Monday, July 2, 2018

Devon test drives an open top Fiat

The Fiat 500 is a cheeky little Italian runabout that's affordable and quite fun to drive. Now there's a convertible version for those who want a little wind in their hair. With the Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio and Mini Cooper Convertible offering full convertible expereince. Can Fiat justify a reason to buy the 500C? Let's find out. 

Performance: There's only one 1.4-liter four-cylinder that offers a non-turbo form and turbocharged form. In the non-turbo form there's 101hp while the Abarth form produces 160hp. The standard engine is the only form that can be had with an automatic gearbox. The Abarth form is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. Pick of the range is the 1.4 non-turbo form. It offers plenty of pace around town and has decent fuel economy. The manual gearbox is the better transmission choice while the automatic gearbox is jerky off the line. 

On the road: The 500C doesn't have the full open roof experience as the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle. The bonus of this is the chassis is solid and secure like the hatchback counterpart. The ride comfort is often fidgety and bouncy over some surfaces. Handling lets in way too much body roll. The Mini Cooper feels much more sharp and comfortable to drive. The canvas roof folds in two stages. There's some wind buffeting with the roof up and slightly folded, but this is normal with most small convertibles. With the roof fully retracted however, the wind noise comes in at bucket loads. With the roof fully closed there's plenty of insulation so highway driving isn't a chore. 

Behind the wheel: There isn't much adustment for the driver's seat. The annoying part is the lever on the side only adjusts the angle of the seat rather than the height. Taller drivers will feel that they are sitting on the car rather than inside. The steering doesn't adjust for reach and the biggest problem is the canvas roof with lowered. It stacks behind the the rear and hinders rear visibility. Parking sensors are standard which will help a lot. 

Space & Practicality: There is plenty of space in the front seat, while rear passengers will enjoy the space for short journeys. The rear seats fold down to create more cargo space for luggage. The canvas roof slides out of the way to allow you to open the boot, which is only slightly smaller than the hatchback form. 

Equipment: The Fiat 500C comes well equipped. Air-con, CD-player and day time running lamps all come standard. You'll have to step up to the Lounge trim to add alloy wheels automatic climate control and fog lights. The Abarth trim adds special body-kit, turbo engine and firmer suspension. 

Buying & owning: The Fiat 500C isn't as expensive to buy as the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle. However, both convertibles offer a full open roof convertible expereince that the Fiat 500C can't quite match. Fuel economy is impressive while resale value should be strong too. 

Quality & Reliability: The 500C reliability should be average, although we highly suggest paying close attention to the electronics. The roof mechanism is relatively simple in design, while the interior fit and finish is rather disappointing. 

Safety: Seven airbags come standard. Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are also standard. Deadlocks and an anti-theft alarm come standard to keep theft at bay. 

The Fiat 500C offers the open air driving experience that you desire from a convertible. The structure feels as stiff as the hatchback, there's plenty of space for passengers and the boot is not compromised like it's alternatives. However, the 500C has it's downsides. The canvas roof hinders rear visibility. The ride comfort is disappointing, while the driving exprience isn't as fun as a Mini Cooper. The cheeky Italian style and ability to squeeze in and out of parking spaces are some redeeming features, but it's not enough to justify picking this over the Mini. The Fiat 500C is a great car for show but everything else is a let down. 

Devon's Pick: 500C Lounge adds automatic climate control, alloy wheels and leather interior. The Price difference isn't much so it's easy to justify choosing this. The Abarth form doesn't offer an auto gearbox but is the most fun to drive of the range thanks to the turbo engine and sporty chassis. 

Likes: Small size means parking is a breeze. Most fun to drive around the city where it's meant to be. Fuel economy is quite impressive. 

Dislikes: Rear canvas roof causes huge blind spots. Fit and finish aren't great. Non-turbo form only trim to offer auto gearbox. 

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