The Fiat 500c Lounge is never going to win any races. But that doesn’t matter — it’s a hilariously fun ride. With prima Italian pedigree, the 500c would be the first to say it’s a lover, not a fighter.
The 500’s low centre of gravity will have you wishing all the world was a highway onramp. The 5-speed manual transmission increases the participation and fun. Gear down and push the pedal hard and you’ll feel the centrifugal pull while the tires remained pinned to the road.
The C actually stands for cabrio, not centrifugation. A cabriolet was originally a horse-drawn carriage with a collapsible hood. Both Cabrio models, the Pop and the Lounge, come with the retractable soft top. Despite it being nearly winter, we’ve had some freakishly warm weather lately, and were lucky enough to take advantage. Roof open, it’s a completely different experience.
The instrument panel doesn’t have any neurotic feature carping at you to gear up or down. It assumes you’re a grownup and will choose your time. But back to the fun: a sport suspension mode means more road feel on the posterior with the press of a button. Better still, you can switch off the electronic stability control for some very enjoyable oversteer.
Given its meagre turning circle and diminutive dimensions, the 500 is easy to park and ideal for the city, but it was even more thrilling on empty country roads where torque and horsepower matter less than sheer handling.
In these days of penny-pinching, you’ll be pleased to know that it drinks like a health-conscious nun, getting 6.7 L/100km in the city and 5.1 on the highway.
It’s long on style. Like some expensive Italian coffee machine, it’s utterly different looking and will not be everyone’s cup of cappuccino. But if you like that round and squat design on the outside, you’ll love the curvy consistency inside. You’re bathed in leather from the seats to the steering wheel, which is adorned with touch-sensitive controls.
You can see 360 degrees fairly easily and know that your rear is pretty much where the back window is, but there’s also backing radar (city dwellers often think in centimeters).
This car is small — even for an average sized guy. There’s very little spare room for passengers and their stuff. But ask any supermodel: beauty hurts.
It’s noisy on the highways (cloth roof). My kids wanted to play with the Sirius satellite radio, but over 90kph it’s hard to discern the sound above the noise of the motion. Music-loving passengers are encouraged in invest in a pair of noise–canceling headphones. Or a roof.
The pill shape means it tapers closer to clutch pedal – which takes some getting used to, especially if you have big feet (stop boasting). Depressing the clutch, you need to shift your foot well to the right to ensure it gets all the way down. We stalled in traffic a couple of times until I adjusted.
These complaints are important, but to the target candidate probably inconsequential. The real reason you’d buy a 500c is the Euro hipness of it. Rest assured that despite those drawbacks, it’s fun to operate and sure looks cool from the curb.
2013 Fiat 500c Lounge
As driven: $25,990