From £12,915
An excellent buy, even with the £3000 price hike over the standard car

Our Verdict

Fiat 500C
All the style and now with added open-air fun, but at a price

The open-topped Fiat 500C is much more costly than its hatchback sibling. Is it worth the premium?

What is it?

This is a Fiat 500 with a very large, electrically operated fabric sunroof and a sizeable £3000 mark-up over the standard car, though you do get more kit for your cash.

Curiously, it was this body style that the 1957 Nuova 500 was launched with, its full-length roof and rear window furling to a point just above the rear engine lid. Apart from its nostalgic qualities, this arrangement has made today’s conversion from closed to open 500 a little easier for the body engineers, much of the shell’s strength preserved by the fact that the roof rails and pillars are left uncut.

Assorted strategic strengthenings, including to the structure at the top of a deeper front screen, ensure that this seven airbag-equipped Fiat achieves the full NCAP five stars.

Much effort has gone into minimising buffet with the roof furled, the rear seats fold as they do for the hatch and the boot loses only three litres of space to the standard car. The basic Pop version gets air-conditioning and improved trim over the standard 500, beside the fully timed electric roof.

What’s it like?

This car is impressively civilised for a budget convertible. It feels very well made, its powertrain is subdued, wind noise is very well suppressed and the level of buffeting with the roof fully folded is just right for cooling you on a hot day.

The roof is very simple to operate, requiring a single digit to stab a pair of buttons above the rear-view mirror – though you must press three times, for safety reasons, to have the lid open fully – and it’s fully trimmed inside when closed. It can be opened, or shut, at speeds up to 37mph, too.

The 500C also feels pleasingly robust roof down, its mild loss of rigidity betrayed only by the odd shimmy over bumpier roads. And that’s as much caused by the occasional inadequacies of the 500’s suspension, as it is by any deficiencies in its structure. That said, one of the most striking aspects of this latest version is that its better to drive than the early cars. Why? Because the electric power steering now has a far less synthetic feel to its swivellings, and because the ride has improved as a result of the addition of an anti-roll bar taken from the 500 Abarth which, bizarrely, is also claimed to improve the integrity of the body as a whole.

The 1.2 is not the speediest device on the planet, and the standard fit air-conditioning knocks it back noticeably, but rev it past 4000rpm and it pulls with unexpected verve and enthusiasm. For the light-duty pottering that most 500Cs are likely to be put to, its fine.

Faults? With the roof fully furled, the rear-view mirror is semi-obscured, to make reversing an exercise in guestimation (parking sensors are optional) and the electronic display in the middle of the instrument pack is unreadable in bright light.

Should I buy one?

This extension of the 500 range is as impressive as the Abarths are for their effectiveness. It loses little in refinement and convenience over the standard hatch, its roof is well-designed and easy to use – it even part-closes when you open the boot to allow its lid to open – and the 500 is now a better car to drive than it was when first launched.

While £3000 is a substantial hike over the closed car, you do get air-conditioning. And it’s reasonably priced against its rivals, being usefully less than the Mini convertible, and only slightly more than the miserable-looking Mitsubishi Colt CC. The Citroen C3 Pluriel, which is perhaps conceptually closest to the 500C, is completely outclassed. All of which makes for an excellent buy.

Join the debate

Comments
21

25 June 2009

Dosent really look like a proper convertible to me, reminds me of the VW Polo open-air, and I bet rear visibility is bad.

25 June 2009

What a silly car - it's not even a proper convertible just a normal 500 with a big sunroof. Not in the same league as the MINI however grossly over-popular that may be.

25 June 2009

I think zippy has made a bungle ! Far cooler than a mini

25 June 2009

Like I said, the MINI stopped being cool a long time ago due the sheer numbers of the damn things around and yes, I've owned two, but is still a better car in most areas than the 500 and at least it's a proper convertible which the 500 is clearly not. And I know both cars are aimed at mostly Women but I know which car I would look less of a berk in.

25 June 2009

...i was talking to my mate George and he says you would look equally stupid in either of them.

26 June 2009

I think it's fine, but two major issues:

£3k is a BIG premium - £1.5k-£2k would be slightly more palatable.

Rear visibility does indeed seem shocking when the roof is down - surprised they weren't willing to sacrifice a tiny bit more boot space to improve your view out the back.

That said - most will be bought by women, so the feminine looks aren't an issue. I think it looks fine. I'd buy it, though maybe for my wife! The roof solution is far better than lopping the entire top off the car, adding 200kg of strengthening and fitting a large metal, two piece roof that gives your car a massive backside. Note: see 206CC. It's more "basic" motoring and that's "in" right now. I think it's mostly quite an honest little car, if playing slightly on the retro/nostalgia thing!

26 June 2009

I think it looks great, and well in the spirit of the original 500. In the future I would like there be an option to substitute the canvas cover with a fixed glass (non openable) sunroof for winter!

26 June 2009

I quite like the look of it and can't wait to see it in the metal. 3k for a large sunroof and air-con does seem a bit steep, but in terms of what it does for what it costs, the basic model still seems very tempting.

26 June 2009

[quote theonlydt]That said - most will be bought by women, so the feminine looks aren't an issue.[/quote]

Neither will the lack of rear visibility :0

On a serious note I like it. Can't imagine ever buying one but it would make an ideal hire car while on the annual summer hols in Italy.

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