Motoring | Road Tests
Jaco Van Der Merwe
Whether you like the Fiat 500 or loathe it, the quirky little Italian hatchback’s iconic status speaks for itself. Over six million Fiat 500s have been sold worldwide since its inception in 1957, while over two million of these have been of the current generation that was first rolled out in 2007.
While Italy remains the car’s most popular market, all of 75% of these sales have been outside its homeland. And on the local front, one in three Fiat sold in South Africa is a 500.
With the instantly recognisable 500 kept largely untouched for the last 14 years, Fiat is keeping up with the times by refreshing the local line-up. And the best part is that true Italian flair and style will not cost you an arm and a leg. Starting at an attractive R219 900, or at a launch offer of R2 499 per month, the well-specced line-up offers value along with truly unique styling.
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Trimmed to four models, the Fiat 500 range now consists of the entry level Cult, Connect, Sport and flagship Dolcevita trim levels. In Sport and Dolcevita spec, the car is also offered as cabriolet.
Standard across the range is class-leading seven airbags and the two-cylinder TwinAir turbo petrol engine that pays homage to the two-cylinder of yesteryear. The 875 cc powerplant sends 62 kW of power at 5 500 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 1 900 Nm to the front wheels.
Other specs standard to the Cult includes Electric Stability Control, five-inch touchscreen infotainment system, speed limiter, stop-start button and height adjustable steering wheel.
The Connect gets 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors, rain/dusk sensors and a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additional specifications in Sport and Dolcevita guise include distinct visual enhancements with both featuring 16-inch alloy wheels, fog flights and fixed glass roofs.
While all the models feature retro-styled door internal door handles and other timeless old school finishes inside the cabin, the styling of the Sport and Dolcevita truly stands out. The body colour dashboard, Black Matelasse seats and retro-styled instrument cluster makes the Dolcevita the pick of the bunch in our opinion.
“The Fiat 500 is an emotive car, one you need to connect with. It doesn’t tick the conventional boxes and gives buyers the freedom of choice,” says Ismaeel Hassen, Deputy Managing Director of Stellantis South Africa.
Hassen concedes that while Fiat’s representation might not have been the best in the past, now is the perfect time to grow and expand the brand under the Stellantis banner.
The Cult, Connect and Sport trim levels are all exclusively equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox, while Dolcevita derivatives are solely available with a five-speed automated manual transmission (MTA). The MTA models are different from fully automatic transmission as the car still has a pedal-less clutch which is depressed automatically.
The driver has a choice of either changing gears manually or allow the car the automatically change gears. In both cases, similar to manual transmission, it is recommended to take your foot off the accelerator during gear changes.
Fiat claims a combined fuel consumption of 4L/100 km, which is more frugal than even most so-called greener hybrid powertrains, while its 8 8g/km CO2 emissions rating clocks is well below the entry point for emissions tax.
It has a claimed and 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of seconds seconds, making it faster than many other A-segment hatches with bigger engines.
We spent time behind the wheel of the Sport and Dolcevita derivates in typical Johannesburg traffic during the unveiling of new line-up last week. Apart from it being some very enjoyable rides, it’s hard to pin point one aspect of the drive as a highlight.
We feel it’s rather a combination of the whole package, without being overly lavish on the styling, that makes the Fiat 500 truly unique.
The exterior styling, the finishes inside the cabin and the easy and fun way in which it drives all perfectly combine to create an overall feel-good factor that is hard to describe. While the Fiat 500 might technically have lots of rivals in the compact hatch segment, it really is in a league of its own. You’ll want one because you’ll want one.
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