Fiat 500 (2007) Review

By: Gautam Sharma

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Fiat 500: Fiat's new-millenium Bambino with movie-star good looks.

Fiat 500 (2007) Review
2007 Fiat 500

 

2007 Fiat 500

[Aug 2007] It's not like it hasn't been done before. The New Mini and New Beetle have already been down the 'let's recreate an iconic small car' route, but the hype generated by Fiat's new-age 500 has been staggering.

 

Be warned, though. Small it may be, but the Fiat 500 won't be cheap. The 1.4-litre Sport version we drove in Italy is likely to be priced at around $25k in Oz. For this money, you'll get a car that's smaller and less powerful than the Mini Cooper, but which packs more occupant and luggage space within smaller dimensions - quite a clever feat of packaging.

As per the Mini, the 500 will trade primarily on its styling as the car from which it's spawned (Fiat's Panda hatch) is both larger and cheaper. Essentially, the 500 is part-conveyance/part-fashion accessory. Consequently, its target market will be chiefly new-car shoppers in the 20-35 age bracket, although more mature buyers (influenced by nostalgia) are also likely to figure in the mix.

There's not much to fault in the area of build quality, as the Fiat appears well screwed together and it imparts a more solid feel than most other cars of its size.

However, a brief drive showed the Fiat to be lacking in the grunt department, even though we were driving the range-topping (until the Abarth comes along) 1.4-litre petrol version. This engine is supposed to put out 74kW, but it appeared as though some of the neddies had retired for an afternoon siesta.

We should qualify this statement by mentioning that we were travelling four-up and ascending a fairly steep climb, but the car felt plain underpowered during our stint behind the wheel. Funnily enough, it felt a lot sprightlier coming down the hill.

The manual gearbox (a six-speeder, no less) is by no means recalcitrant, but it doesn't have the slickness of a transmission you'd find in, say, a Honda.

No shortcomings in the ride/handling department though, as the little 500 points quite well and offers a compliant ride - even with four adults on board. That said, it doesn't feel quite as polished or sporting as the Mini, which is a particularly enjoyable drive in Cooper S form.

The Fiat 500 is a stylish and well-packaged little car that doesn't purely rely on its cutesy-pie looks. There's substance there (in the form of practical interior design and a well-resolved chassis), and this is likely to come through in the ownership experience.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Fiat 500

BODY: two-door coupe

WEIGHT: 980kg

ENGINE: 1.4-litre petrol

DRIVETRAIN: front eng, FWD

TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual

POWER/TORQUE: 74kW/131Nm

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h - 10.5secs. Top speed: 182km/h

PRICE: $ 25,000 (est)

ON SALE: March 2008

 

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