Tag: Fiat

Welcoming the sweetness of summer with the Fiat 500C Dolcevita

Timeless design is something that can often be subjective, but there are a few things that the majority of designers can agree on that are not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion. The few things that come to mind for me are dominated by Italian creations, from the more mundane like the intrinsic shape of a piece of pasta to the colossal 2000 year old Colosseum. Italians know a thing or two about style, longevity and tradition and the Fiat 500 is a modern day epitome of exactly that. We dropped the top on the new Fiat 500C Dolcevita for a few days to see if it’s fresh and funky attitude was a step forward for stylishness. 

It’s small but deceptively big. While this is the definition of an oxymoron, if you haven’t had the opportunity to sit inside one, the first thing that you think to yourself is how spacious the interior is. It might not be palatially sized like the inside of a Rolls Royce but there is a wealth of head, arm and leg room despite its compact dimensions. Even height gifted people can commodiously sit in the rear without having to contort themselves into their most compact form, and this is all with the canvas roof closed shut. 

This is something that the 500 has stayed true to when other pioneers of the supermini segment over a half century ago have opted to produce not-so-mini cars in the modern era. The imperative of the post-war era saw automotive manufacturers in European countries scrambling to create accessible mobility. The original Fiat 500 predating 1957 was the solution of Italy. It was a car that was affordable for the masses, could fit a family of 4 and was compact enough to navigate the traditionally narrow streets of cities like Rome and Naples. It was the packaging miracle of the time.

The modern derivative dwarfs its original counterpart with all the additional safety requirements and the general upsizing to appeal to international markets but it still maintains its cute proportions from before. While the size definition is a contradiction in itself, so is the automated manual transmission.

From the driving perspective, this is the biggest let down. The 2-cylinder engine is punchy and has sufficient torque throughout the rev range, the suspension is plush over urban Johannesburg road surfaces and the compact dimensions make it nimble in corners while the short wheelbase allows for rapid direction changes. 

The automated manual transmission struggles to cooperate with all of the other moving parts of the drivetrain and dulls the sweet experience somewhat. The engine revs hang before the transmission up or downshifts, the actual gear changes have been modelled on the slowest change in history and it struggles to engage on steep inclines. This is simply the nature of AMT gearboxes as a whole, regardless of what car they are implemented in. Either automatic transmissions or manual gearboxes would be my preference but unfortunately the 500C Dolcevita is only equipped with the 5-speed AMT.

That being said, when driven in a sedate manner (as this car typically would) these gripes are far less noticeable. The experience is smoother and the gear changes are less obvious. It comes into its own trundling around stylish city centers at low speeds, almost as if it wanted pedestrians to take notice. Nevertheless it can still cope on highways. While the ratios of the 5 speed gearbox were initially a concern, the gearing is capable of national speed limit cruising too with plenty of grunt from the 2-cylinder 875cc turbocharged petrol engine to go beyond. 

It’s hard to grasp the performance figures for this car. The power plant only produces a maximum of 62.5kW and 145Nm but it also only tips the scales at just under a ton too. While you won’t be winning any drag races, it’s off the line acceleration and sprightly traffic spirit make the numbers seem inaccurate and irrelevant. Where you will be winning is with its frugal economy and compact ability to park anywhere. An optimistic 4.0l/100km is claimed from the manufacturer but our combined driving conditions without implementing the power-sapping eco mode yielded just above 5l/100km.

When it comes to the interior, it is difficult to believe that the only significant update to the fascia has been its HD 7” touchscreen bluetooth radio. It still looks timeless by today’s standards!

The retro styled tachometer and driver displays are vastly different from anything else but engaging and usable. The central bluetooth infotainment system includes hands-free operation, voice recognition and most importantly; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility which means you can easily play your favorite tunes while having your hair blow in the wind with the top down. 

The cabrio version of the 500 range comes with far less boot space and a highly restrictive boot opening which still manages to be sufficient for groceries and limited luggage. While the original Fiat 500 came out with a canvas cabriolet top to reduce production costs on metalwork, this Cabriolet Dolcevita is the opposite.

A base Fiat 500 Cult can be had from as little as R219 900 while the range topping 500C Dolcevita comes in at R324 900. All models in the range include a 3-year/100 000 km warranty.

