Fiat 500 in India test drive

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best small cars from its era and no wonder we had it covered on our website however it did strike me that we haven’t checked out that other cutie from the retro world namely the Fiat 500. Now, the Fiat 500 in India just like the Volkswagen Beetle is just for promotional purposes or rather brand building exercise and not been seen as a volumes generator. Did you actually know that the Italians give some very cool name to their cars. The Fiat 500 is actually known as the Cinquecento in Italy. The word by the way means 500 in Italian. It was way back in 1957 that Dante Giacosa designed this car. However that was nowhere near the one that stands today. The original one was created for the purpose of setting the Italian economy up. The new Roberto Giolito supervised design cues seem more modern but yet retro when you go into the intricacies. Well then, we have a Fiat 500 for the test drive and here is the recount of the same.

The Fiat 500 like the Volkswagen Beetle is bound to give you enough of stares on the road. So much so that you would feel like celebrities. The front end is very distinguished from the Volkswagen Beetle and even though the Fiat 500 in India has only a length of 3.25 meters, it garners enough attention to shame even a Mercedes Benz SL 500. 16 inch rims with low profile tyres and a stunning alloy wheel design ensure that this looks very much a modded piece to the hilt. It has got that typical red and white color scheme. The head lamps are small bugsey types with the parking lamps just below them. There is no radiator grille and if at all that small aperture is to be termed as one, then it would mostly be ignored. The new Fiat logo with chrome extensions on both the sides reminded me of the Buggati logo. The air dam is a meshy affair and gives this car a sporty aura. Besides it, housed in small compartments are two of tiniest fog lamps I have ever seen on a car. The bumper had good protrusions. Wish we had the Abarth version with us complete with all the body kit. The door mirrors look exactly like the ones on the Volkswagen Beetle but they are mounted on black stalks. The door handles are made of chrome and aren’t body colored. This is a 2 door hatchback. The rear brings forth the retro theme again but now with some modern cues. The tail lamps have those crystalline effect glass and there is a chrome bar on the bumper. The tail pipe is also a mashed one like in those Fast and Furious movies. Well, I forgot to inform you that the roof was also in half black due to the presence of a sunroof.

Ahh! Pardon my gushing but then this is what you would call as a classic interior with modern styling themes. There is use of white material, gray as well as red for the dashboard. Now, the steering wheel is white and it has got a black boss with the Fiat logo in it. It has got steering mounted audio , Bluetooth and cruise controls on it. The upper half of the dashboard is in grey whereas the lower half is in glossy red. The audio as well as aircon controls are in white and this sometimes make them illegible in bright light. The build quality (forgive me Volkswagen purists) is better than what I experienced in the Volkswagen Beetle. There is a white faced speedometer with a concentric tachometer as well as other tell tale lights. This actually look better than the Volkswagen’s unit. There is also aux input for the music player. The seats are fully adjustable but as in the Beetle, I had some hard time finding a comfortable driving position, the protruding dashboard making things worse.  But then once seated, you would forget all the discomfort and move onto driving this car. I don’t think boot space would be something which buyers in this category would looking for but then there is still 185 liters of space in that small boot.

Ride and handling is something which also shouldn’t matter to the buyers of the Fiat 500 in India. But then images of the Abarth version cornering like on rails would definitely bouy expectations from the Fiat 500 in India. For the uninitiated, the Abarth version is the spruced up version of the road going Fiat 500 similar to what AMG do to Mercedes cars. Having the 4 wheels at the four corners of the chassis ensures that this car handles rather well. Body roll is well controlled due to the competent chassis and the small turning diameter. On a crowded road, it was very easy to navigate the Fiat 500 inspite of the somewhat heavy steering feel. The steering wheel by the way is a nicer unit to hold, again in comparison with the Volkswagen Beetle. Due to uncertain rains in Mumbai, I had to negotiate a wet patch of the road and the car cornered even well in the wet conditions. As far as ride quality goes, the Torsion Beam  at the rear with gas cushions and cross member stabilizer bar with independent with Mcpherson setup in the front  have been setup to be on the firmer side. Initially, I did find the ride to be back breaking but then later on with another of my colleague in the passenger seat and a small suitcase in the trunk, the ride didn’t seem as back breaking as earlier. It means that load the car and you would get a good ride quality. I personally feel that this is a small trade-off for the exceptional handling that the car provides.

