Cape Town - I’m not a huge fan of the Transformers movie series, but I am inclined to like it because of the amazing special effects and awesome cars. But a big, personal let-down is the fact that all the instalments are in access of three hours long.
Yet, despite forever losing three hours of my life, I would sit through each movie, gobble up my popcorn and walk away from the screen feeling ready to save the world.
And like most other fans of the Transformers series, I am a huge fan of Bumble Bee. That bright yellow Chevrolet Camaro roaring through the movie in good ol’ V8 fashion and transforming from car to robot and back to a car in smooth perfection. And though I never got to drive a Camaro, this Fiat 500C comes pretty close to it - albeit all thanks to that yellow paint.
Bumble Bee, trans… form?
This Fiat does, just like Bumble Bee, have two doors and a very eye-catching yellow paint, but that’s about all the screen time this little car will receive.
The car, though attempting to be cute in design, is not good looking in my books. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not just skin deep, but I have struggled to comprehend the functionality of the design. It is barely bigger than a shoe box and the rounded shape reminds me of a tortoise not wanting to come out of its shell.
Strangely, after a couple of days of ‘living’ with it I actually realised that the car is growing on me. And as much as I did not want this to happen, I couldn’t help it.
Was I becoming… quirky?
On the open road
One thing I really enjoyed about the little Fiat was that its roof could retract, but a fault in the electronics meant that the one-touch function was totally unavailable and that I had to keep my finger on the button to get the roof all the way up/down. But when it was down: the wind in my (short) hair, the noise of tyre meeting tar and the little engine revving to get a move on… this was the type of experience I last had in June when I drove the Mazda MX-5!
The 500C feels light on its feet - nimble, if you must - and there is a fair amount of driver enjoyment to be had. Dynamically it’s fun, but getting up to speed is a whole different ball game.
Accelerate from standstill and the 500C will take a moment to realise that it’s time to set off. And it is then that the five-speed automatic gearbox will immediately show its inability to not frustrate the driver. When the next gear is to be engaged, the car will cut power (or so it seems), the revs will fall, a gear will hook and the car will continue along with a quick shudder and jerk. Until the next gear is to be engaged and the process is repeated again.
If anything, it’s infuriating! Thankfully, after speaking to some folks, my mind was put to ease that the manual is a far cry from the auto version.
What’s up with the interior, though?
The dashboard is kitted out with a bright yellow plastic strip that runs along the entire length of the front panel. Perhaps this was done to continue the funky trend. Space is very limited too, and passengers opting to get in the rear should be aware that there is virtually no space at all.
From a driver’s perspective there is little room to be comfortable, but you become accustomed to it and adjust your driving style accordingly.
The positioning and design of the gear lever is also over the top. And even at the end of the test period I still could not get used to it.
Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
The Fiat 500C is a charmer, but it didn’t charm me like Bumble Bee did. For some odd reason the yellow paint grabbed my attention, but it didn’t fascinate me to the point that I’d go crazy over it. It’s like this: Bumble Bee is a great attraction, but the movie itself can become a drag.
This little Fiat caters to the “boutique” end of the market: people who want a cute car will like it. But folks who are more inclined to be driving enthusiast best look elsewhere.
Wheels24 team opinion
Janine Van der Post: Man, when I first saw the Fiat 500C in its sunshine yellow shade, I thought this car is as cute as a button. In fact, when I came home with it and my toddler saw it, she walked up to the car and tried to hug it as if it was a big bright teddy bear with a cute face. Needless to say, she likes cars too.
But then I had to drive it and although the auto 'box is for those of an acquired taste, I can safely say this is not for me; only because I'm a mommy driver who needs to get home in a hurry - albeit at the legal speed limit. The 500C isn't slow, but it's best destined as a city car or for those who need to drive short distances, and perhaps in traffic. It doesn't work for someone like me who has to drive in excess of 120km on the daily commute. Also, driving it can be a bit strange when changing gears: like a child strapped with a 'kiddy harness' who wants to let loose but then their parent gently tightens the hold before running off.
I still like it though, it's so quirky. In fact, I felt like the childhood fictional character Noddy, created by Enid Blyton, driving in his little yellow Noddy car. By the way, the original Noddy car was a 1969 Fiat Gamine Vignale, a small two-seat roadster built by the Italian firm Carrozzeria Vignale. The car was bought by Blyton's company a year after her death in 1969.
The 500C is also a convertible and I love its easy-to-use droptop function and it's body-colour dashboard. Then there's the huge instrument cluster and its giant speedometer reminiscent of a Mini, and all its cute. This car is like an annoying Justin Bieber catchy tune, you're bound to love it, even if you don't want to.