Fiat 500C review
Drop-top Fiat 500C offers cute styling, drivability and low running costs to rival the MINI Convertible
Glance at the Fiat 500C, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it looks identical to its hatchback sibling. But look a little closer and you’ll spot the addition of a fabric roof.
Like the fifties original, the newcomer isn’t a conventional convertible, but instead uses a full-length canvas sunroof that stretches from the top of the windscreen to the tailgate. The 500C carries a price premium of £2,650 over the standard supermini – it's a pricy step-up over the regular hatchbak but has a desirable extra amount of chic charm.
Until September 2015, the 500C comes in Pop, Cult, Colour Therapy, Lounge and 500S trims, but from here onwards the 'new' 500C will be available. 'New' is stretching things a tad as the 500C along with the 500 hatch gets a light exterior facelift and new interior fixtures including, for the first time ever, a touchscreen infotainmement system – something the little Fiat badly needed.
The engine line-up remains the same, though. So there's a 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol, peppy 0.9-litre Twinair – which is available with 85 or 105bhp – or a 95bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet unit, and all are now Euro 6 emissions compliant.
In the same vein as the MINI, DS3 and Vauxhall Adam, the 500C can be personalised. There's a wide range of colours, trims and styling packs including (for facelifted 2015 models) 'second skins' – a set of factory-fitted vinyl wraps.
Our pick: 500C 875cc TwinAir Lounge
With so few modifications to the exterior, the Fiat 500C shares the same dimensions and cute retro-inspired looks as the standard 500. You can choose from black, red or ivory fabric for the electrically retracting roof. Add that to a wide range of paint choices and the huge spectrum of custom decals and graphics and that means there’s thousands of ways you can personalise this little cabriolet, although there is a price to pay for these extras.
A facelift in summer 2015 brought in tweaked exterior looks – including some extra chrome trim at the front for Lounge models – such as new LED day-time running lights and ring-shaped rear light clusters.
The interior is identical to the standard car and features the same wide choice of trim colours and options. For facelifted cars, there's now a touchscreen infotaiment screen neatly perched to the top of the dash – while it removes the CD player of the pre-facelift cars, it brings the 500C's interior bang up to date.
The only downside to the 500C’s look is that with the hood back the fabric sits stacked above the boot lid, which looks a little ungainly. A neat cabin, body-coloured dash and numerous options make the Fiat baby a pleasant place in which to spend time. The rear seats and boot are less cramped than that of a MINI Convertible.
With the roof in place, the 500C driving experience is identical to that of the hatchback. With so much of the original bodywork left in place, the Italian barely suffers from scuttle shake, even over rough surfaces. The steering is direct and the car’s small dimensions result in great agility, particularly around town. While it’s not as fun to drive as a MINI Convertible, the Fiat will still bring a smile to your face, particularly when the roof is stowed and the sun is shining.
There’s the same choice of 875cc TwinAir and 1.2 petrol engines, plus the smooth 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, while the Duologic automatic gearbox is offered, although it's hard to recommend because it's slow and unresponsive.
Like the hatchback, the Fiat 500C gets no fewer than eight airbags and includes a knee airbag. Electronic stability control isn’t standard across all models, but you do get anti-submarining front seats, ISOFIX and inertia reel rear seat belts. The rear window is glass and is heated, while Xenon lights feature on the options list. Given the poor rear visibility, it’s a shame parking sensors are only optional on lower trims. All cars get a space saver spare wheel.
Unlike lots of small cabriolets, the Fiat 500C is a genuine four-seater, and despite its tight dimensions you get a decent amount of interior space – although taller adults will find conditions in the back a little cramped. Noise insulation is excellent with the hood up, while the roof can be lowered at speeds of up to 37mph. But rear visibility is poor whether the soft top is up or down. At least luggage capacity is reasonable at 185 litres, which is identical to the hatchback. You can also fold the rear seats and slot long loads under the stacked roof fabric.
The Fiat 500C gets the same engine line-up as the standard 500 and all cars get stop-start as standard. The award-winning turbocharged 875cc TwinAir offers spirited performance and emits just 95g/km, so it qualifies for free road tax and is exempt from the London Congestion Charge. However, if you drive it hard you won’t get close to the claimed fuel consumption figures. With effortless torque the Multijet diesel has combined economy of 72.4mpg and emits just 104g/km. The price of the 500C is around £2,650 more than the equivalent hatchback model, so there’s a premium to pay for that fresh air, but it's still cheaper than a MINI Convertible.