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Fiat breaks world record (and it's not for the reasons you think)

Fiat breaks world record (and it's not for the reasons you'd expect)

Nearly 1,500 lucky winners collected their new Fiat 500s in less than two days following a competition held between the car firm and Italian supermarket chain Esselunga. With an official Guinness World Record judge in attendance, Fiat managed to set the record for the most cars handed over within 48 hours.

Based on the Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge, a special edition model was made for the record attempt, featuring Pastel white paint, an exclusive ‘Esselunga’ badge on the pillar and a numbered plaque inside. Chrome mirror caps and Colour Therapy 14-inch wheels complete the look.


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The world record bid took place at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin, where 1,520 brand new Fiat 500s lined the plant’s test track. Of those, a total of 1,495 were collected by new owners who travelled from all over Italy.

“This record and Fiat’s partnership with Esselunga confirm the unique personality that has been central to the Fiat 500 throughout its history and helped ensure its worldwide success,” said the car manufacturer in a statement.

“Esselunga decided to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary in business by selecting an outstanding, truly unique car to reward the loyalty of the customers who continue to choose the products and services offered to them every day, affirming the values of customer-focus and uniqueness that Fiat and Esselunga share.”

It’s not the first official world record to be broken by a car manufacturer. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015, Jaguar took the F-Pace through a loop-the-loop setting a world record of 19.8 metres. Stunt driver Terry Grant was at the wheel.

In 2013, an American managed to break the record for the furthest distance pushing a car in 24 hours. Joey Motsay shoved a Fiat 500 50 miles around a car park raising money for charity in the process.

Drivers are stopping for selfies with an abandoned Fiat Multipla

Drivers are stopping for selfies with an abandoned Fiat Multipla

Sales of the Fiat Multipla were slow when it was launched in 1998 – with many struggling to see past its love-it-or-hate-it styling. And indeed, it appears one owner of a Multipla couldn’t face being seen in it any longer – so abandoned it in a layby in Shropshire.

The Multipla is said to have been parked alongside a dual carriageway section of the A5 near Shrewsbury for a number of months now. It’s not known how it came to be left there – but it’s not unforeseeable that an ageing Fiat has more than its quirky looks going against it.

It’s been there so long that it’s become something of a landmark for drivers heading towards Wales on the A5 – and it’s even had a Twitter account set up in its name, with fans stopping for selfies with the ‘Lonely A5 Fiat’.

Some are calling for the car, which has been left with one wheel on the pavement, to be crushed by the DVLA – while others want local mechanics to give it a new lease of life. The person behind the Twitter account, who has not been identified, clearly has a sense of humour – jesting that a BMW abandoned nearby is ‘posh’, and asking drivers to use their windscreen washers when passing in hot weather.

The Twitter account was set up on June 13th and now has more than 400 followers wanting updates on the abandoned car.

Fiat gave the Multipla a major facelift in 2004 in a bid to attract more customers, but axed the controversial model in 2010 after 12 years on sale.


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Porsche tops list of Europe’s most popular classics

Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classicsClassic Trader, Europe’s largest classic car trading website, has announced that the total value of vehicles currently on sale on the site has eclipsed €1 billion for the first time. To mark the occasion, the website has revealed the most popular makes and models, ranked by the number of listings that currently appear on the site.

Porsche dominates the list, with four different 911s appearing in the top ten. Here, we rank the cars in reverse order.

10. Jaguar E-type Series 1Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £139,100

With an average asking price of £139,100, the Jaguar E-type S1 – or XKE in the US – is the most valuable car in the top 10 and arguably the most beautiful. “If a new car ever created greater excitement around our office than the new Jaguar XKE, we can’t remember it”, said Road & Track in September 1961.

The E-Type went on sale in 1961 with a bargain price tag, including taxes, of £2,097 for the convertible and £2,196 for the coupe. It was replaced in 1968 by the less desirable, and therefore less valuable, Series 2.

