These people will like the smarter look, the extra media options and the more individual feel. You can tell that Fiat knows its market.
The Italian brand has enhanced refinement and improved the braking performance of this revised model but in truth, the dynamic feel of this car won’t be a very important consideration for most potential buyers. They’ll be more interested in the super-tight 9. 3m turning circle and the way you can twirl this car into the tightest parking space thanks to the super-light ‘City’ steering feature. These people will often be urban-based – hence the relatively high take-up for the clutchless ‘Dualogic’ transmission option. And over 80% of them tend to opt for the powerplant I’m trying here, the 69bhp 1. 2-litre petrol unit.
There are other engine options – a 1. 3-litre MultiJet diesel and the 1. 4-litre T-Jet turbo petrol unit used in the hot hatch ‘Abarth’ models for example – but if you really don’t want the rather feeble petrol 1. 2, then the powerplant your supplier will probably point you towards is the clever 0. 9-litre two cylinder TwinAir petrol unit, offered in either 85bhp or 105bhp guises. This delivers a lovely putter-putter thrum that seems to be exactly the kind of thing you’d have heard from the 1957 original nipping through the back streets of Naples. More importantly, in a TwinAir 500 model you’ll be getting around 50% more pulling power than you would be in this 1. 2-litre variant, yet this is mated to the potential for quite outstanding frugality. An 85bhp TwinAir 500 is supposed to be capable of achieving up to 74. 3mpg on the combined cycle and 90g/km of CO2. It’s urban-friendly through and through you see.
We’d understand if you concluded that this ‘new’ Fiat 500 looks pretty much the same as the old one. Nevertheless, Fiat insists that no fewer than 1,800 changes have been made in improving it. None of these have altered the dinky external dimensions, so at just 3. 5m long, 1. 6m wide and 1. 5m high, this Fiat can still fit into spaces that even a MINI would have to avoid. If you choose the 500C variant rather than the fixed-top model, you get what amounts to a full-length canvas sunroof which electrically retracts into a concertinaed bundle just above the boot.
Most of the exterior styling tweaks that have been made can be found at the front. The main round headlights adopt clever polyellptical modules for improved night time vision and integrate dipped-beam headlamps and turn signals. These lower lights just below deal with the main beam and LED daytime running light functions and adopt the same circular profile so as to graphically reproduce the zeros of the ‘500’ name.
Inside, delicious details are everywhere, the coloured fascia panels featuring iconic ‘500’ badging and colour-matched against the bodywork. As for the key change to this improved model, the 5-inch ‘Uconnect LIVE’ infotainment display screen mounted high on the dashboard, right in your line of sight. This system, optional on lower-spec models, allows Bluetooth hands-free calling, music streaming, voice recognition and an SMS reader that will read text messages to you.
Given that the external dimensions of this car are so short, you won’t be expecting to find much room in the rear – and there isn’t. Most though, will find the space provided just about sufficient for two people on short to medium journeys – and it’ll probably be fine for kids.
The boot has a high lip and a narrow opening and remains one of the more compact offerings in the segment. Once you get your stuff in though, the 185-litre space it provides is no smaller than an ordinary mainstream citycar like Toyota’s Aygo would give you.
To be honest, Fiat hasn't needed to do a whole lot to retain this 500 model's popularity. It still looks great, it's always been fun to drive and providing the pricing doesn't get too ambitious, the market remains there for it. As for this updated version, well issues like restrictions in bootspace and rear seat accommodation remain, but the things the brand could improve without a major redesign have been usefully updated. As a result, it’s now a more modern-feeling product.
In summary then, this car remains as likeable as ever. Choosing a 'fashionable' little runabout can often be a risk. Here though, is one you can enjoy without a worry.