which is great!) steering wheel audio controls and digital audio connectivity, 15 inch alloy wheels, and fancier trim.
And Sport, which includes air conditioning, leather steering wheel, sport trim, front foglights and tinted glass.
These are just the basic differences, there are thousands of optional extras too ? it?s best to look at the website: fiat500.com/eng where you can actually configure your car, from wheels upwards.
From the outside the 500 brought a smile to my face, and first impression getting in was of how impressive the interior is, and that goes for all models, from the Pop upwards. The dash is amazing, and the finish and materials are solid with a nice quality feel. The driving position is excellent with the gear lever positioned well and the height adjustable seat and steering wheel adding the final touches.
On the road the first thing you notice driving the 500 is the precise and certain feel to it. It isn?t the quietest car in the world on acceleration, but the feel is very solid and assuring. The steering is easy with the very effective and well balanced power assistance, and the gearbox clutch and brakes are all superb.
The best way of describing the performance is ?well mannered?. It feels particularly ideal for Jersey because it is nice and sedate until you want to put your foot down.
As for space? Well, it?s a small car that manages to give a hugely comfortable driving position, plenty of front passenger room, and still have more room than you?d expect in the back.