I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car as small as the Fiat 500. That’s small on the outside because inside, it seems to stretch to accomodate all you can throw at it. The back seats would certainly take two toddlers, or a couple of young teenagers.
Jessica and I managed to pack weekend bags, coats and assorted wet eather gear into the boot easily. Our backseat was a more than comfortable platform for a large, brown Vizsla who accompanied us to the Pembroke Arms in Wilton, near Salisbury.
Fitting Malin into an assortment of cars can be a test of nerve and ingenuity. I feared the worst with the 500 but he seems happier in it than most cars.
It’s either because he can sit upright with plenty of headroom, or because he read the blurb for the Pembroke Arms, which provided him with a dog bed, his own canine menu (steak, saugages – can you believe it!) and some biscuit treats as part of the deal.
You have to accept a few idiosyncracies with the Fiat interior. It’s tricky to find the slot for the safety belt, the white steering wheel and headrests are going to get grubby pretty quickly and the 500 really should have steering columns controls for the music system.
But I still sit very comfortably on the wide fabric seats and there’s a tremendous ambience about the cabin. If colour, form and function affect your driving mood, you really need to try a Colour Therapy.
Wiltshire was gridlocked last night. A major downpour in this country and everything comes grinding to a halt – not much fun in a little motor like the Fiat 500. We arrived at the exquisite Pembroke Arms in Wilton (www.pembrokearms.co.uk), parked the car in a puddle and dashed in.
The hotel has a first floor ballroom that comes straight from the pages of a Jane Austen novel. In the nineteenth century guests would have arrived by carriage, which made our entrance in a brightly coloured supermini even more comical.
However, don’t be fooled by the size of 500 or the TwinAir’s 875cc engine. What it lacks in stature it makes up for in style and performance. It’s the only retromobile that has an interior which puts a smile on your face – every time you get in. Much more exciting than a Mini.
It’s quite simply a masterclass in cool, even if our Colour Therapy model lacks steering wheel-mounted control buttons for the entertainment unit, plus a seat height adjustment lever mounted on the left of the seat that could easily be grabbed instead of the handbrake!
And if two-cylinders and 85bhp don’t sound much, in the lightweight 500 it adds up to a whole lot of fun. The engine note under acceleration sounds like a World War Two bomber coming into land – it would be rude to say sewing machine.
You have to work through the five-speed gearbox a bit but the results are amazing. The TwinAir just loves a sound thrashing and responds with loads of heart. Not only that but we’ve driven 65 miles around Wiltshire today and the fuel gauge hasn’t moved yet!
So what’s missing? Well, just a trip computer to tell us what the economy is – we have to be averaging more than 60mpg and I’m not exactly holding back with the right foot! More tomorrow…