0 Comments
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario new car review Photo: Daniel DeGasperi
 
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
2018 Fiat 500
 
Daniel DeGasperi | Jul, 24 2018 | 0 Comments

The term ‘retro’ can have both positive and negative connotations. In the case of the 2018 Fiat 500 Anniversario, though, retro-cool firstly forms as a stylishly good one.

Congratulations is in order for any nameplate that turns 60 years old, and a decent cheers is especially in order for something as impossibly cute yet honestly purposeful as this. In a world increasingly preferencing flab and excess, the light and frugal Cinquecento has long moved millions globally in a simple yet stylish fashion.

Cue the 500 Anniversario, available locally in 51 autos or just nine manuals, and coated in a trio of no-cost-option retro pastel colours – Sicilia Orange as tested, creamy Gelato White, or deep Riviera Green, matched with funky white alloy wheels.

Otherwise there are no major changes to a generation of micro-hatch Fiat that has been around for a full decade now. Behind the retro facade, then, it might be a case of retrograde … but not in a good way.

Vehicle Style: Micro hatchback Price: $23,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 51kW/102Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol | five-speed single-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 l/100km | Tested: 7.0 l/100km

OVERVIEW

At one point the current-generation entry-level 500 dropped to $14,990 plus on-road costs – a stellar sticker. Nowadays it starts at $17,990 (plus orc), although a recent facelift has added a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology.

More kit features on the 500 Lounge at $19,990 (plus orc), which forms the basis for this 500 Anniversario at $21,990 (plus orc). Both get alloy wheels, a fixed glass roof, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and digital radio. Curiously, however, the Anniversario downsizes to a 5.1in screen and ditches smartphone mirroring for integrated TomTom sat-nav, while it adds 16-inch tyres (up from 15s) and part-leather trim but deletes climate control.

Either way, there’s still no reverse-view camera or autonomous emergency braking (AEB) on any model grade; all of which are standard on a much cheaper Kia Picanto.

And the 500 has actually gone backwards both for value and powertrain tech. For $20K it previously came with a superb 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbo engine with 63kW of power and 145Nm of torque, or a 1.4-litre four-cylinder with 74kW/133Nm.

Now all model grades get a 1.2-litre four with just 51kW/102Nm. The 12.9-second 0-100km/h claim is 2.4sec slower than the old 1.4L, and the claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres is 0.9L/100km behind the two-cylinder turbo. Fiat then asks a further $1500 for a five-speed single-clutch automatic transmission, making this one expensive celebration special at $23,490 (plus orc)…

THE INTERIOR | RATING: 2.5/5

Standard Equipment: Multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, leather steering wheel, part-leather seats, cruise control, fixed glass roof, automatic-off headlights and tyre-pressure monitor. Infotainment: 5.1-inch colour touchscreen with single AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite navigation and digital radio. Options Fitted: None. Cargo Volume: 185 litres.

Beyond the new LED daytime running lights and redesigned headlight cluster, this 500 gets a chrome stripe on its bonnet and Anniversario badge on the outside, as well as piped part-leather seats with a numbered ‘Anniversario’ build plaque inside.

From the sturdy doors, to the colour-matched dashboard applique, mix of cream and black, plus a splash of chrome, the 500 still looks good and feels well-built inside. It certainly isn’t semi-premium like a Mini Cooper is – and that British retro-hatch has gone through two generations to this Italian’s Uno – but it does cost about $10K less.

The seats are surprisingly comfortable up front and headroom especially is decent, while a driver’s arms fall naturally to the neat leather-wrapped (although adjustable only for height) steering wheel. This is a proper little Bambino, but it’s also city car that wins over driver and passenger despite its diminutive 3571mm body length.

A reasonably-sized 185-litre boot also takes priority over a duo of rear seats that are strictly kids only. Legroom behind the front chairs is okay, but the head of even this 178cm-tall tester was pressed firmly into the roof.

Consumers these days are used to paying more while getting less, and in the case of the smartphone, a reduced lump in your hand and bulge in your pocket is without question a good thing. To a degree it could be the same here – less size is more fun.

