Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite displaying the glamorous trappings of a cabriolet, to drive, the Fiat 500C feels like the city car it is. Its suspension is quite soft and you get lots of lean through bends, but the payoff is spongy bump absorption that makes for an easygoing ride comfort – albeit with a bit of bobbing about and thumping over scruffy surfaces. It’s wieldy enough to feel completely at home around town, but the vague steering and the rather laid-back performance means that the 500C is definitely most at home in unhurried, slow-speed use.
It might be called the Fiat 500C Hybrid, but this is a bit of a stretch of what that word has come to mean. You can’t plug it in, and it can’t travel on electric power alone. This is a mild hybrid system of the kind that we’ve seen on other small cars (albeit with fixed roofs), such as the Suzuki Ignis. The 500C has a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, with a tiny electric motor and a minuscule lithium-ion battery to help share the effort, improving acceleration and fuel economy, while lowering CO2 emissions.
In reality, though, any gains in acceleration from the 69bhp engine are minimal. Sure, there’s enough zip to push along through hectic city traffic, but if you need a meaningful burst of pace you’ll find the performance pretty gutless. A Mini Convertible would leave it for dead in a straight line, and offers significantly better handling, too.
The 500’s six-speed manual gearshift doesn’t have the slickness of its rivals but is at least pleasingly accurate. The steering and pedals are very light in action, though, which takes some getting used to.
The engine sounds rather buzzy at higher speeds, where there’s also fairly substantial wind noise over the windscreen and fabric roof, so the Fiat 500C is not a particularly quiet car for long journeys. You are, at least, kept fairly well protected from any major wind buffeting when the roof is scrolled back, so the optional wind deflector (which is a bit of a job to put up) isn’t worth adding.