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Tested: Fiat 500 Convertible

2010-11-17 10:55

CUTE: Fiat's 500 Convertible is disarmingly lovable and ideal for cruising around during the summer

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Fiat
Model 500C
Engine 1.4 16V
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 10.5 seconds
Top Speed 182km/h
Fuel Tank 35 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.1litres/100km (claimed)
Steering Power-assisted
Airbags Dual front
Front Suspension McPherson strut
Rear Suspension Torsion beam
Service Intervals 30 000 km
Service Plan Five-year / 90 000 km
Warranty Three-year/100 000 km
Price R197 600

Sergio Davids

Fiat’s funky little 500 (commonly known as Topolino, or little mouse, in Italy) is a clear nod to the Fifties’ original and, with the addition of a drop-top roof, it’s become the perfect summer accessory.

It’s not a car for the manne: if what you drive is a reflection of who you are, then the 500C has you screaming “I’m fabulous”...at least in theory.

It’s cute, and has a disarmingly lovable quality. It’s something different in a market that seems to be flooded with city cars and in this regard is worth considering over the current host of “new/old” models.


As a city car it makes short work of city driving needs. Its 1.4-litre engine enables it to duck in and out of traffic with ease and there’s the Sport mode which adds weight to the steering and sharpens the accelerator's response without making it jerky. Once engaged I don’t think anyone would bother driving without it.

Driving at speed produces a fair amount of road noise and the suspension is quite harsh if you’re driving over irregular surfaces.

Then there’s the cabriolet aspect of the car. The roof is made of canvas, and depressing a switch folds it back in a two-step process without much fuss. A handy feature: while attempting to unlock the boot while the roof is down, it will automatically slide the roof up to provide access to the rear.

Also, if you’re caught in rain with the top down, you can retract the roof provided you’re travelling below 60km/h, which is very handy if you want avoid your hair mincing, and to protect the leather trim.

I wonder how one cleans a black canvas roof and checking the website I found they offer the roof in white or red…nothing says “aim here, pigeons” than a sheet of bright canvas on your car.

INTERIOR: The interior design is spoiled by the use of plastic throughout the cabin.

The cabin is unashamedly plastic; it’s not so much haute couture as Fisher Price. The digital dials are a nice touch and I never needed to hunt for controls or try to discern their function. It felt like I was driving an elitist toy and the host of plastic panels all over the interior only served to reinforce that feeling.

There’s a surprising amount of space inside, especially in the rear, and the boot is rather large for the car’s size. There's plenty of safety equipment on board but overall it feels as though there’s a lot more style than substance.


Fiat has always been plagued by questions of reliability and, despite the protest of diehard fans, the topic still remains “fluid” among drivers. Under the bonnet of our 500C test car we were forced to question its build quality.

We found signs of corrosion on the two shock-absorber towers as well as on the tail pipe. Then there was what appeared to be old-fashioned black-cloth insulation tape. We couldn’t fathom why a vehicle with only 8000km on the clock would warrant the need for insulation tape over the engine.

GOING VROT: The images above show unacceptable early corrosion on the shock-absorber towers and the exhaust tail pipe.

We approached Fiat with our concerns and they had this to say:

“The surface corrosion on the shock mount support and tailpipe is as a result of insufficient wax being applied at the factory prior to the vehicle being shipped to South Africa. Fiat Group Automobiles SA was aware of this and has requested that additional measures be put in place to prevent the unsightly surface rust from forming whilst vehicles are in transit. Please note that this is not safety critical, albeit aesthetically unacceptable and hence the dealer should have replaced the rusty components when an inspection was carried out.” And the black cloth tape…

“The tape you refer to provides insulation for the engine bay loom. It has most likely become frayed due to the over-vigorous use of a high-pressure cleaner. Once again this is not a safety critical component but it looks unattractive and should have been picked up by the dealer.”

BLACK CLOTH: According to Fiat the black tape provides insulation and is not a safety hazard.

With the build quality issue mentioned above it’s clear that our little Italian Stallion is more akin to a guy who “stuffs” and wears the latest brands with the tag still on. Nothing fabulous here.


It’s a fun little city car and while it might not appeal to everyone still has some enduring qualities. Our little Topolino costs less than R200 000, when stacking up all the optional extras such as climate control and exterior trimmings we easily increased the price to R230 000.
Questionable build quality aside, it’s still hard to justify choosing the 500C over other more entry-level cars, or even the standard Fiat 500.

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