"All the retro style and city-driving fun of the 500 hatchback, 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. 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.
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 1.4-litre petrol engines deliver 69bhp and 100bhp respectively. The former is short on power, so it's best to go for the 1.4 petrol or the 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel version with 95bhp. 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.
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. As with the hatchback, there's plenty of room for front seat passengers, but those in the rear will find it a little cramped.
As with the hatchback, the 500C offers a huge amount of scope for personalisation. The optional extras are well made, and when added carefully can make the car look and feel more robust. Overall, the cabin is of good quality, and it's noticeably better than that of the Panda on which it's based. 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.
Convertibles usually have less space inside than their hatchback equivalents, but the 500C's 183-litre boot is only two litres smaller than that of the standard car. It trumps rivals like the Citroen C3 Pluriel with its 137-litre boot and the MINI Convertible, which has 125 litres. 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.
Value for money
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.
Any 500 is cheap to run as the small engines sip fuel. The 1.4 is the most expensive with 48.7mpg and emissions of 135g/km, which means a £110 per year Road Tax bill. The 1.2-litre engine musters 58.9mpg and emits 113g/km so Road Tax is £30 a year. The diesel is by far the most affordable – it returns a fantastic 72.4mpg and emits 104g/km – that's a Road Tax bill of £20 per year. Insurance groups range from nine to 16, which is quite low for a convertible.