Fiat 500C convertible
Price £13,700 - £18,000
- Cool retro looks
- Small engines are cheap to run
- Simple electric folding roof
- Basic entry-level models
- Not that much room in the back
- Not a 'true' convertible
At a glance
"All the retro style and city-driving fun of the Fiat 500, but with the sun on your back and the wind in your hair."
On first sight of the Fiat 500, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time… Fiat‘s recreation of its famous 1960s city car is so faithful; you really can park the new and old models next to each other and compare like for like.
Following on from the massive success of the 500 hatchback, Fiat wasted no time in removing the roof to create the diminutive 500C cabriolet, and now it's been updated in line with a raft of changes made late in 2015.
That means it's got tweaked lights and bumpers at the front and similar treatment at the back, while inside has a new infotainment system, smart digital dials and even more personalisation options than ever before.
It's not a true convertible, though, as only the centre section of the roof folds down, and the window frames on either side remain in place.
The range of small and cheap to run petrol and diesel engines from the hatchback is carried over, and unsurprisingly the 500C drives similarly to the hatchback, with light and easy controls. The same cute, retro looks are a big part of the appeal, and a big selling point for the 500.
MPG, running costs & CO2
All versions are cheap to run
Any 500 is cheap to run as the small engines sip fuel. The 1.2-litre engine musters 60.1mpg and emits 110g/km so Road Tax is £30 a year, while the 'Eco' version of this engine manages 65.7mpg. this equates to CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, dropping it below the magic 100g/km mark and thus making it free to tax.
The diesel is by far the most affordable – it returns a fantastic 78.5mpg and emits 95g/km – that's a Road Tax bill of £0 per year. Insurance groups range from nine to 16, which is quite low for a convertible. In terms of mainatenance, you can opt for an 'Easy Care' service package that covers all servicing costs - including parts and labour - for the car's first three years of life for just £399.
There's also a two-cylinder 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engine, which appeals on paper with claimed economy of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. You'll struggle to reach the mpg figures though, because you have to rev the 500C TwinAir quite hard to make progress. It's also enjoyable to do this thanks to the car's thrummy sound, so you'll be visiting the petrol pumps a bit more regularly than originally expected. Still, 50mpg in every day driving is still easy to achieve.
Engines, drive & performance
The 500C’s ride is firm, but not uncomfortable
The Fiat 500C’s compact dimensions mean it's easy to drive around town. Steering is accurate, and top-spec versions even have a button on the dash which makes the steering even lighter to help with parking.
The 1.2 and 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engines deliver 69bhp and 85 and 104bhp respectively. The former is short on power, so it's best to go for the TwinAir petrol or the 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel version with 95bhp. The TwinAir engines in particular are enjoyable to drive. There's a distinctive growl to the engine note, encouraging you to rev it a bit harder, which you'll need to do to make good progress.
The 500C’s ride is firm, but not uncomfortable, while the most powerful versions with bigger wheels and tyres also offer plenty of grip in corners, although it can roll quite a bit. The convertible roof adds an extra dimension of fun to the driving experience, too.
Interior & comfort
It's a civilised convertible
The 500C’s cabin is surprisingly quiet and refined with the roof down. The fact that it's only the centre section of the roof that folds away helps to keep wind noise and buffeting low, so it's actually a rather civilised convertible - it just feels like a hatchback with an extra-large sunroof.
The dashboard looks great, thanks to a body-coloured piece of trim dominating the cabin, and Fiat has improved the quality of fixtures and fittings. There's also a new infotainment system, called UConnect, on higher-spec models, adding some much-needed modern technology to the 500C. There's also a new digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver, adding to the modern feel, but still suitably retro.
As with the hatchback, there's plenty of room for front seat passengers, but those in the rear will find it a little cramped.
Practicality & boot space
The 500C's fabric roof folds back electronically at the touch of a button
Convertibles usually have less space inside than their hatchback equivalents, but the 500C's 185-litre boot is identical to the hatchback's. It's not as big as those in the MINI Convertible and DS 3 Cabrio, but at least this doesn't change whether you've got the roof up or down.
The 500C's fabric roof folds back electronically at the touch of a button and can be operated at speeds of up to 37mph. It can also be partially opened, like a sunroof.
There's also a decent amount of storage inside the Fiat 500C, with cupholders and spaces to store odds and ends, although the door bins are quite small.
Reliability & safety
Optional extras can make this car look and feel more robust
Fiat’s reliability has been less than perfect in the past, but the range of engines used in the 500 have proved very dependable. The basic model misses out on electronic stability control, though, but the 500 hatchback still received a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2007. Since then, tests have become much tougher, but Fiat has kept the 500 up to date in this time and the 500C comes with seven airbags as standard.
In terms of reliability, Fiat doesn't have the best reputation. As a brand, Fiat came last in the 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with main concerns surrounding the build quality and seat comfort of its cars.
Price, value for money & options
Don't expect big discounts in the showroom
Convertible versions of the 500 cost £3,000 more than an equivalent hard top, but still look like good value for money. The Fiat is much cheaper than its retro rival, the MINI Convertible. As with the 500 hatchback, don't expect big discounts in the showroom, as the 500 is a popular car in any guise, and Fiat dealers know it. The convertible comes in two trim levels – Pop and Lounge. Alloy wheels are optional on Pop models, but they're standard on Lounge versions.