Fiat 500 Cabrio

Open-air version of city car star finally lands in the UK – and we deliver our verdict in an exclusive first drive.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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A premium of £3,000 over the hatchback seems a little steep, but when you consider there’s £1,000 worth of extra equipment squeezed into each of the trims, the 500C starts to make more sense. The roof is beautifully integrated, and gives the feel of a full convertible on the move, while removing many of the familiar compromises regarding passenger or luggage space. Fiat’s marketing campaign is all about this being a fun choice for happy people. If a car’s success is measured in smiles per mile, the 500C should sail straight to the top of the sales charts.

Get ready for a new definition of summer chic! Taking inspiration from the original 1957 Fiat 500, which was designed with a fabric roof, the Italian firm has fitted its famous city car with an electric folding hood. And in recognition of our love for cabriolets, the 500C has arrived in British showrooms before any other country in the world!

Fans of the 500 hatch will be pleased to hear the hard-top’s cute proportions remain intact. In fact, the dimensions of the newcomer are identical, due to the neatly integrated hood, which slides back, leaving the windows and fixed side pillars in place.

The intelligent design also means that the hard-top and convertible share many of the same body panels – to reduce development costs. Plus, the surprisingly spacious four-seat layout and safety features of the hatch are carried over, too.

On the road, with the hood up, refinement is excellent. Peel it back, and the cabin still feels well insulated from the wind, although there’s quite a roar as you approach motorway speeds.

The fabric roof is controlled by buttons next to the interior light, or via the key fob, and stacks neatly at the back of the car – even at speeds of up to 37mph. Visibility is almost entirely obscured, but even if you can’t see traffic behind, at least they can see you – a third brake light attached to the fabric remains visible with the roof stowed.

There’s a deeper windscreen than on the tin-top model, which reaches further back over the driver’s head, and is key to maintaining torsional rigidity.

And unlike the MINI Convertible, which has a habit of sending shockwaves through the chassis when it encounters a bump in the road, the 500C stays unflustered on even the most rutted surfaces. The 500C also boasts a neat solution to preserve luggage space. If the soft-top is down and you press the boot release button, the hood retracts to its intermediate position, meaning the lid is free to swing open.

A familiar engine range includes 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol units. We drove the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel – the most expensive option of the three. It delivers incredible economy and has an impressively smooth and rev-happy character.

The fabric roof panel is available in three colours – ivory, red and black – and there are 11 exterior shades to choose from. Customers can even spec their cars with accessories such as a make-up holder!

There are only two trim levels to agonise over, though – Pop, and the pricier yet more popular Lounge specification. The latter comes with a chrome styling pack, parking sensors and stability and climate control.

But whichever engine, colour and trim combination you opt for, the 500C has fulfilled its design brief perfectly – it’s a riot to drive or be driven in, whatever the weather.

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