Introducing the two-cylinder TwinAir engine has only added to the 500C’s vibrant personality. The powerplant’s unique sound and rev-happy nature suit the cabrio down to the ground, and it’s all the more enjoyable when you fold the roof. Our only concern is that the powerplant could be a little too small. On occasion, you end up having to work it hard to keep pace with traffic – and this is likely to make a sizeable dent in the claimed economy figures.
The VW Beetle and new MINI started the trend for retro-styled modern cars. Yet Fiat has taken it further – not only by reviving its 500 city car from 1957, but by now adding a two-cylinder engine, as per the original.
We drove the standard 500 TwinAir in Issue 1,139. So how would the unit fare in its drop-top stablemate: the 500C? We took the wheel to find out. Although it might seem as though the firm has gone back in time, there’s nothing dated about the new TwinAir engine. Thanks to Fiat’s innovative MultiAir variable intake valves and a turbo, the unit squeezes 85bhp from its 875cc, while returning a claimed 68.9mpg and emitting only 95g/km of CO2. That means the 500C is exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge.
Used car tests
As well as providing diesel-like fuel economy, the engine has similar power delivery to an oil-burner. It offers 145Nm of torque, available from 1,900rpm, and propels the 500C along with surprising urge, making lighter work of steep hills and overtaking than you’d expect. A high-mounted gearlever to operate the slick five-speed gearbox helps keep the TwinAir on the boil.
Although it’s described as a convertible, the 500C has more of a long sunroof than a proper drop-top, as the pillars remain intact. The hood slides back in two parts, retracting to the rear edge of the roof with one press of a button, and further back with a second press. The latter is preferable at speed, as there is less wind buffeting, although it restricts rearward visibility.
On the plus side, the 500C remains nearly as stiff as the hard-top model, meaning it’s still pretty sharp to drive.
Having the roof lowered allows you to enjoy the engine note – it has a pleasing offbeat thrum. And while it’s louder than the four-cylinder, the unit isn’t unpleasantly noisy, even on long journeys, unless you hit the top of the rev range.
The engine is only 10 per cent lighter than the four-cylinder, so no suspension tweaks were needed. And despite a firm ride, the 500C is a lot of fun.
Rival: MINI One Conv.
At £15,600, the One Convertible commands a hefty premium over the 500C, but it’s a high-quality product. And although MINI’s 1.6-litre petrol unit can’t match the Fiat’s claimed mpg, it should return better real-world figures.