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C FOR CUTE (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
Fiat's lovable 500 city car is harder to resist in improved 500C cabriolet form. Jonathan Crouch reports on the updated version.
Ten Second Reviewword count: 54
The open-topped Fiat 500C has done well for Fiat, but time rolls on and this car now faces tougher competition from some more affordable rivals. Hence the need for this update, which brings mild hybrid engine technology to the car for the first time. Bringing this Italian brand's convertible bambino bang up to date.
Backgroundword count: 217
How much cute can you cram into one car? Well, even the Tichy manufacturing plant in Poland where Fiat builds this convertible version of its 500 city car has a cute name. It's tempting to imagine the facility as a Willy Wonka style operation where the cars float on rivers of golden syrup down assembly lines run by a green-skinned chorus line of the vertically challenged. A factory of fun where the foreman is a talking spoon and there's a gingerbread man in middle management. This probably isn't the case, although Fiat has reported an upsurge in requests for factory visits since launching the 500C. The version we're going to look at here has been improved in recent times. We got quite a wide-ranging package of updates in early 2014 that gave buyers of more expensive versions the company's 'Uconnect' infotainment technology. Then in early 2020, the brand announced a 1.0-litre mild hybrid three cylinder engine. Fiat's also put considerable thought into a wide range of personalisation options. It all means that on paper at least, this car remains a strong proposition. The small, fashionable citycar segment though, has changed substantially since this model's original launch. Does this Fiat still have what it takes to compete? Let's find out. As ever, this car remains cute made metal.
Driving Experienceword count: 356
Drive dynamics are a virtual irrelevance to lots of Fiat 500C buyers. They'll have already fallen in love with the car in a brochure, on a TV ad or upon seeing one in the street. Nevertheless, the car promises to be fairly adept on the road with the same basic set-up as the hard-topped 500, a chassis that's also shared with the Fiat Panda. The big news here is the introduction of a mild hybrid 70hp 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engine to replace the aging 69hp 1.2-litre conventional four cylinder unit this car's been soldiering on with since launch. The mild hybrid powerplant improves fuel efficiency without impeding performance. It also ensures a very high standard of driving comfort thanks to a 12-volt 'BSG' 'Belt-integrated Starter Generator', allowing for a quiet, vibration-free restart of the internal combustion engine in Stop&Start mode. The engine (which in conventional form we've already seen in the 500X SUV) puts out 92Nm of pulling power and works via a 6-speed manual gearbox inegrated with that 'BSG' set-up we just mentioned. The 'BSG' system is mounted directly on the engine and is operated by the belt that also drives the auxiliaries. The new system also involves lowering the entire power unit 45mm so the car behaves better on the road thanks to the lower centre of gravity. As before, there's a 1.4-litre petrol turbo unit for the Abarth models. In recent times, Fiat has tried to improve both the ride and handling of this 500C, though this will probably be of limited interest to the car's urban-minded audience. You'll find that the engine can get a bit vocal if you work it hard. Even then though, the gruff, slightly throbby note is characterful rather than unpleasant and around town, refinement is more than acceptable. If you are urban-bound, you might also want to consider the optional (but rather jerky) Dualogic gearbox, a kind of manual transmission without a clutch. Unless you like all that left-foot pumping of course. With the Dualogic though, you'll have to have the older less efficient 1.2-litre 69hp engine. City dwellers will appreciate the tight 9.3m turning circle.
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