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Fiat 500 Pop

 

The 500 Pop is lot of fun provided you drive like an Italian...

Base price: $19,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.2-litre petrol four, 51kW/102Nm, 5-speed manual, front-drive, Combined economy 5.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h.

Vital statistics: 3546mm long, 1488mm high, kerb weight 905kg, luggage capacity 182 litres, fuel tank 35 litres, 14-inch steel wheels on 175/65 Continental ContiEcoContact tyres.

We like: Sheer character, powertrain verve, price.

We don’t like: Not an easy car to drive, interior controls infuriating.

How it rates: 8/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

That some companies can sell small cars at premium prices and some can’t. While Mini seems to have the knack of charging big money for tiny vehicles, high prices have been the downfall of the Fiat 500 in New Zealand. So new distributor Fiat Chrysler (appointed in May this year) has radically repositioned the little car.

Now, you can buy a brand-new Fiat 500 for $19,990. It’s got a tiny engine and steel wheels, but in some ways that’s the essence of the car’s character. It’s now chic and cheap, which is what it always needed to be.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The 500 Pop is lot of fun provided you drive like an Italian. The 1.2-litre engine has very modest outputs indeed, the steering feels wooden and the ride is a bit choppy because the wheelbase is so short.

Cruise around town and you might wonder what all the fuss from 500 enthusiasts is about.

But the key is to drive the 500 with maximum brio. You don’t have to exceed the speed limit, but you do have to visit the engine’s redline, steer corners in a series of 90-degree arcs and generally just throw the thing around. You will love it.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

The retro flavor in the cabin really works and it’s completely unpretentious, but some of the ergonomics could do with work.

Some of the design touches are really cool, like the single dial that houses both speedometer and rev counter; it’s fun watching the needles chase each other around.

Others are infuriating, such as the pushbutton volume controls for the stereo and the impossibly complicated menus for things like the trip computer and Bluetooth cellphone connection. The so-called Blue&Me phone system in general leaves a lot to be desired: it’s slow to pick up and even slower when you’re trying to disconnect, to the point where you wonder if you should actually bother.

Great visibility thanks to the large glass areas and upright seating position, though, and there’s actually plenty of room for two to get around town. Just don’t take adults in the back seat and keep a check on your shopping, since the boot is only 182 litres (although you can fold the 50/50-split rear seats to make more cargo space).

Really, what were you expecting in a car less than 3.5 metres long?

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

The 500 Pop does prove that a car need not be fast to appeal to the enthusiast. It’s a lot of work to drive but a lot of fun as well, and if you’re after a city that that rises above being a mere appliance then this is $20k well spent.

There are 1.4-litre models with more power, but such is the charm if the entry-level Pop we’d struggle to justify them. The outrageous Abarth performance models, however, are another matter…

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Manual

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: No/No

Blind spot warning: No

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: No

Driver footrest: Yes

Gas discharge headlights: No

Head-up display: No

Heated/ventilated seats: No

Keyless entry/start: No

Lane guidance: No

Leather upholstery: No

Parking radar: No

Power boot or tailgate: No

Power seat adjustment/memory: No

Rear ventilation outlets: No

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: No

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Self-parking technology: No

Split/folding rear seats: 50/50

Steering reach adjustment: Yes

Stop-start: No

Trip computer: Yes

Find a Fiat 500 Pop HERE


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