We have the cabriolet version of the Fiat 500 in for review and road test – the Fiat 500C – with the 2 cylinder TwinAir engine.
As recreations of iconic cars from the past go, the Fiat 500 is a convincing effort. It’s fun, it’s good looking and it works as a modern car.
Last year we had the regular tin-top Fiat 500 with the 1.3 litre MultiJet engine in for review, so we thought it would be interesting to get the open-topped 500 with Fiat’s new 875cc TwinAir two cylinder engine in for review which, on the face of it, offers the same two-pot fun as the original 500 and with a bit of fresh air too to add to the fun.
On the face of it, the 0.9 litre TwinAir engine in the Fiat 500C is an eco wonder, offering reasonable performance and very good emissions and economy; a combined economy of 68.9mpg from what looks to be a fun little convertible is very impressive.
But will the economy on offer prove realistic in the real world, and will a tiny 875cc engine be enough to make the 500C usable and enjoyable?
Fiat 500C – inside and out
Just as you get with the MINI, the Fiat 500 is about garnering sales from buyers who lust after a pastiche of an older car. But in many ways the 500 is the better effort. Yes, it’s bigger than the original Fiat 500, but not in the same way as the modern MINI is bigger than the original; it’s a much more convincing effort visually.
The outside of the 500C is much the same to look at as the tin top 500 thanks to a folding roof that keeps the roof rails in place – or at least it looks much the same when the roof is up – and a bit like an old-fashioned pram with the roof down. The same rounded detail is there and the retro round headlights, and this 500C comes with a decent looking set of 15″ matt black alloy wheels. It looks cute and funky.
The electric roof opens and shuts with the push of a button and lets in fresh air, and with the roof part open it’s great – fresh air and not much buffeting. But with the roof fully retracted the buffeting gets a bit uncomfortable and you can’t really see what’s going on behind as the roof concertinas up to sit on the boot – right in your eye line.
And even with the roof up visibility isn’t great with thick front pillars making your head bob and weave as you try to ensure a junction is clear and thick back pillars compromise your knowledge of what’s going on behind.
Headroom with the roof closed isn’t brilliant, and seat adjustment – and steering wheel adjustment – isn’t the best in the world, so it takes time to get comfortable. But the cabin of the 500C is suitably appealing with simple but easy to use controls, two tone upholstery with ‘500’ logos on the front seats and enough room in the back to squeeze in a couple of adults – if you must.
There are compromises with the 500C thanks to the folding roof, but none that would put you off if a little convertible is what you want. And it’s cute, appealing and not badly bolted together either.
Fiat 500C TwinAir – Performance on the road
The pièce de résistance of this particular Fiat 500C is what’s under the bonnet – the 2 cylinder, 875cc TwinAir engine from Fiat that offers stellar economy and emissions that will keep you out of Boris’s clutches and do wonders for your VED and BIK.
But if you’re going to buy the 500C TwinAir for its real world economy, you’ll be disappointed. Fiat’s near 70mpg official figures for the TwinAir are a fantasy if you enjoy the little 2-pot to the full;.We got 40.5mpg.
Yes, we probably played harder than most owners, but we can’t see how you’ll ever get close to 70mpg in the real world.
Not only is the 500C TwinAir quite thirsty, it’s also noisy. The little 2-pot makes itself heard whether you’re idling or blatting; its a very vocal lump.
But if you love cars you’ll love the noise. It’s a hugely evocative rumbly noise at tickover and has an appealing raspy note as you push on – and push on you will. If you’re willing to keep your foot hard on the throttle the 500C TwinAir is a huge amount of fun. It’s willing and flexible and feels quicker than the headline 11 seconds to 62mph.
The light steering doesn’t have a huge amount of feel, but it does let you chuck the TwinAir round like a little go kart. The noise from the 2-pot urges you on and, even though it can be a bit fidgety, it always feels like there’s enough grip to do whatever you want.
Frankly, the TwinAir is a blast.
Fiat 500C TwinAir – Verdict
On paper, the Fiat 500C TwinAir looks like it’s the perfect little convertible for economical city driving. It’s not cheap – this 500C TwinAir costs £14,360 (£15,640 with the extras on this car) – but it seems to offer stunning economy with its frugal 875cc two cylinder engine.
The truth is that if you’re looking for an economical convertible, the Fiat 500C TwinAir isn’t it. Its real world economy of closer to 40mpg isn’t special and the compromises the folding roof impose on visibility are irritating.
But if you love cars, and you love driving, then the 500C TwinAir is a hoot. The noise from the two cylinder TwinAir engine is a blast from the past – a cross between a 1960s motorbike, the original 500 2-pot and a lawnmower – and makes you smile every time it turns from a rumble to a rasp.
The interior is quirky and appealing, the exterior is rounded and retro with a touch of modern butch, it’s easy to park anywhere and it’s just about class-less.
It’s not a rational buy, but if you want a fun little convertible with a great little engine that makes a better noise than anything this side of silly money, the Fiat 500C TwinAir is a great buy.
Just don’t expect it to be frugal.
Fiat 500C TwinAir Specs
- Engine: 875cc, 85bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 11.0 seconds / Top Speed 107mph
- Economy: 68.9mpg – Official / 40.5mpg – Test
- Emissions: 95g/km
- Price: £14,360 / Price as tested £15,640
- Test car supplied by Fiat UK