Fiat 500C – Flash By Name…

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My only sad moment in the 500C happened yesterday when I heard on the radio (wot, no DAB Fiat?) than comedian Rik Mayall had died. For a generation of schoolboys, Mayall was the anarchic madman, smashing his head through walls, hitting Ade Edmondson with a cricket bat and generally being a lunatic.

Twenty years ago, I met the pair of them for lunch in a Bristol restaurant, to promote their hit comedy show Bottom. It was supposed to be an hour-long interview – three hours later we were still eating cake and ice cream.

Fortunately for me, both of them were off the booze, which at least gave me a fighting chance. Except they kept filling my glass and the interview notes read like gobbledegook when I got back to my desk later.

What I also found when I got back to the office was that my jacket was heavier than when I had left several hours earlier. Mayall and Edmonsdon had filled my pockets with cutlery and let me walk out the restaurant…

 

 

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Fiat 500C – Power Aid

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How much power does a little car like the Fiat 500 need? Well, the barnstorming, 135bhp  Abarth version is crazy fun but probably too much of a handful for many people, while the range starts with the 1.2-litre version we are testing. Our car kicks out 69bhp and for anything outside of the city, is way too slow.

The problem is that there is no acceleration from a standstill, to the point where it feels like you have to time your exit from a junction with extra thought and care. It takes an age to get going and with four people on board, would be bordering on the dangerous.

Which brings me to the excellent 0.9 Twin Air. This version produces 85bhp from a two-cylinder engine and has plenty of torque for accelerating too. Another safe option would be the 1.3 Multijet diesel that produces 95bhp – more than enough grunt for the little 500.

So, if you are buying a 500C, just make sure you test all the engines before making a choice. Our 1.2 probably isn’t the best, unless you want to dawdle at Morris Minor speeds…

Fiat 500C – Get Your Top Off

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Is your steering wheel black and boring? Just check out the gorgeous 500C! If you’re worried that the white leather might get dirty then please buy a Ford Fiesta.

I spent yesterday scooting around the Cotswolds in this crazy cool car and I think I was grinning inanely for most of it. It’s miles better than the class-leading Mini and dares to be deliciously different.

It’s been about a year since I have tested a 500 and I’m realising just how much I’ve missed it. If I lived in London and needed a city car – there’s no doubt that this would be it.

The roof on the 500C rolls back like a sardine can and Friday’s sunshine just made the whole experience more enjoyable. It’s going to lash down today but somehow, I think I will still be smiling…

Fiat 500C – Peel Back Here

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People buy a Fiat 500C because it offers wind in your hair pleasures at a modest price. It’s all about zipping around town, squeezing through the narrowest of gaps and enjoying every last minute of sunshine behind the wheel.

The 500C is as visually engaging now as it was at launch in 2009. It’s has one of the best interiors of any supermini, if not the best. A cunning mix of retro chic and style with excellent build quality.

If you want real performance there is an Abarth model, or you can go tax-free with the brilliant Twin Air engines.

So peering at the 500C parked on my driveway this morning, my first thought is what a cute and fun car. The next is how the heck does it justify the £16,375 price tag?

Hopefully, by tomorrow I should have a few answers…

Thursday – Panda Shoots & Leaves

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Last, sunny day with the Panda 4×4. A memorable week which has left me totally undecided about the merits of a tiny four-wheel drive based on a supermini.

Whether you think the Fiat is cute or contorted, it does turn heads. The upright styling doesn’t do it for me, even with the extra body mouldings and chrome scuff plates front and rear. The Panda is just too small for the off-road make-over.

Inside, the ‘squircles’ design theme is taken to the limit and gives some of the dash dials an awkward look and feel. This is especially true of the heater dials, which look like they have melted in the sun. While the door handles are awkward to grip.

There’s room for four adults, just, but you wouldn’t want to be travelling too far in the back. The boot is a decent size and there are plenty of storage spaces – many more than bigger cars usually offer.

Overall, the Panda 4×4 works best in an urban environment, or as a second car for those bad winter days of ice and snow. As that is a luxury few of us can afford, I’m not entirely sure who will buy the Panda 4×4, despite it’s excellent off-road abilities.

Wednesday – Tweed+Merc=Tw*t

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You see all forms of life in Tesco, Stow-on-the-Wold. Is there a posher ‘normal’ supermarket in Gloucestershire – possibly not. The car park is crammed with a wide selection of vehicles too, from mud-splattered Land Rover Defenders, to Range Rovers and Audi Q8s.

I squeezed the Panda in to a slot next to woman who had two members of staff helping her load a Mercedes G-Wagon. While most people are worrying about their next food bill and we already have food banks operating around the country, she was whinging about fitting 24 bottles of champagne in a shopping trolley alongside her chubby sprog.

I took an instant dislike – it was impossible not too. Then her backside, supported by legs that could have propped up an oil rig, bumped into my wing mirror. No apologies, she just carried moaning on regardless.

So what a joy it was to see her later in Stow town centre, arguing with a traffic warden who had slapped a ticket on her Merc. I’m going to put that man forward for some kind of civic award. Tweed+Merc=Tw*t. You wouldn’t see that happen to a Panda 4×4….

Tuesday – Panda, By A Short Nose

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The weighing in room at Cheltenham Racecourse is an interesting place to watch this week’s festival unfold. A lot of small men, with weather beaten faces and multi-coloured silks tipping the scales at ridiculously low weights.

Around them, there’s a distinct whiff of cash from the owners and trainers who nervously wait to see if it is going to be their year at National Hunt’s premier event. Money is no object to many of them and the slickest way to arrive at the course these days is by helicopter, then Range Rover or like us, in a Fiat Panda 4×4!

It may look slightly Postman Pat but the two-cylinder engine of the 0.9 TwinAir was the perfect antidote to the mass of Range Rovers and Mercedes clogging up the entrance to the car park. The Panda was able to out manoeuvre all of them into the tiniest of spaces.

I am starting to warm to the Panda. It does have faults but if you are prepared to use the six-speed gearbox enthusiastically, it rewards you with a fun drive, especially in town. In the country, it lacks a bit of grunt, especially for overtaking.