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26 Feb 2010

Barbara’s new wheels

Ms Barbara Millicent Roberts or rather, more commonly known as the Barbie doll by Mattel, has decided to go topless, well almost with her new car, the Fiat 500C. 

Make: Fiat

Model: 500C

Release Date: 25 December 2009 

Price: S$105,900


The new Fiat 500C is one of those cars that make you want to smile every time you look at it. We would imagine the smile to be an infectious one as many will throw adoring glances as the 500C pances itself around the city. This is a car targeted at girls and of course, men: the sorted out types that wouldn’t care less about being stereotyped by folks from the Stone Age.

One would assume the C in the moniker to stand for convertible, but in reality the sliding folding roof means that the 500C is more “targa” than a full pillarless convertible car. Disappointed? Hardly. The original 500 of 1957 started life as a convertible (main pic) and quite frankly, we were relived that they didn’t attempt anything else. Fiat is able to equip the “cabrio” with the same active and passive safety features of the hatch which posts a full five-star Euro NCAP rating. And crucially the weight penalty is only 40kg over the standard car.

In practice, the folding roof is pretty good. Refinement levels are remarkable, roof up of roof down. With the roof fully retracted, the whole caboodle drops down neatly behind the rear seats and the third brake light remains visible. And should your luck be so down to chance upon an unforeseen shower, the roof can be retracted at speeds up to 60km/h. Perhaps the only drawback would be treacherous rear view when the roof is down – the combination of thick C-pillars and stack roof make the optional reversing sensors a must-have.

The Fiat 500C is not – and never has been about matching Italy’s finest sport cars. Like most European city cars, the 500C is about darting around congested traffic rather than track circuits. Perhaps the high sitting position urges a need to zip around. Of note, would be the slight improvements in ride comfort over a standard 500.

Only the 1.4 engine is available for what is now the most expensive 500 model until the arrival of the long overdue Abarth. The 100bhp engine feels willing and keen, delivering decent acceleration along with a satisfyingly crisp exhaust note. Over the years, Fiat’s “Duologic Robotised Auto” has been tweaked and smooth gearshifts are now possible. We suspect few owners would ever venture into self-shifting mode in this automated manual transmission.

We find ourselves quite smitten by the car’s engaging character. The 500C oozes viitality and brio to make every journey to be savoured, rather than endured. Looks like Barbie will be applying sunblock lotion more generously than ever before.

The latest among the modern remakes might not be the most capable road car and the sticker price of S$105,900 may appear to be a lot for a petite car, but it is a small price to pay for to stand out among the sea of Minis and Beetle open tops.

Alternatives to the 500C:

More practical? 1992 Mazda 121 Funtop (left)

The 1990 bowling ball on wheels was hatched by a confident and individualistic Mazda that was buoyed by the success of the first MX-5 roadster. The Funtop was only available from 1992 onwards. Open-top motoring blessed with practicality of four doors made the bubble-like 121 Funtop quite the "it" city car back then. 

More versatile? Citroen C3 Pluriel (middle)

A French transformer on wheels; the C3 Pluriel can be a two-door pickup, soft-top, targa and other pointless configurations. None of the possible five cars are good. Owners would probably having missing fingers while attempting to remove the roof panels.

Still want a coupé-roadster? Renualt Wind (right)

This compact two-seater coupé-roadster has a novel electric roof that pivots open in just 12 seconds. Struggling French car maker will unveil the new Wind roadster at the 2010 Geneva motor show.

Engine 1368cc
Transmission 6-speed automated manual
Wheels Driven front
Max. Power 100bhp @ 6000rpm
Max. Torque 131Nm @ 4250rpm
0-100 km/h 11 seconds
Top speed 182km/h
Fuel Economy 15.9 km/L (combined)
CO2 Emissions N.A
Dimensions (L x W x H) / Weight 3546mmX1627mmX1488mm / 980kg
Price with COE* S$105,900

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-02-28 03:11  
Glad they stuck with the original 1957's 500 design. Love the new updated design. But the price is rather shocking! $105K! For a tiny 1400cc car!
2. 2010-02-28 22:24  
It does look really cool, but a white steering wheel is gotta show dirt over time. Now i need to find the showroom and go for a test drive! And I do miss the 121 funtop... blast from the past indeed...
3. 2010-03-01 15:19  
My Goodness,
the price in Italy (and the rest of Europe) for the most expensive version is of € 21,000 (approx SGD 42,000), which is already high for our standards. For the same price you get a Peugeot 208CC, for a bit more the brand new Megane CC. Ok, import taxes are expensive, add local taxes etc etc still....It doesn't make any sense to me.
It's a great car, well done, fun to drive, well stable on the road (with ESP).
I would have easily forgot the 121 (which, on my opinion, is not so remarkably well remembered), would have mentioned the Mini cabrio instead.
4. 2010-03-05 23:48  
one thing for sure, your hair will not go messy when the roof is down. its more like a box with the top flip opened.

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