It has probably been a couple of years since we last drove the Fiat 500. Since then, Fiat has gone through a pretty rough time in Ireland with various changes to the core , both from a distributor and dealer perspective. Now for 2014 they have come back swinging and keen to get back the market share they have lost. Concentrating on the models that sell, Fiat has opted to focus on the 500 and the many variants it now comes in with the exception of the Panda which we will soon be testing in four-wheel drive spec. Alongside the 500 and 500C you can now choose from the 500S, the L, the L Trekking and the L MPW. This week I’m living with the 500S which has a 1.2-litre petrol engine fitted with a few extras to make it look a little more, manly if you will! Sitting on tasteful 15-inch alloys the tiny hatch has been treated to some sports styling with a roof top spoiler and sculpted bumpers front & rear. The tinted windows will also be standard on S models and inside you get the Abarth flat bottom multi-function leather steering wheel and sports gear knob, along with comfortable sports seats embroidered with the 500S logo.
To drive the 500S is business as usual. I have always loved the way the 500 feels regardless of what engine it has. The TwinAir whilst a little noisy was fun and capable and this 1.2-litre inline 4 cylinder is perfect for the body size. It produces just 69hp but don’t let that punitive figure scare you off. If you are prepared to work the gearbox a little it will punch well above its weight. 100km/h comes up in a little over 12 seconds and it will touch the 160km/h mark albeit on a rather long stretch. The fun in the 500 for me is all about B roads and city driving. Mated to the right wheel and tyre package such as this S model it corners like a March hare. Small wheels that wear more rubber leave the 500 feeling vague but the 15-inch wheels with low profile threads offer you perfect handling. In town it’s joyous to drive also with the added CITY button parking aid, which turns the steering featherweight making it super easy to park.
As always I loved my time with the 500. This shape has been on sale for many years now but if it’s not broke then don’t try and fix it. The S model starts off at €15,195 and with the added extra of the red Pasodoble pastel paint on my test car you will pay €15,545. (Not car in images) That’s not a lot of money for a car that offers this much character and charm. Other retro revivals from manufacturers are significantly dearer. Add to this package the standard 5-year warranty for piece of mind and you are in good hands. Fiat is once again growing their dealer network and with it will come customer confidence. I for one am glad to see Fiat taking a proactive approach in Ireland once again and I wish them every success. In a couple of weeks we will be testing the 500 L in MPW spec, which means 7 seats! I can’t wait.
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