Unfortunately, however, this Anniversario asks for a high entry price for both its small cabin and a significant technology and features deficit.

The 5.1in touchscreen is a slow, low-resolution unit that feels retro-2008. And although the digital radio is a great addition, the TomTom sat-nav is the worst sampled in any current new car, proving fiddly and unintuitive. Why doesn’t the celebration special get the 7.0in unit with CarPlay? Well, in any case a lack of a reversing camera is unacceptable at any pricetag these days.

There really is nothing wrong with cheeky yet simple design, and fewer features, but the price premium for what this cabin offers is simply too steep here.

ON THE ROAD | RATING: 2.5/5

Engine: 51kW/102Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol Transmission: Five-speed single-clutch automatic, FWD Suspension: Strut front and torsion beam rear Brake: Ventilated front and rear drum brakes Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering

Every other light hatch these days uses a torque converter four- to six-speed automatic, or in the case of a Volkswagen Polo 70TSI, a seven-speed dual-clutch.

As the single-clutch name suggests, however, the 500’s five-speed auto is about half as complex in design to a dual-clutch, but it’s also about half as competent. Here, computers robotically dip and release only one clutch to shift back and forth, whereas a dual-clutch always has the next gear engaged.

Drive it like a mad Sicilian would and the auto kind of works, winding out the engine and thumping home the next gear. Drive it not like a racecar, though, and it will lurch forward on each upshift, and – worse – grab taller gears but refuse to then go back, leaving you foot flat on hills and going nowhere. It is as poor as it sounds, so, quite simply, save $1500 and pick the manual.

Then there’s the engine. The little Fiat only weighs 920kg, so the 1.2-litre is actually a sweet thing that is keen to rev and reasonably refined. But there isn’t enough of it for this price. Its 4.8L/100km claim also blew out to 7.0L/100km on test, which would seem frugal if it wasn’t for the slow performance and need for premium unleaded.

Past experience also adds insult to injury, because both the superseded 0.9L turbo and 1.4L non-turbo have previously added significantly to the 500’s performance.

Yet for all those flaws this Anniversario is still so honest and fun to drive. The steering is light and immediate, and while the firm suspension can sometimes feel like a po-go stick, the chassis hangs in there tenaciously over whatever surface. It feels solid, not tinny, and agile, not sloppy.

Dynamic dues must go to the Continental ContiPremiumContact tyres, which help elevate this three-door’s handling ability significantly. There’s little finesse but plenty of stick.

For all the downsides, too, you could also look at this 500 from another perspective: everywhere you drive you’ll pretty much beat anyone to the tightest parking spot in the area, and that may well make this little Fiat the fastest car available in the city.

SAFETY

ANCAP Rating: 5 stars – this model scored 34.91 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2008.

Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC), and rear parking sensors.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/150,000km kilometres.

Servicing: Average annual or 15,000km service intervals are charged at a higher-than-average capped-price cost of $271.94/$597.60/$271.94/$597.60/$271.94 for the first five respectively.

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

The similarly sized Picanto GT may not have the characterful design and badge cache of the 500, but even with the four-speed automatic it drives with greater distinction and is roomier inside.

The Swift GLX Turbo is a class larger, but it utterly humbles this Fiat for drivability and dynamic polish, teamed with modern connectivity and active safety technology.

The Mini’s great in entry-level form, but nowadays it kicks off at $100 less than $30K.

  • Kia Picanto GT
  • Mini Cooper
  • Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 2.5/5

Especially charming in this bright Anniversario guise, the 500 also continues to be fun to drive and imperviously produced.

It still feels like it was born to move masses cheaply and effectively, with little flab and few features, and that deserves acclaim. In Australia, however, the pricetag leaves this Fiat out of its depth and well beyond the model’s remit.

The fact that the current engine range is inferior to that a half-decade ago, while being pricier, only adds to this generation’s core age issue. While the connectivity of this hatch has been updated, safety and transmission technology is left to languish.

All of which leaves this 500 Anniversario looking at once lovingly retro-chic and disappointingly retrograde.

 
Filed under 500 Fiat small car
 
TMR Comments
LOAN CALCULATOR
i
Latest Comments