9. Mercedes-Benz SL R129Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £19,100

Few cars have aged as well as the Mercedes-Benz SL R129. Unveiled at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, the response was so positive, anyone who placed an order was forced to accept a delivery period of several years. Production continued until 2001, by which time more than 200,000 units had rolled off the Bremen production line.

The last truly beautiful Mercedes (discuss…) was the first car to feature an automatic roll-over bar, along with a soft-top that could be opened or closed within 30 seconds. The most common model is the 5.0-litre V8, with some 79,827 units built, while the entry-level SL 280 V6 is the rarest.

8. Porsche 993Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £81,900

If Mercedes-Benz struggled to keep up with demand for the R129, Porsche had a similar ‘problem’ with the 993. Launched in 1994, the 993 was able to boast a series of technical and visual changes, with only the doors and front bonnet carried over from the 964.

As the last air-cooled Porsche, the 993 is one of the most sought-after 911s on the classic car market, hence the average asking price. In the Ultimate History of Porsche, current editor of Evo magazine, Stuart Gallagher, wrote: “The fact that Porsche arrived at this beautifully honed vehicle when it did is fitting, because as the sun set on 1997 the air-cooled 911 had come to the end of its long and illustrious life.”

7. Alfa Romeo GiuliaPorsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £30,700

The Alfa Romeo Giulia was introduced in 1962 and wouldn’t bow out until 1977. In that time it evolved and spawned many variants, establishing the Alfa Romeo brand as we know it today. Regardless of the body shape, the Giulia was a true drivers’ car.

According to Classic Trader, the cars featured in the top 10 represent almost 12% of the total trading volume on the website, resulting in sales of €118 million. Other cars, such as the Citroen LNA, Saab 90 and Toyota Tercel weren’t able to contribute quite as much.

6. Mercedes-Benz SL W113Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £83,600

The fact that three generations of Mercedes-Benz SL appear in the top 10 suggests that the car is in strong demand. The W113 had the unenviable task of following the first generation SL, something it managed with startling ease. It’s all about the oh-so-pretty styling, with its hardtop earning it the nickname of ‘Pagoda’.

In truth, the second coming of the SL was more boulevard cruiser than it was precision instrument, but it remained a thing of beauty. This was the first sports car to feature crumple zones and a rigid passenger cell.

5. Fiat 500Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £9,800

The smallest car in the top 10 has a fittingly small price tag. The Fiat Nuova 500 was unveiled in 1957 and helped mobilise an entire nation. It measured just 9-feet long and was one of the very first city cars ever built. Perfect for navigating the congested streets of Turin, Rome and Milan.

The early cars featured suicide doors, but these were phased out in 1965 amid safety fears. Nearly 3.5 million units were built before production ceased in 1975 and the 500 was replaced by the 126.

4. Porsche 964Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £62,300

To the untrained eye, the Porsche 964 looked like an evolution of the outgoing 911, but it was in fact 85% new. The Carrera 4 was the first 911 to feature an all-wheel drive system, sending 31% of the torque to the front and 69% to the rear.

Power was sourced from a 3.6-litre flat-six engine, itself a development of the 3.2-litre unit found in the outgoing 3.2 Carrera. The all-wheel drive 964 may have upset the purists, but it appealed to a broader and affluent audience, with strong sales helping to secure Porsche’s future. Besides, a rear-wheel-drive variant arrived in 1990.

3. Mercedes-Benz SL R107Porsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £24,700

The SL R107 enjoyed a near two-decade production run, making it the second longest single series Mercedes-Benz after the G-Class. Just like its predecessors, the R107 – introduced in 1971 – was a huge hit on the tree-lined boulevards of America.

At the time of preparing this feature, there are 626 Mercedes-Benz SL models for sale on Classic Trader. Prices range from £3,995 for a 1982 380 SL to £1.6 million for a 1956 300 SL ‘Gullwing’.

2. Porsche 911 pre-impact bumperPorsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £98,100

In 1974, Porsche was forced into redesigning the 911 to satisfy new US safety regulations. The result was the so-called ‘impact bumper’, designed to keep their shape in the event of a 5mph accident. Many would argue that the new bumper only served to dilute the purity of the original 911.