The visually enhanced aesthetic of the Dolcevita does add subtle hints of bling and tech to the overall package but it just seems slightly too out of budget for the small, city car that it is. It does however make a stylish statement, unlike any other A-to-B runabout and that is where the 500 range reigns supreme. Despite its faults, it induces a grin from start to finish especially with the top down and sunny skies above. Its longevity in production means that it has been at the forefront of the Fiat lineup for over a decade, with each minor update containing as much character and charisma from the country of its origin. This is la dolce vita (the sweet life), just in time for summer.

Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Pop Star

I have spoken about cult cars before and how they somehow manage to attract both car-nuts and car-nots. There is one car, though, that I feel manages to attract more car-nots than car-nuts – the Fiat 500. In 2007, Fiat decided to go the same route as BMW with the MINI brand and Volkswagen with the New Beetle. They reinvented a vehicle which was incredibly popular back in the day, but with modern engineering and, don’t vomit, “retro” styling. I hate that term, but that’s exactly what it is.

As you can imagine, the 500 was an instant hit and while it may have taken South Africans a moment to warm to the little newcomer, the rest of the world went bananas for it. Barring the Americans, of course. While it never really appealed to those of us who enjoy driving briskly, the trendy and fashion conscious set loved how adept the 500 was at karting their quinoa salad take-away home from Tashas.

The 500 recently underwent a not too insignificant revision and goodness has it transformed the 500. I was never the biggest fan of the pre-facelift’s asthmatic motors and while the 1.4 litre NA motor’s 74 kW might sound okay, the 131 N.m offered was not. I adored the concept of the 500 but always felt that there were a few shortcomings.

Enter the refreshed Fiat 500, now available with 2-cylinder sewing machine engine (not really) and a little turbocharger. The Pop Star model we had on test offers 63 kW and 145 N.m which is in fact less power than the previous 1.4 litre naturally aspirated motor and only 14Nm more torque, but said torque is now available from just 1 900 rpm as opposed the previous motor’s lofty delivery close to the 6 000 rpm redline. The higher-spec Lounge model has the same motor, albeit in a higher state of tune with 78 kW. This punchy motor, displacing a mere 900c, makes easy work of running around town and if you’re not too heavy footed, Fiat claim a combined average fuel consumption of just 3.8 l/100km which is impressive. Of course we didn’t achieve anything close to that figure which we put down to the fact that you still have to boot it a little to get moving, hence our average of 7.0 l/100km. A 1.3 litre turbo diesel motor is also expected to join the line-up at some stage.

Aside from the brilliantly characterful motor, the minor styling upgrades have done a world of good for the Cinquecento – it’s adorable. LED daytime running lights have now been incorporated into the smaller set of headlights which are actually the high beams and minor tweaks to the rear as well as an array of new colours and wheel options come together to create a rather endearing little thing.

Inside, the air vents have been redesigned and things have been moved around a little to incorporate FCA group’s all too familiar Uconnect infotainment system. It works just as well as the one found in Ferraris and Jeeps and should you go for the Lounge model with its 7” TFT instrument cluster, you’ll have quite the techy looking 500. Sound deadening materials have also been increased to minimise cabin noise and here too, different trim options can be had to best suit the trendy human who would buy this sort of car.

Prices start at a not too heady R179 900 for the Pop model and work their way up incrementally to R280 900 for the 500C 0.9 TwinAir Lounge Auto. I reckon the 500 TwinAir Pop Star is the sweet spot in the range with nice to haves such as xenon headlights and PDC should you be unable to confidently manoeuvre your 3cm long vehicle. All models come with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty and service plan.

The New Abarth 595 is here!

The Abarth 500’s have always been rapid cars. Mainly due to the very little weight and peaky 1.4 turbo motors. A while back, a good friend of mine owned one of these, complete with a tuning box to add a little more spice. We have no trouble sticking to the rear end of the Audi A6 – 3.0 Quattro. That little car was immense, it flew in 2nd and 3rd, sadly the tuning box had to be removed as it very nearly destroyed the turbo.

The new Abarth 595 is here, and with power produced by the Competizione, it really won’t need any sort of tuning box to upset the bigger boys.  Everything you need to know about the new 595 is below.

Performance

The new Abarth will feature three engine specifications. All Engines will remain 1400cc T-Jet and have the option of a manual or sequential transmission.

Abarth 595 : 106Kw  (142bhp) – 206Nm

Abarth 595 Turismo: 121kW (162bhp) – 230Nm

Abarth 595 Competizione: 132Kw (176bhp) – 250Nm

The latter in the range has the optional Performance Pack available, which features a mechanical limited-slip differential, 17” Supersport wheels, carbon fibre shell seats with a leather/Alcantara trimming and an aluminium carved 595 badge on the roof. That’s a strange one.

