Fiat 500 Lounge Eco

Fiat 500 Lounge, front static 2
Fiat 500 Lounge, side action
Fiat 500 Lounge, side static
Fiat 500 Lounge, rear static
Fiat 500 Lounge, full rear static
Fiat 500 Lounge, dashboard

WHEN Fiat launched its trendy little 500 back in 2007 it could never have imagined just how popular it would become - particularly in Britain.

Driving in any part of the country it's not long before you spot one - they're everywhere.

Which is perhaps not surprising because more are sold in Britain than in any other country - with the exception of their country of origin, Italy.

The cute little 500 has become a cult car here in much the same way as the MINI. And just like the MINI the car comes with a wide range of accessories so you can stamp your own personality on it.

It also has that all important Tardis element. It's small enough to be easy to slot into the smallest of parking places yet deceptively spacious inside.

Driver and front seat passenger in particular get generous head and leg room and you never feel cramped.

And while the leg room in the rear is a little restricted I have known much larger cars with less. We certainly made numerous journeys with four adults in, with no complaints.

Typically impressive Italian styling means the car's interior is just as trendy as the outside, with a body-coloured dashboard and a cream leather steering wheel.

The elevated five-speed gearshift is set just a hand's span away from the steering wheel making the car very easy to drive and the box is silky smooth.

The 500 Lounge Eco model is particularly well equipped, with satellite navigation, slide/tilt glass sunroof and multi function steering wheel.

It's easy to get comfortable thanks to a height adjustable driver's seat and adjustable steering wheel - features not always available on small cars.

And, while it's not too easy to immediately spot the differences, the car was given a makeover last year which included new bumpers, new front lights, new rear lights and more chrome work.

In fact some 1,800 changes have been made to the car in the re-vamp although some are hidden away.

On the road the 1,200cc, four-cylinder engine feels comfortably capable even with four up. It's never going to be the fastest model away from the traffic lights - for that try the Abarth 500 - but at the same time it never feels lacking.

The high stance and abundance of glass means all round vision is excellent for manoeuvring, and if you encounter a particularly difficult parking spot a "city parking" button on the dashboard lightens the weight of the already light steering even more.

And while the 500 is an ideal city car it's also a very capable motorway mover, quite happy to cruise all day at 70 miles per hour and well above where legal, even though its top speed is sub-100mph.

When it comes to carrying luggage the boot, just like the interior, copes with more than you could dare expect with 185 litres of space, and there's a good sized glove box for interior bits and pieces.

Fiat claims 60mpg from the Eco version and over a week I managed a creditable 50mpg which makes fuel costs reasonable, and remember with this model you pay no road tax.

FAST FACTS

Fiat 500 Lounge Eco

Price: £12,900

Mechanical: 1,242cc, 69 bhp four cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox.

Max Speed: 99 mph

0-62mph: 12.9 secs

Combined MPG: 65.7

Insurance Group: 99 g/km

C02 emissions: 9

Bik rating: 16 %

Warranty: 3 yrs/60,000 miles

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