The Porsche 901 – renamed the 911 as of model year 1965 – was unveiled at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show as a successor to the 356. Right now, there are more than 1,000 Porsche of all types for sale on Classic Trader, with prices ranging from £15,215 to £1.4 million.

1. Porsche 911 impact bumperPorsche tops list of Europe's most popular classics

Average asking price: £55,500

Regardless of what you think about the impact bumpers, the G-Series remains one of the most iconic 911s of all-time. It was, after all, the sports car so beloved of the ‘Yuppie’ generation, all red braces, shoulder pads and mobile phones the size of bricks.

The design of the impact bumpers differed according to the market. In the US, the bumpers were connected to the body using hydraulic impact absorbers, while non-US cars used more cost-effective impact pipes. In 1989, the G-Series was replaced by the 964.

Red cars called Mick Hucknall - and other best and worst car names

Red cars called Mick Hucknall – and other best and worst car names

Red cars called Mick Hucknall - and other best and worst car names

Apparently we’re a nation who like to name our cars – with more than half of young adults aged between 25 and 34 admitting to the dubious act.

That’s according to research by Fiat – makers of the 500, the car the most likely to sport eyelashes over its headlights. Probably.

Weird and wonderful names discovered by the car manufacturer include Thor the Thunderbolt, The Anti-Christ and a red car named after Simply Red singer, Mick Hucknall.

Other bizarre names include Turtle, The Mummytruck, Stig, Sexy Rexy, Keith, Mudslick, Hedwig, Kim John Brum, Popeye, and Marv.

The survey found that 27% of adults name their car, while one in 10 men describe their motor as “like a person.” That’s a trifle worrying.

Fiat UK’s brand communications manager, Toni Gaventa, said: “Our cars take us on wondrous journeys and enable us to have unbelievable experiences – it’s little wonder we have such a close bond to them and name them. Cars are more than just transportation – they are extensions of ourselves and represent our personality and there are no cars on the market that have more personality than a Fiat.” Er… OK then.

He goes on to say that celebrities are the biggest source of inspiration for car names, and one in five cars are given a ‘gender-neutral’ name. Apparently this anthropomorphism goes as far as not wanting to offend non-binary vehicles.

Dying to know what the top names are or perhaps looking for inspiration for your own set of wheels? Here you go:

  1. Betty
  2. Percy
  3. Alfie
  4. Fred
  5. Herbie
  6. Matilda
  7. Bumble
  8. Optimus
  9. Harry
  10. Florence
Fiat 500

Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge review: Two-Minute Road Test

Fiat 500Around one in five city cars sold in the UK is a Fiat 500 – not bad for a car launched nine years ago. The 500 was updated in 2015, with minor styling tweaks and a new touchscreen media system. Can it still compete with newer, cheaper rivals? We drove the best-selling 1.2 petrol to find out.

Prices and dealsFiat 500

The 500 isn’t cheap to buy. Prices start at £11,050 for the 69hp 1.2 Pop, rising to £15,350 for the 95hp 1.3 S. There’s a big premium of nearly £3,000 for the 500C convertible, too.

Fortunately, there are plenty of discounts available. The 1.2 Lounge model we tested retails at £12,800 before options, but the same car is just £9,908 from online car broker, Drive The Deal. Equally, ‘reverse auction’ website Auto eBid offered a price of £10,056.

What are its rivals?Fiat 500 rivals

In terms of style and emotional appeal, the 500’s closest rival is the MINI. However, BMW’s retro-remake is larger and more expensive: a supermini rather than a city car.

The Toyota Aygo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up are all direct competitors. The Toyota – along with its near-identical sisters, the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 – also majors on style and is usefully cheaper than the 500. The Hyundai also plays the value card, and is fun to drive.

The Up, meanwhile, offers Germanic build quality and plenty of interior space. It’s also one of triplets: the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are the same under the skin, but cheaper to buy.

