Fiat 500C review
If you want a characterful open-air runabout, the Fiat 500 is a cost-effective rival to the MINI Convertible
The 500C is a similar open-air treatment to the first generation Fiat 500 launched in the late 1950s, and as such it’s debatable whether you’d consider the cheeky Italian to be a rival for full drop-tops like the MINI convertible, though the little 500C isn’t as pricey. Other ways to own a small city car with a similar roof treatment include the Citroen C1 Airscape and related Peugeot 108 Top, and the Vauxhall Adam Rocks Air. If you’ve got a bit more money to spend the VW Beetle and Golf cabrios are worth a look too.
The Fiat 500C price may look a bit steep to most city car buyers already though, as Fiat charges quite a premium on the model – more than £2.5k over the regular 500 hatchback.
Like the regular hatch, Fiat offers the 500C for sale with a range of four engines, and the trim levels are similar too.
The entry level is the 500C Pop, which comes with the standard electric roof with integrated spoiler, electric windows and mirrors, height adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, and 14-inch steel wheels with alloy trims. The 500C Pop Star adds 15 inch alloys, air-con and a split-fold rear seat, while the 500C lounge comes with a chrome kit, fog lamps, cruise control and a 5-inch touchscreen audio system with DAB and Bluetooth. The 500S Convertible, 500C Mirror, 500C Riva and 500C 60th are a range of special editions that all feature fancy paint and trim options, special wheels and a 7-inch touchscreen sat-nav system, with varying degrees of extra luxury touches.
Although the Fiat 500 line-up looks very similar to the first of the new generation cars launched in 2007, there was a facelift in 2015 that brought in a slightly revised face – Fiat says it’s ‘cheekier’ – and the all-important touchscreen infotainment options.
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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 'second skins' – a set of factory-fitted vinyl wraps.
Engines, performance and drive
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.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
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.
Interior, design and technology
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.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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.
Reliability and Safety
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.