The Fiat 500 has been revitalised for 2014 with a host of styling, comfort and technological enhancements.
Launched in 2007, the retro-inspired Fiat 500 was awarded the coveted International Car of the Year crown a year later, the year it arrived in Australia. This timeless classic retains the pre-update model’s line up consisting of the entry-level Pop, mid range S and the top spec Lounge variants.
Headlining the update for 2014 is a new seven-inch TFT digital instrument display – standard across the S and Lounge trim levels – developed in collaboration with Italian manufacturer Magneti Marelli.
The new colour digital instrument cluster can be configured to show the speedometer, the temperature or the gear shift indicator and trip computer. In Sport mode (S model only), the screen displays a sport-oriented digital rev counter and g-force meter, while in Eco (Lounge model only), the screen configures again to award Eco Hero status for efficient driving.
The 500 range is also now more customisable than ever, with three new flavours, I mean paint colours – Blue Jelly Bean, Mint Milkshake and Vanilla Ice Cream – added to the 11 existing colour options.
With 16 new interior combinations and three cabriolet roof options, as well as 14 different roof stickers and 12 key covers, each and every 500 will be truly unique.
The base 500 Pop we tested is powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder atmospheric engine generating 51kW and 102Nm, fed through either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. While it returned a commendable 5.9L/100km against a claimed 5.1L/100km on the average cycle, we would scratch together an extra few grand and get into the 500 Lounge or even better, the S.
Despite with only 905kg of mass on its shoulder, the four-pot in the Pop struggles to move its pint size body. Compensating the lack of grunt under your right foot, however, is an enjoyable stick shifter with a light clutch, offering precise short-throw gear changes. It is also our preference over the clunky single clutch automatic transmission.
Moving further away from the bonnet, things get much better. The 500’s suspension is well tuned to strike a good balance between comfort and handling, and the well weighted steering is accurate and provides enough feedback about what the front wheels are up to.
Perhaps, what surprised or impressed us most is how quiet the cabin is, even at highway speeds. Despite its tiny footprint, the 500’s ride at three digit speeds is as composed and stable as cars next size up.
The front seats are also snug and comfortable, wrapped in a cabin designed with that unmistakable Italian flair.
The more powerful 1.4-litre engine in the 500 S produces 74kW and 131Nm, paired with a manual that gained an extra cog over the five-speeder in the Pop, or a five-speed automatic. Its willingness to rev, accompanied by surprisingly pleasing soundtrack, is agreeably entertaining, especially in Sport mode.
The top of the range Lounge comes equipped with a 0.9-litre (yes that’s 900cc!) turbo two-cylinder that develops 63kW and 145Nm. Paired with an exclusive five-speed automatic, it employs a host of fuel-saving tech including a high-efficiency turbocharger, an exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head, automatic stop/start system and an intake valve control system. The result is Australia’s most fuel-efficient petrol engine, sipping just 3.9-litres per 100km.
Don’t be fooled by its retro-inspired styling, the Fiat 500 is properly equipped for the 21st century.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, radio and CD player, Bluetooth and power windows and mirrors. The 500 Sport adds a sports body kit, rear spoiler, sports seats with red stitching, flat bottom sports steering wheel with red stitching, larger ventilated front disc brakes and larger rear brakes, fog lights and dark tinted glass.
However, there are a couple of glaring omissions that are oddly left out, like cruise control and external temperature display.
Safety is taken care of by Anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability programme and seven airbags.
The Fiat 500’s appeal lies in its heritage and unique character. New updates for 2014 bring more customisation to the city car than ever before, as well as new features. For a better drive, opt for the mid range S model for a right balance between efficiency and power.
Further Reading: Fiat 500 S Review
|Price (Drive-Away):||From $17,000 to $25,500.
As tested: $17,000 (500 Pop manual)
|Engine:||1.2-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 8-valve (tested)||1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 16-valve||0.9-litre 2-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 8-valve|
|51kW @ 5,500rpm, 102Nm @ 3,000rpm, front-wheel drive||74kW @ 6,000rpm, 131Nm @ 4,250rpm, front-wheel drive||63kW @ 5,500rpm, 145Nm @ 1,900rpm, front-wheel drive|
|Transmission:||5-speed manual (tested), or Dualogic auto||6-speed manual or Dualogic auto||Dualogic auto|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Manual: 5.1 (tested: 5.9); Dualogic: 5.0||Manual: 6.1; Dualogic: 5.8||Dualogic: 3.9|
|Dimensions (mm):||Length: 3,546, Width: 1,627, Height: 1,488, Wheelbase: 2,300|
|Tare Weight (kg):||885 – 962|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||800 (Braked)|