Owner Review

2013 Fiat 500 Pop review

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Back in November of 2014, I uploaded a review of my Fiat 500C Pop on CarAdvice. At that point I’d had the car a little over a year (purchased new in October 2013) and had covered approximately 19,000km.

For the most part, I don’t intend on going over the things I covered in that initial review again here. If you want to read it, you can here.

Fast forward to today, and I considered it well and truly appropriate to provide whoever might care an update. Mostly because I’ve just completed a 5000km road trip from Melbourne, up through Victoria, through South Australia, and finally up to Alice Springs.

Now, I could write page after page of this little adventure in this little car, but I can’t devote the time required for that right now. I just thought I’d share the experience and a few of the basics.

So, if you’ve ever wondered whether such a trip could in fact be completed by a 52kw (69hp) Italian, canvassed roofed micro car, in the peak of Australian summer, I have an answer for you. I won’t hold you in suspense. The answer is a resounding 'yes'.

I’ll get a few things out there straight away. Since that first review a few years ago, my love for the car has not diminished. It has grown. It has remained fun, loveable, reliable and cheap to run.

A word about reliability; in the just over three years I’ve owned it, I’ve never been left stranded. I’ve never had a major fault. The only issues I’ve had are:

  • One evening the car wouldn’t start. Ended up being a faulty battery connector. Fixed by Fiat Road Side Assistance that same night.
  • The illumination of the HVAC controls at night failed. Took it in to Fiat and was fixed then and there. Think it was a faulty connector to a globe.
  • Replaced 1x headlight globe.
  • Replaced 1x DRL globe.

That’s it for reliability. Other than that, I have it serviced once a year. The most recent service was completed in January, about a month out from my recent trip. All fluids and oils changed. Front brake discs also changed (bit disappointing I only got about 45,000km out them).

Interestingly the little Fiat has a rather sophisticated on board computer (courtesy of Magnetti Marelli) for the class/price of car. It notifies you of all sorts of things, including when your brake pads are low, whether a specific globe is out and needs replacing et cetera. Neat.

I’d long wanted to stretch her legs and set out on an adventure. A friend of mine who moved from Melbourne to Alice Spings for work provided an excellent excuse.

My friend and I set off from Melbourne on 1 February 2016. We hit the road at about approximately 6am. The plan was to make it to Port Augusta, SA by the end of that day and sleep the night there. Which is exactly what happened.

The second day we spent touring around a bit of SA from Port Augusta and taking it easy. Day three we set off from Port Augusta at about 5.30am, destination Alice Springs. We took it easy for the first few hours until the sun was well and truly in the sky. Dawn is peak hour for Kangaroos.

We blazed down the Stuart Highway, and stopped in Coober Pedy for lunch.

Once we crossed into the NT, I really got to stretch her legs. I can, without doubt, now confirm that with two adults, boot and backseat full of luggage, and AC blaring, all 69 of those horses will keep the little Fiat happily cruising for literally hour after hour at 130-140km/h.

Obviously at those speeds she hasn’t got that much left in her. In the NT the fastest indicated speed I saw was 160km/h for a brief moment. Which is in fact what the car’s handbook quotes as its maximum speed.

We day-tripped from Alice, enduring average temperatures of between 38-44 degrees, unsealed roads and swarms of grass hoppers. The NT, and Australia for the matter, really is breathtakingly beautiful.

Overtaking takes better planning and more consideration given the engine size, but it’s certainly doable. Though I admit, before I’d plant my right foot, swing into the overtaking lane, and have her screaming past all 53 meters of road train in front, I would always switch of the AC until we were comfortably in front and back in the left lane. The novelty of this never wore off!

Speaking of the AC. It works. It definitely works! It was used every day for hours on end, particularly on the way back from Alice Springs to Adelaide. We encountered temperatures around Coober Pedy of 46-47 degrees Celsius, and I can tell you now those two central vents that are oddly excluded from the Volkswagen Up! (another fabulous little car) were greatly appreciated.

Maybe you won’t believe me, but this car is definitely comfortable enough for two adults. The front of the car is sufficiently spacious, the driver’s seat is particularly comfortable (for me at least) and there is sufficient road and wind noise suppression. The boot is tiny. But like I said, there were only two of us. Between the boot and the back seat, we fitted everything we needed without problem.

We spent several days in and around Alice Springs enjoying the sights, and entertaining the locals with what seems to have been the only Fiat 500 in town! (At least the only one I saw).

We decided to come home via a night in Adelaide and then a drive up through the Adelaide Hills and wine country, a couple of river crossings, and then on to Bordertown for the night before a final run home to Melbourne.

The driving conditions through the Adelaide Hills could not have been of greater contrast to the past near two weeks through the Red Centre. The temperatures were cool, meaning the roof could come down, and the roads wind and climb through some beautiful scenery.

The 500 is not a Porsche. The 500 is not an 86. But hell, it can be so much fun, and so rewarding to swing into manual mode, keep to engine singing (screaming?) above 5000rpm and to push this little thing through the hills.

The wheelbase is tiny, it turns in well and grips well before the eventual onset of a predictable amount of understeer. It can bounce around and you can even get the back end to jump out. It actually has a laugh out loud feel to it, made all the better on a nice day with the roof down.

Curiously, in Alice Springs, I noted a fleet of about a dozen Geely Emgrand sedans. Some in camouflage, others undisguised. They were accompanied by who I assume was a large cohort of engineers putting the cars through hot weather testing.

If there was ever a doubt as to the cooling system of the little 1.2 8v FIRE engine, which has now seen service in numerous Fiat’s for about two decades, I think I can safely say I put those doubts to bed. Never did the car appear to overheat, and never did the coolant temperature exceed acceptable running limits.

Sitting on the freeway for literally hours non-stop, through the middle of an Australian desert, in summer, with the air conditioning running full blast at a constant 130-140km/h and the coolant temperature gauge never moved above the halfway mark.

Of course, one thing did fall off. I lost the front left hubcap somewhere between Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. I hope there’s an old Ford Laser or Holden Gemini driving around the NT with it proudly adorned on one of its wheels (why to do so many of the aforementioned two models still seem to be getting around up there?).

We pulled back into Melbourne after two days and 5200km. I reset the trip computer the moment we left home. Our average fuel consumption for the entire trip was 6.2L/100km of 95RON. I have to say, I was mighty impressed with this given how hard the little engine had to work!

So we made. So did the Fiat. I don’t think the 7/10 score is reflective of how I actually feel about this car. I don’t know if I’ll ever own another car that could be so simple, yet so enjoyable and memorable in so many ways.