What engine does it use?Fiat 500

Our test 500 is powered by a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine. You can also opt for the noisy but zesty two-cylinder, 0.9-litre Twinair – available in 85hp and 105hp outputs. Unusually for a car this size, Fiat offers a diesel engine, too: the 95hp 1.3 Mulitijet.

Fancy something sportier? The Abarth 500 hot hatch produces up to 180hp and costs from £15,090.

How fast?Fiat 500

Back in 2014, the Fiat 500 1.2 was featured on BBC Watchdog, amid allegations that it could “barely get to the tip of a hill.” It showed a presenter driving up a one in 10 incline in (what appeared to be) second gear, claiming she could “feel the lack of power.” Former Stig Ben Collins reached a similar verdict.

Fiat has since applied a software update, which is claimed to improve driveability. Nonetheless, this still isn’t a fast car. The 0-62mph dash takes a leisurely 12.9 seconds and maximum speed is 99mph.

Is it comfortable?Fiat 500

Park a 500 next to an original (1957-1975) Cinquecento and it looks huge. However, it isn’t as efficiently-packaged as many rivals – not least the mechanically-similar Fiat Panda.

We found it comfortable in the front, although the driving position is very upright: you feel like you’re sitting ‘on’ the car, rather than in it. Rear-seat passengers are likely to complain about the lack of headroom. Blame that cute-and-curvaceous roofline.

Will I enjoy driving it?Fiat 500

The 500 is a very easy car to drive, particularly in town. Its controls are light (the steering even has a ‘city’ mode for fingertip-twirling) and the lofty driver’s seat offers good visibility. A compact footprint makes it a doddle to park, too.

Escape the urban jungle and the little Fiat is less convincing. Its over-assisted steering doesn’t inspire confidence and there’s lots of body-roll in the corners. The 69hp engine hardly fizzes with enthusiasm either, particularly when it comes to steep hills…

Fuel economy and running costsFiat 500

Official fuel economy for the 500 1.2 petrol is a thrifty 60.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The latter equates to free car tax (VED) in the first year, and just £20 per year thereafter.

Both versions of the two-cylinder Twinair petrol are more efficient on-paper: 74.3mpg and 67.3mpg for the 85hp and 105hp engines respectively. However, the Twinair rarely gets anywhere near these claimed figures in independent tests. Perhaps its rev-happy nature encourages lead-footed driving?

The 95hp 1.3 diesel manages 83.1mpg – but you’ll need to drive a very long way to justify the upfront cost (around £3,500 more than a similar-spec 1.2 petrol).

What’s the interior like?Fiat 500

The 500’s characterful cabin sets it apart from more strait-laced superminis. We love the body-colour dashboard, retro steering wheel and quirky seat fabrics. There’s seemingly endless scope for customisation, too.

The entry-level Pop comes with remote locking, electric front windows and a radio with USB and Aux sockets. Upgrading to Pop Star adds air conditioning, electric mirrors and a split/fold rear seat. The Lounge seen here has the Uconnect touchscreen (more on that shortly), a leather-wrapped wheel and rear parking sensors.

Is it practical?Fiat 500

Not particularly. There’s no five-door version, so rear passengers must clamber behind the front seats. And lifting child seats in and out is hip-twistingly awkward.

Luggage space is a modest 185 litres: enough for a weekly supermarket-shop, but much smaller than the 251-litre Volkswagen Up.

Tell me about the techFiat 500

Fiat’s latest Uconnect touchscreen ‘infotainment’ system is mounted high on the dashboard and proves straightforward to use, despite a small, five-inch screen. The TomTom sat nav (£350 – with DAB radio included) is particularly good, with bold graphics and live traffic data.

Our car also had the option seven-inch TFT screen in the binnacle behind the steering wheel (£350). It displays lots of useful driving data, along with a neat graphic of the car itself.

What about safety?Fiat 500

Euro NCAP awarded the Fiat a full five stars when it crash-tested one back in 2007. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags and Isofix mounting points for child car seats.

