10 MAY 2021
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Now that spring is on the way this must be the time to consider an open-top sports car writes Malcolm Ginsberg.
Vehicles with sunroofs are not the same. But there is little choice at the lower end of the market.
Or is there?
In its latest guise the Fiat 500 has proved to be a hugely popular town car and perfectly at home on a motorway. The 500 convertible offers a fully electric fabric sunroof that quickly folds down behind the rear passenger seats and can be set for a sort of halfway mode. Open, there is no buffeting at speed, a fault with some two- seaters with a folding metal roof. The BMW Mini, at a lot more money, does much the same, and is not so much fun to drive, the Fiat nippy with precise steering making it a splendid citymobile with a turning circle of less than 10m. One big fault, which I have noted in previous Fiats. No rear-view camera, essential for in-town parking. It is arguably very much a four-seat convertible. The brochure says you can open the roof at speeds up to 37mph. Fiat convertibles are all built at Tichy in Poland.
There is an all-electric automatic drive version now becoming available (with the camera!). It will set you back around £30k depending on the specification and BTN hopes to test one later in the year.
Officially called the Fiat 500 Cabrio, but badged as a 500C, the test car was a “Connect” model, there being four variants depending on trim, Pop, Connect, Dolcevita and Sport, each offering varying levels of luxury and style.
Italy is known for styling and Fiat, with the 500, is forever bringing in new variants. It can be confusing, but the essential basics are the same. It is a fun car but very practical and extremely popular in this part of London, a normal ‘tin top’ and as a convertible.
All the 500s come only with a 6-speed manual gearbox, very positive, but needed with the 1.0ltr litre 70hp ’Mild Hybrid’ that combines the latest 3-cylinder FireFly 1.0-litre engine with a 12-volt Belt-integrated Starter Generator (BSG) electric motor and a lithium battery. It is far from the quickest away from the traffic lights with a 0-60mph of 13.8sec but that does not seem an impediment. It begs to be driven energetically.
On the motorway it will cruise effortless at 70pmh with the roof either up or down. There is cruise control and a speed limiter. As a partially electric-powered car petrol consumption is 50mpg plus, but it can drop if you drive it too energetically around town. Stay in electric and the figures shown on the dashboard are incredible.
Prices for the Cabrio start at £15,925 for the ‘Pop’ model, the ‘Connect’ coming in at £17,550, the 7in HD touchscreen with 3D navigation, USB, Bluetooth and DAB radio adding a further £825. The door mirrors are controlled internally, but are not self-closing, Fiat says that since it is such a teeny car it does not need this facility. They may be right.
There is an Abarth version but that starts at £23,625, 1.3ltr engine and 40mpg, noisier and vastly quicker.
The seats we are told are the first in the automotive sector to be made of Seaqual Yarn, the weaving of which produces a special material, derived from recycled plastic, 10% of which originates from the sea and 90% from land. Seaqual Yarn is produced by transforming plastics collected from the sea into flakes of polyethylene terephthalate. These flakes are then used in the yarn from which the fabrics are made. In the weaving phase, marine polyester is mixed with other natural, recycled or recovered fibres. This process is completed by the application of dyes and finishes which minimise the use of water and energy.
The rather upright seating position and tall roof means four adults can fit easily, but not socially distanced. Getting into the back can be a bit difficult. There are arm cut-outs in the panels on both sides, and coffee holders for two.
The 500 is not for touring if you are four up, but its fine for the weekly shop and with the ‘Connect’ you get a 50:50 split-folding rear seat to give plenty of room for suitcases and hand baggage.
Speaking of trim levels Fiat also offers special-edition versions that change frequently and tend to add unique styling, colours and wheels, along with different equipment and upholstery. ‘Connect’ includes LED ‘halo’ daytime running lights, a USB connection, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control and fog lights.
The Fiat 500C is exactly what you expect it to be – it is a Fiat 500 with a convertible roof. That means it packs in all the charisma of the regular 500 hatchback but with the added bonus of top-down motoring at any time. The roof is controlled by a button set in a panel above the central consul, giving three positions.
The 500C is a cheeky carefree car that is a joy to drive. It has a charming appeal that cannot be beaten at any price.
If yours is a mundane commute, the run into work or back home in the evening, can be something to look forward too with the little Fiat. Economically!
It is a true sports convertible!
Ride and Comfort 7
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Susie Strong, Birmingham
I’ve got a 500C, my second. It’s all Mr Ginsberg says it is except that my 1.2ltr petrol driven car was quicker. Now that I know the electric version is around I’m off to my friendly dealer.