• Fiat 500 completely refreshed with new trim levels, colours and interiors.
• All models now feature the same two-cylinder turbocharged engine.
• Fiat 500 punches well above its A-segment weight.
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Following World War 2, many major manufacturers developed and sold compact, affordable vehicles catering for the needs of the emerging middle class. The popularity of vehicles like the Volkswagen Beetle, Mini, and Fiat 500 saw these models became automotive icons based on their success.
In the early 2000s, a few manufacturers launched modern versions of those compact icons with varying levels of success. The Beetle oozed retro-cool, but was so far removed from the original that it could never capitalise on its cult status. The Mini remains popular, but it is nothing like the original. It is now three times the size and five times the price.
Although all these modern incarnations were appealing in their own way, it was the Fiat 500 that remained truest to the original Cinquecento. It is a small car that offers mobility for everyone at an affordable price in a uniquely Italian way. This has seen it stand the test of time and become a mobility symbol just like a venerable Vespa has.
Launched in 2007, three million examples of the modern Fiat 500 have been sold to date. Like the original did in the '50s, the Fiat 500 remains a core model in Fiat's range and significantly contributes to the brand's ongoing feasibility.
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Refreshed inside and out
The ever-evolving model has now been completely refreshed with new trim levels, new colours and new interiors.
The entry-level Fiat 500 carries Cult badging and runs on 14-inch steel wheels with hubcaps and black exterior mirrors. Cult models now feature LED daytime running lights as standard, alongside halogen headlights. The interior is characterised by blue fabric seats with a Fiat Monogram and body colour dashboard. A new option for the Cult is a Techno Blue Matt dashboard, and the standard list of comfort features remains high with a Uconnect five-inch radio with DAB, USB ports and manual air-conditioning.
The Connect models build on this specification with the addition of 15-inch alloy wheels and a specific body kit, including side skirts, rear spoiler and bumpers, and fog lights. Inside it is fitted with new seats, which are height adjustable, and a new multi-function steering wheel. Additional interior specification includes cruise control, a Uconnect seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and two additional speakers in the rear.
Dolcevita models make this Italian icon more Italian with bespoke badging, chrome accents on the two-tone paintwork and 16-inch alloy wheels. Interior enhancements include a Techno-leather multi-function steering wheel, glass roof and Matelasse fabric seats with leather details and 50/50 split.
The Fiat 500 Sport boasts 16-inch alloy wheels, Sport badging and a sporty body kit. The interior is equally sporty with arrow electro seats and a Titanium dashboard. A seven-inch TFT digital cluster accompanies automatic air conditioning.
Under the bonnet
All trim lines in the Fiat 500 range are powered by the same two-cylinder, 875cc, turbocharged petrol engine. Despite being downsized in terms of capacity and cylinders, power output remains the same thanks to the addition of a turbocharger, but with added fuel consumption benefits. Boasting a healthy 62.5kW at 5 500rpm and 145Nm from 1 900rpm, Fiat claims that the 500 will use just 4.0-litres/100km during the combined cycle while sprinting from standstill to 100km/h in 11 seconds.
This engine is more than adequate to power this lightweight city runabout, but it is also very easy to reach its performance limits.
Useful for the segment is that the 500 is available with either a five-speed manual or an MTA transmission. The MTA is an automated manual transmission that offers the convenience of two-pedal motoring while also allowing the driver to remain engaged by pre-empting gear changes. The MTA transmission is not as refined as a conventional torque convertor automatic, but once you adjust your driving style by momentarily easing off the accelerator as it is about to change gears, it offers a pleasant gear changing experience that is undoubtedly smoother than a manual gearbox operated by an average driver.
The Fiat 500 leads the A-segment in terms of safety with seven-airbags as standard. ABS and ESC is standard fitment too as is hill holder and an adjustable speed limiter.
- Fiat 500 Cult Manual - R219 900
- Fiat 500 Connect manual - R260 900
- Fiat 500 Sport - R269 900
- Fiat 500 Dolcevita Automatic - R274 900
- Fiat 500 Sport Cabriolet manual - R319 900
- Fiat 500 Dolcevita Cabriolet Automatic - R324 900
While the Fiat 500 competes in the A-segment in terms of price, it is a unique vehicle. The answer that it offers to daily motoring needs is unlike any other, and the level of standard specification and safety features is extremely high and therein lies its appeal.
Fiat 500 drivers are loyal and cannot be placed in any one category in terms of gender or age. Just like a Vespa is a scooter, but nobody refers to it as a scooter, the Fiat 500 is unique in its appeal. All things considered, it is easy to see why the 500 doesn't have any direct competitors in the segment.
All four trim levels are available in the hatchback guise, while the cabriolet is only available in Dolcevita and Sport derivatives. Cult, Connect, and Sport models are fitted with the manual transmission, while the Dolcevita exclusively utilises the MTA transmission.
Globally and locally, Fiat is now part of the Stellantis group alongside Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Opel, Peugeot, and Citroen. This move should see increased retail representation for Fiat as the group is currently on a drive to open additional dealerships across South Africa, many of which will retail and service all the brands in the Stellantis stable.