Is “hilarious” a helpful car description? What about uproarious laughter at redline on the video review?
Not really. You migtht think the guy is laughing at the the car when he is actually laughing along with it.
Either way, a serious case of the giggles comes standard on the Fiat 500C.
The $17k 500 Cabrio is actually the cheapest way into a softtop in the USA for 2017 and 2018. But with hard metal roof pillars, some might say this isn’t an all-the-way cabriolet.
It might not be a full ragtop but it is delightfully sunny in the little Fiat with the top power-slid into the trunk. Breezy but not wildly chaotic interior atmosphere even with it fully retracted? Bonus goes to the fabric targa!
Pop inside this little bubble for a quick drive review. We have a video showing off the cutey from all sides … then revved for a joyful Italian tuneup on the road. AKA a floored throttle!
Standard headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary here.
The looks of the Fiat 500 make no sense unless you have an idea of what the original looked like. Once you see the charming Cinquecento originale, the new 500’s stance, silhouette and styling details start to make much more sense.
Hopefully we’re not the first to include a retro pic to illustrate this comparison. But still helpful, even five years since the 500 arrived in the USA.
1959 500 Nuova – Photos Courtesy of Wexer Classics
Speaking of time-on-market, we do envy the light refresh the Euro model has received since its launch. Some fresher details and LEDs would help a lot with 500’s street style.
Even as it stands here in Grigio Cenre (primer grey gloss), the 500C is exceptionally cute. Its intensely short length is at odds with a fairly tall profile squat lower panels. The machine looks grounded and planted, even with the ultra-rounded nose, roof and tail. The original rear-engined machine made a tiny bit of square space in the nose trunk – providing the design template for the modern car.
From the nose, the 500C is as cuddly as a stuffed animal. A giant stuffed animal you want to hug for ever and ever!
Simple details like the simple halogen DRLs above the turn signal amber lamps do betray the low-cost nature of the machine. But these lamps are mounted lower and more outboard than the projector halogen main headlights. Helps with stance notably – even without the Abarth bodykit or uplevel foglamps not on our Pop spec tester.
Tiny is the theme in profile: tiny little alloy wheels, tiny tail that is barely a bump on the semi-cicular shadow this car casts. Considering how small it is, the coupe doors are actually huge. They open the entire bodyside and give easy front access. Rear access is trickier – more on this later.
In the tail, retro design is the name of the game. Soft, almost porcelain lines have just the slightest metal pinch of character lines.
From the back, the 500C is clearly a distinct machine versus its coupe sibling. The canvas roof is a smartie: its rear brake light is always visible – in all three main roof positions.
Then, of course, this 500C makes itself unique with an actual trunk lid versus a hatchback. It is a little breadbox of a slot to open the cargo hold – but is cute.
One thoughtful touch we loved is demonstrated on video: With top down, when you open the trunk you can motor the canvas up and out of the way to load shopping bags. Remote keyfob control to slide the top back is nifty too at this price: just hold the Unlock button down for 10 or so seconds to air out the car before getting inside.
European cars can be intimidating. Hieroglyphics on the control buttons and unusual switch positions. Fiat 500 has only three Euroquirks:
- Seat adjustment lever in middle front to slide, and inside edge of seats for reclining
- Power window controls live on the dashboard
- The power locks do not have a button. Just slide the lock piece above the door handle to lock or unlock all three doors
That’s it! The rest of the 500C is simple, charming and easy. The Pop spec brings a body-color dashboard accent that is a cute reflection of the exterior across the inside of the vehicle. A tall overall center stack and cluster area is typical for a supermini like this 500, but takes some getting used to.
As does the sit-up-high drive position. It is actually just the most efficient use of the tall space on offer! Legroom is plentiful, as is shoulder room and perceived cabin airiness. The seat-mounted driver armrest is a clue to how narrow the machine is, however. It is skinny in hip room, but comfortable for not-skinny drivers.
Great seats with a houndstooth check pattern for their cloth portions are eye-catching and a chic piece. The red leather for the round headrests almost matches the FIAT squircle badge in shape and color! This bright pop of life inside is a perfect example of Italian flair. It doesn’t cost any more to do red ones versus tan or grey, so why not?
The options for our tester spiffed up the cabin a bit with Nav, XM, auto-dimming mirror and Beats audio system with subwoofer. Tunes are a big part of 500C’s life and it has two USBs (dash and glovebox) and an AUX in cord as a failsafe. Streaming Bluetooth audio is part of the Uconnect 5.0 system too. But no CarPlay or Android Auto yet. 500C also has a mini 7-inch screen that is notably lower resolution than the latest from FCA. But simple, effective and easy to use? Exceedingly.
The power operation for the sliding roof is obviously a highlight inside. You can open or close it on the move. And truly, the amount of sun and lightness it brings to the cabin is surreal.
The top has a great quality to it as well. It feels strongly made, engineered and insulated. Noise levels inside are barely higher than the metal roof model once the soft-top whirrs closed.
Why exactly is the 500C so hilarious to drvie? Well, on relaxed throttle the silliest part is just how tiny, nimble and nippy it is in traffic. It just bobs and weaves around big trucks like a minnow.
You are sortof in the goldfish bowl as the driver, too. It shows off the 500C driver to traffic .. and no tinted windows can hide eye contract at lights. With the roof open, you also have to evolve your masculinity a bit to get comfortable.
Once you embrace the Italian-ness of it all, try out the Sport mode button on the dashboard. This firms steering and helps the automatic get in the game. Now a plucky econocar has lust for revs!
And here is the next hilarious part: on full throttle, the 500C with six-speed automatic actually feels kinda frisky. Not fast – that is the wrong word – but just trying so hard to please. This is an engine happiest strung out the its redline at all times.
You can do this while barely awake, too. 500C is absolutely easy as pie to drive. A major benefit? Visibility is superb. Turning circle ready for any U-turn. And even backup cam with rear sonar parking sensors? Surely that last part is not needed! There is no trunk!
The 500C handles a bit more balanced than the hardtop Abarth. That car is all about the nose leading the dance – and tail gliding along behind. Perhaps less roof weight and perhaps softer springs for the Cabrio give a more balanced approach to corners.
With tiny pizza-cutter tires, you would expect the 500C to give up early and audibly around corners. It is actually game to hang on tight! The lack of lateral seat grip, plus lurid body roll, will get you to slow down before a squealing tire.
Hilarious. A bundle of pure joy in town.
On the highway, the 500C actually grows up. It tracks arrow straight ahead and the engine calms to a light murmur. Altogether pretty comfy! Passing takes planning and patience though. You will be giggling.
The 500C majors on cheap and cheerful transport. And it certainly delivers on both. A $16,490 base price rises to $20,365 as tested with options, $1k automatic transmission and $1k destination charge.
Seeing a total tally of just $20k almost made me swallow my tongue. Feels like stellar value for such a fun experience. And lastly, a four year/50k mile bumper to bumper warranty does inspiure confidence.
Who is the 500C for? Anyone who rejects the idea of a Corolla outright. Anyone who needs personality with their daily driver. And of course, anyone who likes cuteness.
There only seem to be benefits for rejecting conventional cars and going for the 500C. With all the Euro-quirks really ironed out, this 2017 500C is a smart choice for affordable and stylish transport.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.