Ah, the Fiat 500. Is there a more divisive car out there? It’s definitely one of those cars you buy with your heart, and not your head.
Since its release in 2007, I’d lusted after one but my head kept winning. It’s too expensive. Too impractical. It’s way too small. It’s going to be unreliable. As a guy in my twenties, what are people going to think of me? Those thoughts were swirling through my head, but in 2016 I caved. My heart won the battle with my head. I’ve owned mine from new, and I still love it as much as I did the day I brought it home.
Its retro style just oozes character, and it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
A common complaint from all reviewers is the seating position, but it’s as if it was tailored to me. I’ve never sat in a more comfortable seat than the Frau leather-lined buckets that came as part of the Perfezionare pack on this car. The steering wheel could do with some reach adjustment, but aside from that I’m pretty damn comfortable in my bambino. On the topic of the steering wheel, it’s magnificent. Super chunky, and the leather is so supple. The six-speed manual gear-shift is wonderful, and the position is brilliant ergonomically.
The vast majority of the driving I do is on highways with speed limits of 80km/h+, and the performance in Sport Mode (that it’s been in the entire time I’ve owned it) is ample. On a recent trip from Adelaide to Port Lincoln, my little monster was very easily overtaking every road train in the way. The only downsides for long-distance travel are the lack of cruise control, the small 35-litre fuel tank, and that the poor little thing can sometimes get knocked around by strong wind-gusts. The xenon headlamps are also way better than they have any right to be on a city car – more powerful than my old BA Falcon, NL Pajero, A4 Cabriolet, and WS Fiesta!
I love the 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster, but the rest of the technology in the car is a little lacklustre. The TomTom dash-top navigation system is fabulous in being able to change the voice guidance to one of many available for download online (John Cleese, anyone?), but can be a little buggy on startup and requires being removed and reinserted for the car to pick it up again. I’d love to have Bluetooth audio streaming, and clearer calls wouldn’t go astray either.
The boot looks tiny, but with the folding seats it’s been super handy for my trips to Bunnings. Believe it or not, real humans can fit in the back too! I’m 180cm and can fit in relative comfort behind my driving position in the back.
Since owning, I’ve upgraded the sound system for a little more kick, made a few cosmetic changes like ordering some Alfa Romeo 4C satin chrome mirror caps, but also spent the lowly sum of $200 to remove the rear muffler. It’s made an unbelievable difference to how it sounds – it honestly sounds like a racing car.
The little Fiat has been an absolute pleasure to live with. My only other gripes are limited to some condensation in the tail-lights, some premature wear on the gearshift boot, some rubbers have faded (all claimable on warranty), and it doesn’t like to start on cold mornings when running on 98.
I really hope this review hasn’t come off as too negative, as I absolutely love my car. The smile it puts on my face every time I get behind the wheel is worth every dollar spent. The sales slide Fiat has seen is disheartening, as it is one of the only manufacturers out there who seem capable of injecting its cars with a real personality. It feels more like my child than my car, so you live with the faults. Sometimes it may annoy the hell out of you, but if anyone took it away from you, you’d kill them.
If you’re having the same battle in your head, take the plunge. You won’t regret it.