What Car? says...
Small and sweet – that’s the easiest way to describe the little Fiat 500C Hybrid. The cooler, breezier sibling of the now-iconic Fiat 500 hatchback, it’s one of the cheapest options you can look at if you’re after a small convertible.
There’s no doubting it’s a style-focused choice, with a long list of customisation options to continue the fashion-heavy theme. But, while the trims may be many and varied, under the bonnet the only choice you have is a mild-hybrid engine.
Rivals for the 500C Hybrid are few and far between, but you might also be considering the more premium (and more expensive) Mini Convertible. And if you're interested in running an electric car, there's the Fiat 500 Electric and the Smart EQ ForTwo – which are both available in convertible versions.
So, if you don’t need huge amounts of space but want a bit of the wind-in-your-hair thrills, read on to find out if the Fiat 500C Hybrid is the car for you. You can also read about the non-convertible version in our Fiat 500 Hybrid review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite displaying the glamorous trappings of a cabriolet, the Fiat 500C Hybrid feels like a city car to drive.
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.
The 500C Hybrid has a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, with a tiny electric motor and a tiny lithium-ion battery to help share the effort, improving acceleration and fuel economy, while lowering CO2 emissions. It can't run on electricity alone, and you can't plug it in to charge up the battery.
It has enough zip to push along through hectic city traffic, but when you try for 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 also offers significantly better handling.
The 500C Hybrid'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 500C Hybrid 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.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Plenty of drivers will struggle to get comfortable in the Fiat 500C Hybrid. The seats are quite flat, and – more critically – there’s no height adjustment on Pop trims (you can’t add it, either), and no reach adjustment to the steering wheel, although you can move it up and down. You can add optional leather seating on Lounge trims.
The Fiat’s interior may be as bright and bubbly as a children’s TV presenter, but the Mini Convertible’s interior certainly feels a class above and goes a long way to justifying its higher price. The dash is reasonably easy to use, with conventional rotary switches for the air-con, and you get audio controls on the steering wheel as standard across the range.
In terms of infotainment, Pop gives you an AM/FM radio with USB and aux-in connectivity, while Lounge ups this to a 7.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration as standard.
The system itself isn’t the best in the class – it’s slow to respond, has small icons, and can be hard to see in direct sunlight – but it is fairly easy to get the hang of, and don’t forget you can always plug your smartphone in to use its navigation or media apps instead.
Visibility is pretty poor to the rear. No small cabriolet does well in this area, but the 500s narrow rear window (which is heated and made from glass as standard) offers a more restricted view out than the broader window of the Mini, so you need to be conscious that there’s a big blind spot to the rear three quarters.
And, with the roof folded, you really can’t see much to the rear at all. Fortunately, rear parking sensors are standard on Lounge trim and above.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Those seated in the front of a Fiat 500C Hybrid certainly get a better deal than those in the back. There is reasonable head and leg room up front, and both front seats return to their original positions after being tilted and slid forward to allow access to the back.
As with the Mini Convertible, you can also only seat two in the back, but the 500C is even shorter on rear-seat space than that car. Even older children will feel cramped and short of leg room.
There’s not much load-lugging versatility, either; the boot is small, but, more than its size, it’s the narrow letterbox-shaped opening that will frustrate. You have to crouch down to see into the boot properly, and loading bulky items is awkward; again, the Mini Convertible offers usefully better access.
On entry-level Pop trim, the rear seat is a fixed bench that folds forwards in one awkward lump; Lounge and above get a 50/50 split-folding rear bench so you can expand the limited boot while carrying a single rear seat passenger.
You can put the fabric scrolling roof up or down at any speed, and there’s also a sunroof setting, where it scrolls back part way, leaving you well protected from the wind but still with some fresh air factor.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Fiat 500C Hybrid looks cheap compared to its main rival – the Mini Convertible – but there's a huge gulf in quality between the two cars. The Mini is absolutely worth the extra money if your budget can stretch to it.
The mild-hybrid engine isn’t as fuel-efficient as you’d hope, nor are its official CO2 emissions particularly impressive.
Avoid entry-level Pop as you don’t get alloy wheels or air-conditioning. Lounge trim is the pick of the lineup, adding that aforementioned infotainment system, as well as cruise control and rear parking sensors.
There is, of course, a huge range of style options, from pastel and metallic body colours and contrasting roofs, through to fancy alloy wheels and all manner of decals to add the final flourish; just try not to get carried away as the price can rack up quickly, and you won’t get that extra cash back in resale values.
The Fiat 500 Hybrid falls down significantly when it comes to safety, and the same is true of the convertible version. Euro NCAP awarded the hatchback three stars out of five for its overall safety, with a disappointing 27% score in the safety assistance category.
Security experts Thatcham rated it poorly for resisting theft and break-ins, largely because you only get an alarm if you add one as a dealer-fit option, although an immobiliser is at least standard. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is standard.
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|RRP price range
|£19,440 - £34,435
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|60.1 - 61.4
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£68 / £1,185
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£137 / £2,370