The Fiat 500 has always been a hit with twentysomethings who love the little Italian city car for its cheeky looks and retro cabin.
It’s been kept fresh over the last six years with an eye-catching colour palette, including new additions like pearl white and matte black, and a steady stream of limited editions that range from Fiat 500 by Gucci to a Barbie bubblegum pink version to 70s kitsch and of course the storming Abarth-tuned versions that turn it into a minuscule rocket.
Then there is the string of famous owners – Agyness Deyn, Jaime Winstone, Melanie Sykes, Elle McPherson, Jay Leno, Clint Eastwood and Michael Schumacher. It’s safe to say that the Fiat 500 has been a runaway success for the Italian carmaker since the 50s classic was resurrected in 2007.
The 500S is yet another addition to the range – but this one has a sporty personality borrowed from cousin Abarth. That means restyled front and rear bumpers, new side skirts, a boot lid mounted rear spoiler, dark chrome detailing, rear privacy glass, a chrome exhaust and special 15″ alloy wheels.
The cherry red test car looked great (see it here) – it’s definitely a car that twentysomething trendsetters will love. But the sporty update is purely cosmetic and under the bonnet there is a harmless 1.2 litre 69bhp petrol engine. Currently the other engine option is an 85bhp TwinAir Turbo petrol . Fitted with the 1.2 litre engine the Fiat 500s will cost €200 per year to tax in Ireland and the official fuel economy figure is just under 60mpg.
The 500S is no racer out on the open road but it’s perfect around town. The small dimensions make parking a doddle and you can nip down narrow streets and through tight spaces like a secret agent on a mission in Turin. There is a button on the dash that can be pressed to lighten the steering even more – for action thriller style parallel parking if that’s your party piece.
It’s not the BEST driving small car you can buy. It suffers from small car twitching out on the open road and never really settles down, so look elsewhere if comfortable motorway sprints are a priority.
But the agility makes it a FUN car to drive. It’s surprisingly grippy in the corners and there is a satisfying feel to the gear change.
Then there is the seducing sophistication wafting from the air vents into the cabin that strikes the right balance between modern simplicity and a nod to the car’s vintage Italian roots. The 500S has a special matte silver dashboard panel, snug sports seats with special 500S logo, a flat-bottomed Abarth-design steering wheel with red stitching, and a red and satin chrome gear knob. It’s quality for a €15,000 car.
The 500S looks tiny from the outside but the cabin is surprisingly roomy up front. It’s perfect for singletons but you can carry a few friends too from time to time – one in the front and two in the back with a squeeze. There are 185 litres of boot space to fit a small suitcase and an overnight bag or a few shopping bags. If more space is needed for perhaps moving house or off to university for the first time, the rear seats have split 50:50 folding.
It’s also well equipped with air conditioning, Blue & Me hands free system with Bluetooth technology, voice recognition, steering wheel controls and USB port connectivity, seven airbags, fuel-saving Start&Stop technology, electric windows and mirrors, and remote central locking as standard.
This car will put a smile on your face on the dreariest of mornings. For all Dublin’s narrow, cobbled streets and pavement cafes – it’s no Milan – but somehow the Fiat 500S makes driving in town a more fun experience with a splash of colour and Italian flair.
Model tested: Fiat 500S
Price: €15,450 (500 range starts at €13,150)
Engine: 1.2 litre petrol
0-100km/h: 12.9 seconds
Economy: 58.9mpg (4.8l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 113g/km
Tax band: A4 (€200 per year)