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Fiat's 500 now a pseudo soft-top

2009-02-17 07:35
Fiat is very careful not to call its new 500C a ca

Fiat is very careful not to call its new 500C a cabriolet. Featuring a retracting soft-top roof, it doesn’t matter what it is, they won’t be able to produce enough of them when it becomes available.

Fiat’s indomitable 500 city car now affixes a C to indicate its summery soft-top model, ready to wow the crowds at the Geneva motor show, starting on the third of March.

It might be snowing profusely in the Europe currently, but Fiat, in typically dismissive Italian style, are paying no mind to the weather. The Italian auto giant has made its disarming 500 even more desirable with a soft-top version, and whilst the snow will be laying thick outside the Palexpo in Geneva, Fiat will pull the covers of its desirable new summer fashion accessory.

Not an authentic cabriolet, but who cares?

Not a standard cabriolet either, mind you. The 500C’s sliding soft-top is electrically controlled, and seeing as it’s in fact nothing more than a glorified soft-top sunroof, the 500C retains a greater degree of structural rigidity than other ‘proper’ cabriolets in class.

You sacrifice nearly nothing in terms of luggage space with the soft-top rolled all the way back and it retains a full-glass rear-window too. Available in three colours - ivory, red and black – the soft-top colour combination most fetching in 500 form is definitely a red canvas top and white body hue.

The cute styling does work charmingly well with the sliding soft-top conversion, echoing the spirit of the original 500L which set the tone for pseudo sliding soft-tops in the late 1950s.

Not really a cabriolet is it? Retracting soft top looks less than neat when retracted too, and with those folds you wonder about durability. It's electrically operated too, and we all know how famously ingenious Italian automotive electrical engineering is...

Carry over engines

Mechanically the 500C carries over the three engines from its two-door sibling, which means two petrol engines, the 51kW 1.2l 8v and 74kW 1.4 16v, will power the 500C - with economy orientated European buyers having option on the 1.3l turbodiesel Multijet producing 55kW and 155Nm.

An Abarth turbocharged version of the 1.4 16v petrol engine, good for 99kW, is a possibility later on. Stop and start fuel saving technology is set to be incorporated on five-speed manual 500C models too.

Despite the disturbingly retracting global auto market, 500 sales have been nearly 50% beyond original Fiat targets, totalling 190 000 units for 2008. 

It’s due to become the beach boulevard image machine of 2009, and should help Fiat keep up sales momentum in a market desperately trying to find any traction. No market entry date has been set, but expect 500C to roll around showroom by the second quarter, in anticipation of the European summer.


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