The Fiat 500S.
The Fiat 500S.

Fiat 500S road test review | Quirky Euro appeal

AT FIRST sight, the Fiat 500S looks no bigger than Noddy's car in Toyland. One almost expects Big Ears and Bumpy Dog to come barrelling around the corner. Our test car, with its racing stripe decals, seemed raring to go, ready to take on the world. I laughed at the thought of getting a family, car seats and associated paraphernalia in there.

My girls are not known for travelling light - a trip even to the supermarket down the road requiring about 47 Little Pet Shop toys and half the contents of the craft cupboard. My husband just shook his head as he stepped his broad-shouldered 188cm frame into the passenger seat.

Yet, the Fiat 500 was equal to the task. Sure, it took a while to get anywhere but, nevertheless, was an interesting experience.

Comfort

The interior of the 500S lends itself to fun and funky.

Complementary trim adorns the cabin, with a brush metal panel adding its own touch of pizzazz.

The leather flat-bottom steering wheel and chrome gear stick are both nifty, while plastics are hard, aside from the arm rests, but that's about par.

This is a small car, so don't expect much in the line of storage. There are a couple of cup holders located below the gear stick but almost too low to use easily and there is nary a cubby hole for much else.

The boot can hold a few shopping bags but probably not much else of real consequence.

The comfort of the sporty front seats, depends, I suppose, on your frame, but we found them a bit high and narrow, with some support but not much bolstering to speak of. The rear seat, seriously best left to the kiddies, is pretty flat and entry and exit is sometimes awkward.

Pride of place, of course, goes to the new 18cm Magnetti Marrelli-designed TFT instrument display with its on-trend features, including digital speedo, telephone and navigation displays, warning messages, trip computer functions and a prominent shift indicator. In Sport mode, our display was lit in red with funkier gauges and even a G-force meter thrown in for good measure.

Inside the Fiat 500S.
Inside the Fiat 500S.

 

On the road

What a fun, care-free drive the 500S offers, zipping through the city, nipping through car parks and handling tight twisty bits with ease.

Don't let the sport badging fool you, the 1.4-litre six-speed manual is an enthusiastic participant but is no speed demon.

Engaging the Sports button does sharpen the throttle response and adds a weightier steering but it is more about enjoying a peppy drive.

The gears take easily, the clutch catches at just the right height but you really have to work through those gears quickly to get up to speed, especially on the highway.

The ride feels comfortable and not as noisy as you would expect from a car of this size, with the 500S also handling anything but the worst bumps with assured calm.

What do you get?

An increase in price hasn't really translated into more inclusions but the list was pretty good to start with.

The Fiat 500S.
The Fiat 500S.

Running costs

Official figures stand at 6.1 litres/100km which we found quite close to the mark. Fiat offers a three year/150,000km warranty.

Other options

The 500 has already made great inroads into this segment and face the stiffest contest from the Mitsubishi Mirage (from $11,490), Nissan Micra (from $13,490), Suzuki Alto (from $11,790), Holden Barina Spark (from $12,890) and Hyundai i20 (from $15,590).

Practicality

The Fiat 500S is great around town for a single person or couple. Choice is the name of the game here and Fiat allows you to customise your car with a number of paint and interior options, even giving you a choice of roof body decals, roof stickers and key covers. The front seats are a tad unruly when it comes to gaining access to the rear and there is still no cruise control.

Funky factor

The jelly bean exterior is one of the highpoints of the Fiat 500. There is simply nothing like it. What a way to stand out from the crowd.

The lowdown

We enjoyed our week in the Fiat 500S. While quite obviously not for families, we can see the quirky appeal it holds for people unencumbered by children. The rise in price on the previous model may be a factor.

What matters most

What we liked: Funky exterior, on-trend TFT screen, styling choices.

What we'd like to see: A bit more oomph, more supportive seats.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year 150,000km warranty, with roadside assist. The 500 requires oil and filter change every 15,000/12 months, and servicing is every 30,000km/two years.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Fiat 500S.

Details: Three-door front-wheel drive micro hatch.

Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 74kW@6000rpm and peak torque of 131Nm @ 4250rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Consumption: 6.1 litres/100km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $19,000.



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