Exterior:

The new Abarth 595 will be available in 15 exterior colours, with the option of bi-colour schemes, mirror covers and decal sets.  Further to this, you have the option to choose from eleven alloy wheel choices, in either 16” or 17”.

The Abarth 595 also features new front and rear light clusters and LED running lights.

Interior:

A black fabric interior is standard on all models. with the option of seven trim levels, including leather and Alcantara options.  Also as standard is Air- Conditioning, electric windows, 7” Display with advanced sport mode, Bluetooth integration and steering wheel controls.

Also, an optional extra on the 595 Turismo and Competizione is the BeatsAudio system, which first featured on the VW Polo Beats. This system has a total output of 440 watts and will surely be an impressive system in the small 595.

 

Pricing

Abarth 595 – R299,950

Abarth 595 Cabrio – R339,950

Abarth 595 Turismo – R369,950

Abarth 595 Turismo Cabrio – R409,950

Abarth 595 Competizione – R443,950

Abarth 595 Competizione Cabrio – R483,950

Fiat Fullback: Can it cut it with today’s bakkie market?

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

That awkward moment when people ask you if you’re driving a Toyota Hilux, but your response is “no, it’s a Fiat”. This seemed to happen often whilst we had the Fiat Fullback on test, and the truth is that you can understand why people kept making this assumption. The side profile of the new Fiat Fullback does bear a resemblance to the iconic Hilux. People’s reaction to the realisation that this is a Fiat bakkie differed significantly though. Some were disappointed while others were intrigued, we, on the other hand, were more nervous than anything else.

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Knife to a gun fight?

The reason for this nervousness was because this car is in the ring with some fantastic heavyweights and naturally you want the underdog to win. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Volkswagen dominating the market, can the same people that make the Fiat 500 produce something that can please the local Bakkie market? The thing about all the newer Bakkies is that they work well off-road, but it’s their on-road “car-like” personas that make them so popular. The traditional bakkie has been turned into a lifestyle vehicle, and we wanted to see how good the Fullback will do as an everyday car.

The Fiat Fullback is not an entirely new car though; it is very closely related to the Mitsubishi Triton. Although not SA’s favourite bakkie, it has proved itself as tough and reliable over the years. Styling wise the Italian influence works for the car as it looks modern and somewhat good looking. The interior is still more in tune with a pick up rather than a passenger car. The infotainment is pretty average, but so are most of the competitor’s systems too. As long as we can pair a phone and plug in a USB, we’re happy, and thankfully both were possible in the test unit we received.  The Fullback’s interior is large and roomy, and one would be able to fit some adults in the front and rear with ease. The ride of the car is also very good for on-road use, even with the rear unloaded, often you tend to bounce around in an unloaded bakkie, but the ride quality was quite supple in the Fiat and on par with the some of the big guns.

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The double cab gives you two options, a 4×2 with 100kW/324Nm and a 4×4 producing 131kW/400Nm. Both use a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine; we had the latter at our disposal. The 4×4 has plenty torque and will no doubt not disappoint those looking for a powerful bakkie. The cars shortfall is the manual gearbox which is reminiscent of an old school truck. The gear changes really need some muscle to engage and when missed, the grinding noise makes you feel like you’ve failed at life. After a few days of understanding the way the car drives, it became easier to operate and more enjoyable as a result.

For those looking to get dirty, the Fullback is capable of climbing up and down rocky passes, as it has a 30-degree approach angle and a 22-degree departure angle. It can also travel laterally up to 45 degrees, so you can rest assured that the average city dweller who likes to go on excursions will be able to do so. The biggest question then with this car is why? Why buy this car over the competition? People buy the Hilux because of its reputation and the fact that you can generally get parts even in the most remote places. Others buy a Ford Ranger because it is the coolest bakkie hands down and it can still perform. The Amarok, on the contrary, is probably the best car-like bakkie you can get and even though it doesn’t sell as well as the others, it still has its place. An Isuzu buyer has probably grown up with KB’s in the house from an early age, so again we ask what makes the Fullback so special? Yes it looks good, and it’s comfortable, but unfortunately,  it’s not better than its competitors. In a segment where brand loyalty is probably at its highest, all we can do is wish Fiat the best with this car.  It’s not a bad product, but they will have to do much more to take on the best.

Prices:

Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900