Which version should I go for?Fiat 500

Simple is often best when it comes to small cars – and so it is with the Fiat 500. The 69hp 1.2 engine might struggle to pull skin off a panna cotta, but it’s peppy enough for pottering around town and decently economical. The 500 isn’t sporty, or even particularly fun to drive, so why pay more?

Likewise, we’d go for the mid-range Pop Star, rather than the fully-loaded Lounge seen here. With all the options fitted, our test car came to a faintly ludicrous £15,950. You could (and should) get a nice Ford Fiesta for that much.

What’s the used alternative?Fiat 500

The 500 has been on sale since 2007, so there are plenty in the classifieds. Prices start at around £3,000 for an early example with 80,000-90,000 miles on the clock. Just bear in mind that the three-year warranty will have expired and Fiats aren’t renowned for reliability; the brand is always among the backmarkers in the annual Which? Car Survey.

Should I buy one?Fiat 500

The 500 has been a sales phenomenon for Fiat. Indeed, the Italian marque has ended up modelling most of its range on it: witness the 500L and 500X.

Despite its faults, the 500 is classless and effortlessly cool. Yes, the VW Up is a better car in most respects – and cheaper, too. But many 500 customers simply won’t care. We wouldn’t buy one, yet even after nine years on sale, we’re sure thousands will.

Pub factFiat 500

More than 1.5 million examples of the current Fiat 500 have been sold since 2007. That puts it well on the way to catching the original 1957 500, which took 18 years to sell four million.

Fiat Fullback

2016 Fiat Fullback review: the Italian L200

 

Fiat FullbackTo men of a certain age, the mere mention of ‘Turin’ and ‘fullback’ might conjure up memories of Stuart Pearce missing that penalty against Germany in Italia ’90. Fast-forward 26 years (yes, it really is that long), and Fiat chose its Mirafiori plant in Turin as the base at which to launch its new Fullback pick-up.

‘Versatile in any situation, robust and reliable’ is how Fiat would like you to think of the Fullback – a little like Stuart Pearce, then. Although fans of the Azzurri would much rather reference the great Paolo Maldini, one of the greatest fullbacks the world has ever seen.

But enough footballing chat, because the Fiat Fullback is meant for serious business – the final piece in the Fiat Professional jigsaw. It sits alongside familiar names such as the Ducato, Fiorino and Doblo, and sees Fiat entering the lucrative medium-size pick-up segment for the first time.

And lucrative it is. In 2015 alone, some 40,000 units were registered in the UK, a jump of 20% compared to the previous year. Across the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the figure extends to 650,000 vehicles a year.

Incredibly, the medium-size pick-up accounts for a whopping 62% of the commercial vehicle segment in the Middle East and Africa, and 6% in Europe. The likes of the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara are almost household names.

A Mitsubishi L200 in all but name

Fiat Fullback rear

So you can hardly blame Fiat for wanting a slice of the pick-up pie. Little wonder the Italian giant spent billions on research and development and many years perfecting the Fullback prior to its launch. Only it didn’t. Instead, it turned to something Mitsubishi made earlier.

That’s right. In case it had escaped your notice, the Fiat Fullback is little more than a badge-engineered Mitsubishi L200. The recipe is simple: take one highly successful pick-up, sprinkle on a few Fiat badges, invite the world’s press to Turin and, hey presto – your own ready-made Fullback.

All of which means we could, as one motoring journalist intended to do, copy and paste a review of the Mitsubishi L200 and present it as our Fiat Fullback first drive. That’s because the Fiat is mechanically identical to the Mitsubishi: the same chassis, the same 2.4-litre diesel engine, the same performance and economy figures.

Even the styling is, to all intents and purposes, the same, although Fiat’s corporate face presents a more rugged and tasteful look. Compare and contrast with the all-too-blingy look of the L200 Barbarian. Sorry, Mitsubishi, but we think the Fullback’s styling is more in keeping with the tough and rugged nature of the pick-up.

