It’s not hard to understand the popularity of the Fiat 500. The style it exudes on the outside is carried through to its cabin; it's a charming car that also feels well built.

The 500 appeals as a finely wrought, thoroughly practical evocation of the original 500, and backs that up with a good finish and tempting customisation options. In the case of the TwinAir it appeals with advanced engineering as well, its two-cylinder engine putting out the power and torque of a diesel, but with more refinement. It makes an intriguing noise that will stir memories among those who remember old 500s. But in reality, this engine fails to get near the official consumption figures unless you drive it exceptionally carefully.

The 500 offers style and substance - at a price. The Panda on which it is based is substantially cheaper

There are measurably superior hot hatchbacks to the Abarth 595; some are quicker, or handle better, or have more power, or cost less. But after a few miles in the 500 Abarth, you begin to wonder if any of that matters a jot. The hot hatchback’s primary purpose – to put a smile on the face of its driver – is something the Abarth does with the verve of few cars within twice its price.

If you like the 500, it’s hard to see why you would not like the 500C even more. Unlike so many converted hatches, it has lost none of the charm or style of its parent and, far from being worse to drive, it’s actually a slight but tangibly better steer. You get all the pleasure and none of the pain.

Apart from the price. Whether the extra is a genuine reflection of what Fiat needs to charge to maintain a sensible margin or blatant profiteering we cannot say, but in some ways the Fiat’s sense of fun and style justifies the extra expense, and is another example of a retro reboot coming good.

Back to top