City cars can be a minefield, do you go for sexy, pretty, functional, electric, hybrid, petrol, diesel, manual, auto, auto parking???? The options are endless and so are the prices!
I live in Nice in the South of France, parking is next to impossible, especially at my kids school and congestion is ridiculous, particularly in the high summer season when the tourists (quite rightly) flock to enjoy the Cote D’Azur. Here a city car really is the ultimate choice and so I jumped at the chance to test drive as many as possible before settling on my number one choice, the iconic Fiat 500.
Let me begin superficially, because quite frankly looks do count, especially when taking into account the history of this pocket sized Italian beauty. Originally launched after the §twar in 1957, as a cheap, functional and economic car in Italy. For the petite (9 feet long) design with the 479cc two cylinder engine we can give thanks to the designer Dante Giacasso whose original design appealed to men who liked to ‘ogle women’ as they got out of the car with rear hinged doors (dubbed suicide doors). The rear mounted engine aided the agile maneuverability of the original models and its affordability and economical running costs helped it to secure its place in the hearts of the people. When production stopped in 1975 the Fiat 500 looked to remain etched in our hearts and memories as simply a part of iconic Italian heritage. However fast forward to 2007 and the re-launch of a retro city car.
Dante Giacasso’s original design has been somewhat preserved in the modern version of this little mouse with the original curvature particularly visible from the front and the sloped rear that now features more modern square lights but with a characteristic retro feel.
Aesthetically this car has it all, it has beautiful curves, streamlined and finished well with a choice of 70’s style alloys or a more modern tyre with the renowned Fiat 500 logo concealing the wheel nuts, and inside the dash and digital displays are pleasing to the eye, functional and all is user friendly. The interior dash is painted to match the exterior color and is rounded with classy chrome casing.
The Fiat 500 offers a spacious ride, with plenty of leg room for all, even in the back which is a pleasant surprise for a two door city car, adults can ride comfortably in the back without feeling cramped, even without the front seats pulled to the most forward setting. There is more leg room than the mini and incidentally more boot space too, enough for a medium sized suitcase although do not expect to get a push chair in easily.
The driver position is relatively high, personally i prefer that for my road car to the go kart feel of the mini where you are close to the chassis. The car handles particularly well and recent models have seen a vast improvement on the turning circle and weight of the steering and handling. It corners well, is light and reasonably economical but do not expect to win any awards for acceleration and power, this is a 2 cylinder car and although you do not feel like you are driving a tin pot at all, power is relative.
This is a quirky, fashionable and comfortable 4 person car with good reliability and affordability that holds it’s value. It’s a 9 out of 10 for me.