Doing lifestyle things at the weekend

Fiat Fullback motocross

The Fullback highlights just how far the pick-up has travelled in recent years. What was once a vehicle built for tradesmen and farmers is now expected to serve as a ‘work hero’ (Fiat’s term, not ours), able to work tirelessly Monday to Friday, before doing more lifestyle type things at the weekend.

Lifestyle things like sticking a motocross bike in the back of your pick-up, or the slightly less exciting trip to the tip. Try finding a crossover that offers seating for five, a 1,045kg payload and — in the case of the 180hp version of the 2.4-litre Fullback — the potential to tow up to 3,100kg in weight.

Remember what we were saying about being versatile in any situation?

OK, so you’ll have to make one or two compromises to live the pick-up dream. To drive, the Fullback is a world away from pick-ups of old, but the rear leaf springs take you back to a different age.

The result is a somewhat bouncy ride, although this is less noticeable when you’re carrying a full load. To demonstrate this, Fiat loaded our test car with a Euro pallet of salt, which served to settle the ride and provide more traction at the rear.

Perfect for delivering salt to the top of a mountain

Fiat Fullback loaded

In normal conditions, you’ll leave the Fullback in two-wheel drive, which essentially transforms your pick-up into a tail-happy, rear-wheel drive toy. Even with our shipment of salt, the traction control light flickered as we made our way up a series of tight and steep mountain bends.

We also found the Fullback ran out of puff rather quickly, forcing us to change down to first to pull away from yet another switchback. Real-world conditions – if you happen to live on the edge of the Italian Alps and find yourself delivering salt to somebody at the top of a mountain.

In everyday circumstances, the Fullback is remarkably composed and far more refined than you’d think. The initial diesel clatter soon settles to a smooth idle and only becomes noisy once you reach the upper reaches of the rev range. It’s forgivable, because it’s accompanied by the thrust of 317lb ft of torque.

Off-the-line pace is impressive, and there’s enough mid-range pull to encourage you to tackle overtaking manoeuvres without consulting your life insurance policy. The steering and gearchange are far more car-like than pick-ups of old. Put simply: driving a Fullback doesn’t feel like a workout.

As good off-road as an Opel Agila

Fiat Fullback off road

Given the nature of the beast, there’s a good chance a medium-size pick-up will spend some time off-road; certainly more than you’d expect of a crossover or SUV. The entry-level 150hp Fullback SX features an on-demand four-wheel drive system with three electrically-selected settings: 2H, 4H and 4L, while the LX has four electrically-controlled settings: 2H, 4H plus 4HLc and 4LLC with a locking central differential.

Helpfully, Fiat included an off-road section as part of our test route – a muddy track through an Italian forest. The ruts and camber changes made it slightly trickier to navigate than a New Forest car park, but when we point out we were met by an Opel Agila and two-wheel drive Fiat Panda emerging from the opposite direction, you’ll appreciate that it was hardly a huge test of the Fullback’s off-road abilities.

But given Mitsubishi’s off-road heritage, you can rest assured that the Fullback will be no slouch when the going gets tough.

Who needs a Nissan Qashqai anyway?

Fiat Fullback interior

Overall, although more car-like than pick-ups of old, the Fullback errs more on the side of commercial than it does lifestyle. It’s not as easy to drive as a crossover and it leans through corners in much the same way an SUV would have done 20 years ago. But the commanding driving position at least puts you on a par with the Qashqais and Evoques of the world.

Just don’t expect your Fullback to feel like an Evoque on the inside. Fans of soft-touch plastics are likely to be disappointed, but some piano black surfaces and brushed-aluminium detailing help to lift an otherwise sombre interior. The touchscreen infotainment system is Straight Outta L200 and suffers from the same usability issues. It’s not the most intuitive system on the market.

On the plus side, the steering adjusts for reach and rake, while the leather seats on our LX test car were both comfortable and supportive. Being critical, we’d have liked more in the way of storage compartments, as this is one area where the Fullback/L200 lags behind the Isuzu D-Max. On the plus side, the Fullback trounces the D-Max in terms of perceived quality.