The Fiat 500 in India is offered with the choice of a single 1.3 liter multijet engine. This same engine can be found under the hoods of many of other Fiat vehicles in India as well as those of Maruti and Tata cars. It is the 1248 cc common rail engine pumping out 75bhp @ 4000rpm and 145Nm @ 1500rpm. It is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. For the first time, I found one of Fiat’s gearboxes to work superbly. It had superb upshift as well as downshift action. Very positive, I would say. The clutch feel however was a bit on the heavier side, one which would improve with a minor tweaking. Acceleration was sprightly with all those torque made lower down the rev range and been accessible almost from the start of it. 0-100 kmph lap was completed in a cool 12.3 seconds whereas the top speed that it maxxed out was on 156 kmph. This engine may have some clatter under the hoods of other cars but not so for the Fiat 500. Engine noise is nicely muted and it is very difficult to tell if this car has a diesel or petrol power plant up front. Driveability is also nice but then you have to flog this engine at the upper rev range to extract any good performance.

Fiat 500 Photo Gallery

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Braking is achieved via 240mm Ventilated Disc at the front and 180 mm self adjusting drums at the rear. It is at par with the Volkswagen Beetle but then the brake pedal didn’t transmit much information and somehow felt wooden. Fiat have done well to give the car electronic aids like EBD and ABS to get the braking distances reduced. Since this is a CBU like the Volkswagen Beetle, the safety part of it also hasn’t been compromised. There are dual air bags, Fire Prevention System, Engine Immobilizer With Rolling Code, 3 point seat belts with pretensioners and a collapsible steering column. This car gets 5 stars (which is the maximum) in Euro NCAP safety rankings.

Fuel efficiency would be the last thing for a buyer of the Fiat 500 in India. But then I just mentioned India, so fuel efficiency would somewhere be down the line in the list of questions that would be asked to the sales person at Fiat show rooms. May be he will pro-actively discuss it. This made me remember the Maruti ad which is coming up nowadays on the telly. After discussing details of a spaceship to a group of onlookers, the scientist is flummoxed when one person in the group asks him what is the average of that spaceship. No wonder, this ad won the “NDTV Advertisement of the Year” award recently. The Fiat 500 weighs 865kgs and this coupled with the multijet engine with short gearing ensures that the Fiat returns 14 kmpl in city and a good 19.2 kmpl on the highway.

The Fiat 500 in India like the Volkswagen Beetle would cater to a niche market. A two door hatchback with a legend behind it, it would sell purely for emotional reasons. Not to forget the novelty factor. Italians are known to do things in flair and the Fiat 500 is no different. The Fiat 500 is available in 2 variants namely the Lounge(now what does that have to do with this car?) and Sport. There are only some cosmetic differences between them and the price difference is also not much. The Fiat 500 price in India starts at Rs 15,19,500 and ends at Rs 15,20,652. All these figures are ex-show room, Mumbai. Way cheaper than the Volkswagen Beetle but then having the same exclusivity factor. Later on this year, Fiat are planning on bringing in a 1.2 liter multi air engine. Wait and watch this space for more.

Technical Specifications of the Fiat 500 in India

Engine: 1248cc, DOHC, 16V, Multijet
Fuel Type: Diesel
Power: 75 bhp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 145 Nm @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Overall length x width x height: 3546mm X 1627 mm X 1488 mm
Wheelbase: 2300mm
Turning Radius: 4.4 m
Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 liters
0-100kmph: 12.30 seconds
Top Speed: 156 kmph
Fuel Economy: 14 kmpl in city and 19.2 kmpl on the highway
Tyres: 185/55/16 Tubeless Radials
Ground clearance: 160mm
Kerb Weight: 865kgs
Suspension: Front – Subsidiary cross member stabiliser bar with Independent Mcpherson setup and lower wishbones connected to a shock absorber, Torsion Beam with gas shock absorbers at the rear
Brakes: 240mm Ventilated Disc (Front), 180mm Drums ( Rear)
Boot Volume: 185 liters

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