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First drive: 2015 Fiat 500. Image by Fiat.

First drive: 2015 Fiat 500
Fiat updates the iconic 500. Has it done enough though?

 



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Fiat 500

3 3 3 3 3

Fiat's 500 is subjected to a late life nip-and-tuck, but with most of the changes being cosmetic rather than mechanical can it hope to keep up with rivals from DS and Vauxhall?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Fiat 500 1.2 69hp Lounge
Pricing: 12,640 (Fiat 500 range starts at 10,890)
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 110g/km (VED band: B, 20 annually)
Combined economy: 60.1mpg (4.7 litres/100km)
Top speed: 99km/h
0-100km/h: 12.9 seconds
Power: 69hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 102Nm at 3,000rpm

What's this?

The '#NewFiat500' - hashtag and all included. Ok, 'new' is pushing it, but in marketing speak 'New' means facelift while 'All New' is reserved for an actually new car. So this is a facelift some seven years after the original and a suspected two to three years before the All New car arrives. So a quick update to keep the 500 relevant before the new model arrives then?

Yeah, sort of, but as minimal an update as Fiat could get away with and one that does not even apply across the range. The standard range of Pop, Popstar and Lounge will all benefit from revised headlights with new LED daytime running lights, a 500X-esque redesign for the front grille and new tail-lights that necessitate the repositioning of both the reverse- and fog lights. The sporty Abarth model and the S variant that apes its looks (if not its power) are being left as-is for reasons that are unclear.

Two new alloy wheel designs are joined by two new paint colours (Glam Coral pastel and Avantgarde Bordeaux metallic), while the Second Skin personalisation option also joins the line-up. Second Skin allows buyers to add one of five vinyl decals to the exterior shoulder line of both hatchback and convertible models, or go for a full two-tone look on the hatchback.

The interior gets the same 'light touch' update as the exterior. The multi-function steering wheel is new, as is the more logical positioning of the USB and aux-in slots. There is an actual, closable glovebox this time rather than an open shelf and the UConnect infotainment has been updated to make it easier to use. There are also now ten interior trim options including Tobacco Frau leather and something called Prince of Wales tartan cloth, as well as a Magnetti Marelli designed digital TFT instrument display - as a 250 option on the range-topping Lounge model it could be a rarity.

How does it drive?

According to Fiat it has changed 1,900 components for this facelift, accounting for 40 per cent of the parts. However, save for some mild tweaking to the engine range for Euro6 compliance, very few of those changes appear to be mechanical, leaving the 500 the same to drive as before. This is both good and bad news.

For a start the engine line-up is the same, starting with the 69hp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol unit tested here. This is followed by the 900cc TwinAir engine in both 85- and 105hp outputs, while a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel and special 'eco' version of the 1.2 will arrive later. The entry level Pop 1.2 now gets the same 257mm front brake discs as the rest of the range while rear drums on all but the most powerful TwinAir model are the order of the day.

The suspension is unchanged though, which means the 500 retains the same communicative steering and soft ride, which, combined with a family of free-revving engines, make it ideal for nipping in and out of traffic with the suspension soaking up the bumps. Unfortunately, the out-of-town foibles are also retained with the engines proving themselves to be fish out of water once you leave the confines of the city and the soft suspension becoming completely flummoxed while cornering at speed.

Verdict

Updating an iconic model such as the Fiat 500 was always going to be tricky, and the 'new' 500 looks and feels like a stop-gap until the all-new model arrives. The changes are minimal and amount to nothing more than a cosmetic update. It will probably still sell well, but we suspect more people will flock to dealerships in three years' time for the new car than they will for this update.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Paul Healy - 16 Jul 2015









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2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.

2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.2015 Fiat 500. Image by Conor Twomey.








 

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