FIRST DRIVE | New 2021 Fiat 500 is a compelling left field purchase
The Fiat 500’s main selling point is that it adds style to the city car concept. With a starting price of R219,000, the modern version, which has been refreshed for 2021, maintains the inexpensive-and-practical car zeitgeist of 1957.
There are four new specification grades — Cult, Connect, Sport, or Dolcevita — and six models to choose from. The Sport and two-tone painted Dolcevita can also be had in cabriolet form priced at R319,900 and R324,900, respectively.
All are powered by an eco-minded, 62.5kW and 145Nm 875cc two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, except the Dolcevita range, which comes with five-speed automatic transmissions.
Fuel consumption is rated at 3.8l/100km and acceleration from 0-100km/h in 11 seconds.
Safety is covered by seven airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, hill-holder and a speed limiter — all standard fitments across the range.
The latest model looks fresher and cheekier thanks to restyled daytime running lights that are inspired by the zero in the 500 logo. The range-topping Dolcevita models have extra swagger with chrome-cream accents, bespoke 16-inch alloy wheels, techno-leather multifunction steering wheel, glass roof, Matelassé fabric seats with techno leather details, and a 50/50 split rear seat.
There are more than enough personalisation options through the gradewalks and the interiors are designed to fit four passengers and small bags, albeit with a snug fit.
Interior upgrades extend to cruise control, and a Uconnect infotainment centre with CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity.
There is much pleasure in zipping about the city confines and it proved an excellent drive. The little motor has enough oomph and refinement for the purposes of a swift, cute urban runaround. The few highway straights we encountered at the car’s launch showed it can maintain 120km/h without a struggle, and the initially bothersome MTA transmission, essentially a manual transmission with an automated clutch, has been tweaked for smoother operation.
The Fiat 500 is a fun and efficient city car with a few understandable foibles. While not an exemplary budget family hatch, it’s a compelling purchase for singles or empty-nesters when viewed with the possibility of having classy items such a cream seats and an opening roof in Dolcevita 500C guise for less money than the price commanded by many of the larger, mid-tier mainstream hatchback alternatives.
All Fiat 500 models come with a three-year/100,000km warranty.
Fiat 500 Cult 0.9L 5MT — R219,900
Fiat 500 Connect 0.9L 5MT — R260,900
Fiat 500 Sport 0.9L 5MT — R269,900
Fiat 500 Dolcevita 0.9L 5AT — R274,900
Fiat 500 Sport Cabriolet 0.9L 5MT — R319,900
Fiat 500 Dolcevita Cabriolet 0.9L 5AT — R324,900
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