2012 Fiat 500C Twinair review

  • Economical Fiat 500 convertible driven
  • Two-cylinder petrol engine
  • On sale now, priced from £15,560
Click for full Fiat 500C review
Click for full Fiat 500C review
The Fiat 500C Twinair is the most economical petrol version of Fiat’s convertible city car.

It's not your usual economy-special, though. Yes, the two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has spectacular on-paper economy, but it also promises lively performance.

Add retro looks and space for four, and the 500C is a strong rival for the Mini Convertible and Smart Fortwo Cabriolet .

What's the 2012 Fiat 500C Twinair like to drive?
The first thing that’ll strike you is the engine's thrummy beat. Rev it and it turns raspy. You'd better like the sound it makes because there's no escape.

You have to put up with lots of vibration, too, especially at low revs, where it also feels underpowered.

The Fiat 500C is fun to drive, but not if comfort is a priority

Once the turbo kicks in, though, performance is much better. Keep the engine spinning above 2500rpm and the 500C is decently brisk.

It's also quite fun. Its compact size and light steering make it ideal for ducking and diving in town traffic.

Sadly, it's not so good if comfort is a priority. The ride is fidgety on seemingly smooth surfaces, and harsh and bouncy on more challenging ones.

Retract the fabric roof to the first of two positions and you're better protected from buffeting than in many small convertibles. This is because the roof rails stay in place, so you're effectively driving a hatchback with a large sunroof. You can also lower the roof fully, but then far more turbulence makes its way into the cabin.

Refinement with the roof up is acceptable. You hear a surprisingly amount of the outside world through the roof around town, although wind and road noise aren’t excessive on the motorway.

Click for full Fiat 500C review
The 500C can leave you better protected from buffeting than in many small convertibles

What's the 2012 Fiat 500C Twinair like inside?
It's stylish and this is one retro-influenced car that hasn't got controls scattered all over the place.

Tall drivers may wish the seat went lower, though, and the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach, so some people will struggle to get comfortable.

Space up front is good and it's just about possible for a couple of six-foot adult to squeeze into the rear seats for short trips – unlike a Mini Convertible, for example.

The boot is big enough to hold a few bags of shopping, and cabin storage space is decent, even if most of it isn’t covered.

Visibility is more of an issue. The thick front pillars restrict your view at junctions and roundabouts, while thick rear ones limit your vision behind. Things get even worse when you drop the roof, because it concertinas up and sits on top of the boot opening, right in your eyeline.

Click for full Fiat 500C review
Unlike many retro-influenced cars, the 500C has a stylish and orderly dash

Should I buy one?
It's hard to make a rational case for a 500C. It doesn't provide the full convertible experience, it doesn't ride well and it costs £3000 more than the equivalent 500 hatchback.

It's even harder to make a case for this Twinair model. It's expensive and the engine isn't refined enough, but the biggest problem is the engine's main selling point: economy. The official figures claim an average of 68.9mpg, but our True MPG figure – which is carried out on UK roads, rather than under laboratory conditions – is just 41.3mpg. Buy this car for its economy and you're likely to be very disappointed.

Of course, if you're sold by the car's looks, as many people will be, you'll put up with the ride and engine’s deficiencies, and revel in its charm.

Look long and hard at the 1.2-litre four-cylinder model first, though. It’s £2600 cheaper and has a more civilised engine, so is the best 500C.

Read the full Fiat 500C review >>



Rivals:
Mini Convertible
Smart Fortwo Cabriolet

What Car? says…


Barnaby Jones
 
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