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Fiat 500C 1.3 MultiJet Pop

Road Test

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Fiat 500C

Model/Engine size: 1.3 MultiJet Pop

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 72.4 mpg

Beating Spirit rating: 8/10

The Fiat 500C, returning 72.4 mpg in diesel form, is one of the most economical convertibles that you can buy, and it has bags of character, but does it have weak points?

Let’s start with the good news. The Fiat 500 brings a smile to everyone’s face. With its retro styling it’s got great character, especially when compared with lots of small cars out there that are still very dull.

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Despite it being a small car, it actually has excellent packaging. There’s enough space for the driver, in particular, his or her left leg, and adults are able to sit in the rear without their knees pinned against their chests. And the boot, even on this convertible model, is more useful than you may imagine. The rear seats also fold down to create more space for luggage.

The dashboard is more interesting than the majority of city cars, especially with its yellow metal finish and rev counter which is within the speedo – more for style than clarity – and the steering wheel-mounted controls are very useful. For the eco-conscious there’s a read-out showing the fuel consumption.

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But while we’re focusing on the interior, it has to be said that the driving position is one of the weakest points of the car. During our week with the 500C, we drove from Cheshire to London and beyond, and back again, twice. This sort of mileage really showed that the driver’s seat just isn’t comfortable enough, and the steering wheel doesn’t have sufficient adjustment, to ensure that such journeys can be achieved without backache.

OK, so the 500 is a city car, so it’s best in the urban jungle? Well, its small dimensions certainly help in city traffic, but we were certainly shocked at the dreadful steering lock that this car had. We’ll put this down to the alloys, which look good, but don’t assist with easy manouverability in car parks or other tight spaces.

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Apart from the driving position, the 500 was actually surprisingly good on motorways. It never struggled in terms of progress thanks to the 148 lb.ft torque of the 95 bhp 1.3-litre turbodiesel engine, although some frequent changing of the 5-speed manual box was often required.

Being such a short car, the driving experience is always going to be a bit choppy, and 500s can be a bit bouncy, but the combination of diesel powerplant and the wheels and tyres on this car contributed to a firmer ride, which was preferable, especially on A and B-roads.

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And when you do find yourself on such roads, the 500 is definitely fun. The steering and handling are both good; it’s not quite as direct and responsive as a MINI, but then again the ‘go-kart’ driving dynamics of a MINI aren’t to everyone’s tastes.

We should point out that the 500C isn’t actually a full convertible, but it does have a full-length canvas roof, which is close enough. One of the benefits of this is the extra rigidity of keeping the sides of the roof, which means there is less body shake over potholes than some competitors. It also means that the Fiat keeps its good looks and its boot, so it’s a compromise we can live with. There’s also only a very modest 40 Kg weight gain over the hardtop.

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The full-length canvas roof folds in three stages and the glass rear window slides right down. With the roof in the mid-position, and the canvas folded at the rear, there is some wind noise and buffeting. Putting the roof down fully reduces the buffeting, and the cabin is quiet when the roof is up. The roof is simple and effective; and people will be buying this car for its fun factor and personality rather than for the highest levels of roof engineering.

At £15,065 the 500C is perhaps not as cheap as you might imagine. In entry-level Pop trim it has all the basic essentials such as air-conditioning, central locking and front electric windows, although alloy wheels are an option. It should prove cheap to run, including insurance and servicing bills.

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The 500 hatch scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and by retaining its roof pillars, the 500C is structurally very similar to the hatch.

Combined fuel economy of the 500C should be 72.4 mpg, along with 104 g/km CO2, which is excellent, but which, predictably, we didn’t achieve. But we did average 55 mpg, which is very respectable for over 1000 miles of journeying up and down the nation. The range of the tank is claimed to be 557 miles (at 72.4 mpg) – we didn’t come close to that either. It has a diesel particulate filter as standard and a start/stop system which helps with better economy and emissions in the city.

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Summary

The Fiat 500C looks great, it’s excellent to drive, is very well packaged, and offers fantastic economy. Critically, it has the fun factor, which we like. Overall it’s a great car and it gets a Beating Spirit rating of 8 out of 10. The diesel version is better suited to longer trips than the petrol engines, but your ability to enjoy long distance economical fun is likely to be severely limited by the driving position. However the 500 is likely to appeal to a younger generation, who may be less concerned about this. They might even like the colour of our test car…

Paul Clarke

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Fuel economy extra urban: 85.6 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 56.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 104 g/km
Green rating: VED band B – first year £0
Weight: 1020 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 13%
Price: £15,065 (From £12,665 – £17,500)
Insurance group: 6
Power: 95 bhp
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
DPF:  Yes

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Keywords: Fiat 500C review, Fiat 500C road test