In the rear, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Some passengers will revel in the ‘theatre’ seating, which provides a commanding view over those in the front, but conversely it does provide a feeling of being perched on the car. Headroom won’t be an issue for even the tallest of passengers, but some adults might find their knees are pressed against the back of the front seats.

Lights, camera, action

Fiat Fullback launch

The entry-level Fullback SX offers a generous level of standard equipment, but we’d recommend upgrading to the LX, not least because of the reversing camera. Parking a pick-up can be a game of chance, especially if you’re carrying a load or have fitted an aftermarket canopy to the back. A camera will reduce your reliance on a tow bar acting like a rudimentary parking sensor.

The LX will also feel the more car-like of the two trim levels, something you might be thankful of if you intend to use your pick-up for family duties. Heated leather seats, keyless go, climate control, bi-xenon headlights, additional body styling, privacy glass and 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system will ensure you’re living the SUV dream. Almost.

Your important car-like figures for the Fullback LX are: 173g/km CO2 for the 180hp manual, increasing to 189g/km for the automatic; 42.8mpg combined (manual), 39.2mpg combined (automatic); £22,995 plus VAT and OTR charges (manual) and £24,395 plus VAT and OTR charges (automatic).

Your important commercial vehicle figures for the Fullback LX are: length 5,285mm; width 1,815mm; height 1,780mm; kerb weight 1,875kg; towing (unbraked) 3,100kg; payload 1,045kg; off-road angles: approach 30°, departure 22°, ground clearance 205mm.

Fiat Fullback: Early verdict

Fiat Fullback verdict

The Fiat Fullback is about as Italian as that Hawaiian pizza you ordered from the takeaway on Friday night. But does it matter? The fact that it’s a Mitsubishi L200 should at least provide some reassurance to prospective customers.

To our eyes at least, the Fullback looks slightly more appealing than the L200 and some well-chosen Mopar accessories should enhance the look even further. This double cab pick-up is a realistic alternative to a me-too crossover or SUV and could even offer as much as 42.8mpg on a combined cycle.

Given the specification, practicality and near car-like dynamics, the prices, on paper at least, look like a bargain. If a Fullback fits your lifestyle, you’ll find much to like here. Mitsubishi’s entry-level L200 4Life might be cheaper than the Fiat’s entry-level Fullback SX, but the superior LX is good value when pitched alongside the Warrior and bling-tastic Barbarian.

What a shame that Fiat has wimped out when it comes to naming its trim levels. Against the hard-as-nails Warrior, Barbarian, Invincible, Blade and Huntsman, SX and LX just sound a bit lukewarm. May we suggest the Fullback Stuart Pearce or Fullback Julian Dicks? Then again…

We’d like to say the Fullback will be available in all good Fiat dealers, but it won’t. Not for now, at least. Fiat told us the Fullback will be available via Fiat Professional dealers, so don’t expect to see it sat alongside the Panda, 500 and Punto in the showroom. Instead, find it alongside the likes of the Doblo, Ducato, Fiorino and Talento. If this world sounds alien to you, eating a Ginsters pasty, reading the Sun and tuning into Talksport should provide some adequate training.

For:

  • It’s a Mitsubishi L200 with Fiat badges
  • Generous standard specification
  • Practicality and space

Against:

  • It’s a Mitsubishi L200 with Fiat badges
  • Dated infotainment system
  • Ride quality when not carrying a load

2016 Fiat Fullback LX manual: specification

Price: £22,995 plus VAT and OTR charges

Engine: 2.4-litre turbo diesel

Gearbox: six-speed manual

Power: 180hp

Torque: 317lb ft

0-62mph: 10.4 seconds

Top speed: 111mph

Fuel economy: 42.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 173g/km

2016 Fiat 124 review: it's a more refined Mazda MX-5

2016 Fiat 124 Spider review: it's a more refined Mazda MX-5

2016 Fiat 124 review: it's a more refined Mazda MX-5

Before the days of overweight faux-SUVs and customisable city cars, if we’d said the words ‘Fiat 500’, you’d have pictured a cute little Cinquecento from the 1960s. The sort you’d expect to see in pictures of Italian restaurants – less than three metres long and powered by a two-cylinder air-cooled engine.

