Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge

Fiat 500C, front
Fiat 500C, front, roof down
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge, profile
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge, face
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge, rear
Fiat 500C, rear, roof down
Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge, dash
Fiat 500C, boot

THERE'S no guarantee that spending a shed load on a car will guarantee you buckets of fun and enjoyment.

On the same basis, a motor that's cheap and small doesn't have to be dull or boring to drive. That's good news for lots of us.

In other words there are no set rules to the game, no true code of conduct - bit like real life, then.

I've just spent time behind the wheel of one of the tiniest convertibles on the road and, guess what, I've got a smile from ear-to-ear.

Not only is the Fiat 500C cute and friendly looking, but it's a good drive with positive, high-geared steering which tells you what's going on beneath the tyres, strong road holding and a ride that's more comfortable and cosseting than many saloons costing double or treble.

True, it's not very quick. In fact with a 0-62mph in 12.9 seconds, it's distinctly tardy. But with a roof that folds right back at the touch of a button, the sun shining and a little snub nose, it didn't seem to really matter.

Of course its diminutive size helps here because you can squeeze through traffic gaps that would be impossible even in the average family hatchback. And parking - whether parallel or otherwise - is a synch. It even has a button to lighten the steering effort around town.

The model I drove was the 1.2 Lounge which comes with plenty of goodies such as electric windows, air con, height adjustable steering wheel, five-inch touch screen, parking sensors and alloy wheels for a £15,890 price tag.

Extras worth forking out for include sat nav and Bluetooth at £350 and Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity at £150. I would be less than keen on paying an extra £350 for the pastel coral pink paintwork that adorned the car I was loaned.

Under the bonnet, there's a 1.2-litre four cylinder engine that kicks out a modest 69bhp. Though not as nippy as the 900cc TwinAir nor as environmentally clean, it is however a smoother, quieter unit that proves both more relaxing and easy going, in my view.

Although the 500C is a four-seater, space is at a premium with driver and front seat passenger sitting unusually close together. Leg and headroom in the back is pretty limited too (unless the roof is down) and the boot holds just 185 litres of luggage.

But none of this will matter to prospective 500C buyers. The retro style icon status of the little Italian makes practicalities like these fade away.

The furnishings and trim are distinctly upmarket for a cheap car.

In fact, the cabin is a piece of artwork alone. Colour matched painted dash, white steering wheel and fabulous 60s style switchgear make it a novel and interesting place to be. The front seats themselves are truly comfortable, although the passenger sits quite high, with plenty of padding and adequate support.

The electric roof folds back either fully or part-way. It's not a proper convertible, though, because the sides stay in place.

Unlike most modern small cars, the 500 makes do with a five-speed gearbox rather than a six-speeder. This is no great hardship and the gearchange is slick enough with well chosen ratios.

Although you tend to rev the engine quite enthusiastically to squeezed out every drop of performance, economy barely suffers. My average was 46mpg - a pretty decent result.

FAST FACTS

Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge

Price: £15,890

Mechanical:69bhp, 1,242cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 12.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 54.3

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions: 118g/km

Bik rating: 21%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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