Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat
Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat
Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat
2014 Fiat 500c Lounge. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Is there any car that says “summer” quite like a Fiat 500c? The drop-top version of Fiat’s quirky and cute 500 seems to make me want to listen to the Beach Boys, drive to the beach and drink lemonade on the sand. It’s the sort of car that wants to have playful, dorky fun.

The dork-factor was turned up by the retro brown paint, which was carried over to the brown leather on white interior. I don’t quite know what was going on with the brown, I think these work best in bright colours like white and red, but it did demonstrate that the Fiat 500 can pull off just about anything. The cheerful mug, wheels-at-the-corners stance and jelly bean shape are iconic and eternally endearing. Right down to the silly little hatch opening for the cargo area. Hipsters would love this thing.

The interior is pure retro-chic and the 1970s-shape radio head unit works well with the motif, while still using modern looking buttons. And because this is a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rig you get the excellent steering-wheel mounted controls for audio. They’re on the back, and you can easily flick through stations, source and change volume. Our tester had the optional Beats by Dre sound system – and yes, you can believe the hype [if you know why this sentence is ridiculous, let us know in the forums – Ed].

I also think Sirius XM knew what car I was in, because my driving soundtrack seemed to be nothing but hits from Night at the Roxbury – yes, I did the nod. Where was Jonathan when I needed him most?

The orange computer-terminal lettering is jarring for me though, especially as it refused to recognize whatever information Sirius XM was sending down to it and thus read “Unavailable” for most of my drive.

The main instrument cluster is equally fun-loving and quirky, but again is marred by the unsophisticated orange LED readouts. The speedo is also hard to read – too much form, not enough function here. The buttons that control the page of information in the instrument cluster are obscured behind the steering wheel and their purpose is labelled ambiguously. Shame really.

Under the radio are three buttons: Sport, a hazard light button and the window defroster button. Sport, as far as I can tell did nothing but put the word “Sport” on the instrument cluster.

There was no discernible difference.

The window winder buttons are also housed on the centre stack, which is oh-so-wrong. They are under the controls for the very-effective automatic climate control system and the buttons for the heated seats – a must have for any Canadian summer car.

Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat
2014 Fiat 500c Lounge dashboard & centre stack. Click image to enlarge

I’m not even joking. The Canadian sun is nothing but a giant lie in the sky, peering down all yellow and bright, pretending to do work and tricking you into rolling the roof down at 8 pm. The cold shock annoyed me briefly, but then I put the heated seats on and voila! Sunny cruising in warmth and comfort!

The best part of the interior though? It has a manual gear lever! Talk about playful! Between those oh-so-wrong buttons for the window winders is an oh-so-right manual gear shift. It is round, and cool, and metal – because that’s how they used to be and that’s how they still should be hagnammit!

It is missing a “6”, but we’ll forgive it for that this time.

The little five-speed box  is mated to a relatively frisky 1.4L MultiAir engine – this one is sadly not the fire-breathing Abarth with its aural erotica, or even the more mildly powerful Goldilocks Turbo but rather a more subdued, 101 hp/98 lb-ft mill.

Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat Test Drive: 2014 Fiat 500c car test drives fiat
2014 Fiat 500c Lounge engine bay, gauges, HVAC controls & shifter. Click image to enlarge

The engine is adequate for the 1,094 kg rig but I found myself wishing for more grunt. Especially when merging from short on-ramps – oh if only there was some way for me to make the car use more of its rev range… oh wait! There is!

The manual gearbox is simple and effective. It’s easy to use and soft, without being too floppy. The gates and the clutch pedal don’t have that rifle-bolt sharpness but they are a forgiving combination, and definitely open up more of the car’s personality for you to play with. I found it most rewarding to drive in low gears with the revs high, and sometimes that meant I was overeager grabbing second. The car seemed to absorb my mistake with aplomb.

The engine is smooth enough, it just lacks a little punch. This one is purely for low-speed beach-boulevard cruises, which is probably why visibility is so excellent! Actually that’s only half true; in that only half the car has good visibility. Looking forward is great, looking out the driver’s side or passenger side window no drama at all, but looking out the back corners is a bit of a pain. And if you do like to drive with the top down you’ll have to give up some small creature comforts – like the use of your rear-view mirror. The folding roof blocks the backward view almost entirely, making your side mirrors all that more important.

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