Europe's favourite stylish city car has had a facelift. The Fiat 500 has won 1.5 million hearts worldwide since its 2007 re-birth (70 per cent of them female) and is still the best-selling car in its class, but technological times have changed and tweaks were deemed necessary.
'Due to the car's continuing success there was not a push from marketing to change,' says former head of Fiat Group design Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the man in charge of the new car when its remix was being planned. 'They said: "Do what you want with the engines and infotainment but don't touch the style." But our designers were restless so we wanted to update the details. Keep the car, but change the signature.'
Accordingly, on the outside, the front lamps remain the same shape but their internals now feature an elliptical-style graphic, the low front air-intake offers cool grille 'pins' rather than mesh – akin to those found on the Mercedes A-Class and CLA – and the rear light clusters have become ring-shaped rather than solid, and more three-dimensional in profile too. Inside, the seats have been re-shaped to improve ergonomics and the centre console finally gets an internet-connected infotainment system with a small, five-inch colour touchscreen. While that's progress for the 500, it's still a small screen by modern standards and the system isn't as quick or intuitive as it could be.
Customisation continues on the 2015 model with largely tasteful and myriad options including new exterior colours – including some interesting horizontal two-tones – and smart Prince of Wales check seat upholstery you might normally expect only on more expensive cars (the range starts at £10,690).
The interior area is unchanged, so taller rear passengers will feel cramped (and the boot is a tiny 185 litres), but the fold-back-canvas-on-rails cabriolet version increases the feeling of space, at least. Pick of the engines is the 105hp 0.9 TwinAir petrol manual, which is pleasingly zippy and has a characterful two-cylinder engine noise to reinforce that feeling. Offering 67.3mpg and 90g/km of CO2, fuel costs and emission-based taxes should remain low.
Overall, the 500 is still unlike any other car on the market, its considerable charms still overwhelming despite the changes (and its long-standing shortcomings). As Fiat brand boss Luca Napolitano aptly sums up: 'How can we improve on an icon? By evolving it.' On this evidence, evolution has been delivered.