Fiat 500C convertible
“All the charm of the Fiat 500, but with the added fun of a fresh breeze in summer”
- Small engines are cheap to run
- Simple electric folding roof
- Cool retro looks
- Not a 'true' convertible
- Basic entry-level model
- Not that much room in the back
When the Fiat 500 arrived, it joined the ranks of retro throwback models like the Volkswagen Beetle and MINI hatchback, which stormed up the sales charts. But of the three, the Fiat was arguably closest to recreating the design of the original 1960s icon, with all the similarities clear to see even if you park both cars side-by-side.
The reborn 500 proved a smash hit, so Fiat started to look at expanding the range. The 500C cabriolet arrived soon after to compete with the MINI Convertible and DS 3 Cabrio, with a similar roof design to the latter.
This sees the fabric roof retract while the roof pillars and side windows stay in place, providing a wind-in-the-hair driving experience without radically changing the 500’s iconic shape or compromising safety. The 500C drives almost identically to the closed-roof version, too. The controls are light – this is a city car after all – and the Fiat is easy to drive and park.
Fiat gave the 500 range an overhaul in late 2015, implementing lots of updates, but only tweaking the characterful exterior with subtle changes to the lights and bumpers. A facelifted 500 is easier to spot inside, where there’s a new infotainment system, digital gauges and different upholstery.
If you’re familiar with the hatchback, the same range of small and economical petrol and diesel engines features here, as does the same list of trim levels. Entry-level Pop cars are a little spartan, but Pop Star brings air-conditioning, alloy wheels and electric mirrors. The Lounge is better equipped, with a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system, while the Mirror increases the screen size to seven inches and introduces Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The 500 finished 45th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.
While the 500C hasn’t been officially crash-tested, the near-identical 500 hatchback has been subjected to Euro NCAP safety testing twice, scoring the full five stars in 2007, but only managing three stars in 2017. This shows just how much tougher the test has become, and the fact it now takes into account the latest safety technology (like autonomous emergency braking), which the Fiat 500C lacks.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Any 500 is cheap to run as the small engines sip fuel. The 1.2-litre engine musters 60.1mpg and emits 110g/km for a Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating of 21% for company-car drivers. The 'Eco' version of this engine manages 65.7mpg, equating to CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, and an 18% BiK band.
Insurance groups range from 11 to 17, which is quite low for a convertible. In terms of maintenance, 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 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 90g/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 everyday driving is easy to achieve.
Engines, drive & performance
The Fiat 500C’s compact dimensions mean it's easy to drive around town. Steering is accurate, and top-spec versions have a button on the dash that 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 and 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 there's quite a bit of body lean. The convertible roof adds an extra dimension of fun to the driving experience, too.
Interior & comfort
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 an infotainment system, called UConnect, on higher-spec models, adding some much-needed modern technology to the 500C. There's also a 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
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
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.
In 2017, the 500 was retested under stricter criteria and scored just three out of five stars, despite being fitted with seven airbags and updated safety features included in the facelift. This is largely because the 500 doesn’t feature the latest active safety kit like autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
The 500 was rated below average for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 11.8% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once.
Price, value for money & options
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 four core trim levels – Pop, Pop Star, Lounge and 500S Convertible, along with special-edition models. Alloy wheels are optional on the Pop model, but they're standard on the Pop Star trim.