Fiat 500C Lounge 1.3 MultiJet

August 2009

picture of car from the front

Handsome 500C is a retro take on the small convertible

Ratings

Overall Rating 9Overall rating

Value for money Rating 9Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 9Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 7Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 6Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Attractive design is arguably more appealing than hatchback
  • Wide range of options and considerable scope for personalisation
  • Cabin build quality is impressive
  • 1.3 diesel is the standout engine option, offering exceptional refinement and performance

Gripes

  • Fun to drive but not sharp, enthusiasts may not be thrilled
  • Rear room is tighter than before
  • View to the rear is severely hampered when in full convertible mode
  • No turbo petrol option

The Fiat 500 in standard and Abarth form has already cemented its place in the hearts of many buyers. The combination of cheeky looks, fine engines and a high degree of personalisation make it a very desirable car with a modest price tag. Now joining the range is the 500C, a convertible version and one that adds yet more appeal to this small premium car.

Bringing open-air motoring to the Fiat 500 was an inevitable decision, as it is a car aimed at fashion-conscious buyers who are able to sacrifice a little practicality for style. The standard car has already demonstrated the right attributes to satisfy this demanding group of buyers, whilst also being a viable small car for everyday use.

The 500C, just like its tin-top counterpart, pays homage to the original 500, right down to manner in which the folding roof operates. Combining the best elements of a sunroof with that of a conventional folding roof, the 500C allows the driver to have the roof closed, or in three different open positions. A glass rear window and high-level brake light incorporated into the soft top indicate the level of detail development that has gone into the car.

The 500C shares the same impressive engine range as the regular car, including the most powerful diesel option. Although it does without the turbocharged petrol of the Abarth version, there is a powerplant to suit all needs. It also manages to retain much of the excellent economy of the standard car as well as low emissions.

The 500C benefits from additional options and trim packages over the standard car and, although there are just two trim levels and three engines, there are over 100 different accessory combinations and 11 paint finishes to choose from, reducing the likelihood of two 500Cs with the same specification. Even so, the standard specification is good, with the entry-level Pop model getting air conditioning, remote locking and roof opening and a good quality audio system.

Our verdict on the Fiat 500C Lounge 1.3 MultiJet

The 500C is much more than a regular 500 with a fabric roof. The car's core fun personality is enhanced with the open-roof design and the ability to tailor the roof to the conditions and driver mood without sacrifices in terms of practicality or refinement is impressive. It also drives with a sense of vim and enjoyment, making it a great car to pilot regardless of the weather.

Costs
Costs rating 9

Even if you don't exercise restraint over the options list, the 500 isn't an expensive purchase. With the 1.2-litre petrol model slipping under the magic 120g/km CO2 barrier, there's no compulsion to buy the diesel - although that too is a sub-120g/km car. Overall, factoring in running costs and the purchase price, the little Fiat should prove inexpensive to run.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

For a small convertible, the 500C is surprisingly accommodating; space up front for two adults is fine, with head, leg and elbowroom all to a good standard. Storage space is modest though, as the door bins are shallow and there's no conventional glovebox but a deep shelf where one should be. At the rear, children will feel right at home and adults less so on long journeys on account of the modest legroom. Further back, the 500C possesses a good size boot and the rear seats fold to further increase the space available.

picture of car from the rear

Roof design incorporates high-level brake light

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 7

For the driver, the focus of attention in the 500C is the large, cowled display behind the steering wheel. It plays host to the speedometer, rev counter, trip computer and various warning lights and is both clear and intuitive. The 500's switchgear is familiar Fiat items and all work well. Essentially, the fascia mirrors that of the Panda - the 500's donor car - and is all the better for it. Depending on the chosen variant, when activated, Fiat's 'City' mode greatly increases the steering effort to make parking much easier.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

Although still a small car, the 500C offers a surprising level of refinement. The switch to a fabric roof has barely harmed the car's insulation from wind and road noise, while the ride quality is unharmed as the bodyshell changes have ensured that it is virtually as stiff as the regular car.

Car security
Security Rating 6

Aside from remote central locking and an engine immobiliser, an effective alarm system remains on the options list. With a fabric roof offering less protection, it's a worthwhile investment.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

The 500C keeps all the safety features from the rest of the 500 range, including seven airbags and ESP as either an option or as standard. The roof design also means that strong roof rails are still present, ensuring better crash performance should the worst happen.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

Where BMW promotes its Mini as a sporty, engaging car to drive, Fiat doesn't make wild claims about its 500C in a bid to tempt keen drivers. In reality the 500C is a solid all-rounder: supple suspension, a compliant ride, light but accurate steering, slick gearshift and good brakes are the order of the day. The diesel strikes the best balance of economy and performance and the diesel torque allows overtaking when required.

picture of car interior

Charming cabin has lots of personalistation options

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

As a second car in the family the Fiat 500C might prove to be a useful addition, but don't expect it to be able to carry much in the way of family paraphernalia: the weekly shop and a pushchair or two for example. And like all compact two-door cars, it's always a struggle to make sure young children are secure and comfortable in the rear seats.

First car appeal
First car Rating 9

Although at the pricier end of the small car scale, the 500C would be an ideal first car, bringing with it lots of style and individuality but with modest performance and low running costs.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 9

In general terms Fiat has achieved good things in recent years and done much to banish the old problems of poor reliability and long term durability. The 500's cabin is a perfect example of what has been achieved, with high quality materials evident throughout. Image-wise the 500 is clearly styled to tap into the demand for retro designed city cars and compete for a slice of the Mini's lucrative market share. Those with an interest in such style-led cars will instantly 'get' the 500, which is Fiat's goal after all.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The small Fiat's large doors open nice and wide, making it easy to access the front two seats. Tipping those seats forwards allows access to the rear seat, although you will need to be reasonably agile given the car's modest dimensions. At the rear the 500's boot requires little effort to open and, cleverly, the roof moves out of the way if folded down to allow the boot lid to open. It also carries just three litres fewer than the hatchback model.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Located high up in the fascia, the 500's audio unit boasts large controls and an easy to read display. Sound quality is more than acceptable for something at this price point, and the inclusion of six speakers on the entry-level Pop variant is welcome. Lounge models gain Fiat's Blue and Me system, which consists of a Bluetooth telephone connection and a USB port for connecting media players to the audio unit. There's also an upgraded sound system option with more speakers and power to boot.

picture of car in detail

Three-stage roof offers plenty of fresh air

Colours and trim

With many colours both inside and out to choose from, there is little point in dictating what is good or bad. Ultimately the final decision will be a matter of taste, although it's fair to say that garish combinations could adversely affect future residual values. Sufficed to say, the 500's interior can be specified in a number of bright colours which are perfectly in keeping with the car's cheerful personality.

Parking

The 500C's size is a big help here, and with the light power steering at low speeds it's an easy car to manoeuvre. However, over the shoulder visibility is reduced by the roof. With it fully raised the rear window is smaller than the standard car and with it folded fully down it is very difficult to see over the rear. Parking sensors are standard on Lounge models however.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (69bhp); 1.4-litre (100bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.3-litre (75bhp).Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-speed manual gearbox, Dualogic semi-autmatic gearbox. Trim levels: Pop, Lounge.

 

Alternative cars

Mini Convertible Benchmark for driver appeal and well made

Daihatsu Copen Good value, divisive looks but a decent drive

Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Popular cult car reborn with Golf underpinnings; refined but not a driver's car

Citroen C3 Pluriel Oddball roof system gives plenty of options, not a great drive



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August 2009