Then Fiat cashed in and introduced the new 500, and its subsequent offshoots the 500L and 500X. And what a success that has been for a company responsible for the less-than-aspirational Fiat Punto.

Retro works for Fiat. Which is why it’s bringing back the 124 Spider. That’s its sexy, Pininfarina-designed 2+2 sports car, which was built between 1966 and 1980. However, we do wonder whether the Fiat 124 Spider quite works as well in marketing terms as the 500. How many non-enthusiast Brits remember the original?

Like the Fiat 500, which shares a platform with the Ford Ka, Fiat went elsewhere to find a base for its reincarnated 124. Hoping to compete directly with the ever-popular Mazda MX-5, who better to work with than the experts? A deal was done, and it was decided that the two firms would work together to create the fourth-generation MX-5 and its Italian cousin.

Only it wasn’t that simple. The Fiat 124 Spider was originally mooted as an Alfa Romeo – but then Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne piped up something about Alfa Romeos only being created in Italy. And the deal precluded that the Mazda/FCA sports car would be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan.

So, like it or not, it’s a Japanese-built Fiat. But has the Italian manufacturer done enough to give the 124 some Italian flair? We headed to Lake Garda to find out just how Italian this sporty little number actually is.

It’s very similar to the Mazda inside

It's very similar to the Mazda inside

Fiat hasn’t done a lot to the 124’s cabin to differentiate it from its Japanese relation. The dashboard is the same, the infotainment screen is the same… only the steering wheel and some of the materials are different.

They didn’t want to be pushed into saying it, but the team behind the 124 were suggesting on its launch that they felt the 124 was ever-so-slightly more upmarket in terms of finish compared to the MX-5. The difference is negligible, but there is something about the Fiat 124 that feels more like a boulevard cruiser than the very focused MX-5.

Materials inside, it’s no more suited to a long journey than the Mazda. Despite being 139mm longer, the 124’s cabin feels just as cramped. This isn’t helped by a large bulge in the floor of the left-hand-drive model tested here. This is to do with the gearbox, says Fiat, and unavoidable.

It hasn’t got any more storage space than the Mazda, either. The Fiat 124 very definitely isn’t a Lotus Elise – buyers will expect a glove box and various storage spaces for, at the very least, a day at the beach. They’re going to be disappointed – although, at 140-litres, the 124’s boot space is marginally up on the Mazda’s.

…But it drives differently to the MX-5

...But it drives differently to the MX-5

Unlike MX-5 buyers, who get a choice of a 1.5 or 2.0-litre engine, Fiat 124 buyers only get a 1.4-litre turbo engine (those wanting a little more performance can opt for the Abarth version, revealed at the Geneva Motor Show and on its way to the UK soon).

On paper, the 1.4 engine slots neatly between Mazda’s two powertrains. It produces 140hp, compared to the 1.5-litre MX-5’s 131hp and 2.0-litre’s 160hp. It’s a typical turbocharged unit – with 177 lb ft of torque at 2,250rpm. That’s much lower than the Mazda’s naturally-aspirated unit, meaning you don’t have to work it as hard, but it is quite a narrow band. It’s easy to bog the engine down at low revs – you have to be willing to use the gearbox often to keep the turbo spooled up.

It doesn’t sound particularly good, either – those who want to be heard will need to invest in an aftermarket exhaust system. We’re not saying sports cars such as the 124 need to be loud, but a bit more of a rasp would make the 124 feel more special.

Congested roads on the Fiat 124’s launch event in Italy meant we’d like a little longer with the car before coming to a full conclusion about how well it handles. Fiat’s done its own thing to the suspension, using its own springs and dampers, as well as the steering ratios.

The result? It’s not quite as focussed as the MX-5, but it does provide fun while, we suspect, not becoming quite as wearing on longer journeys. The steering is lighter than we’d like, and doesn’t transmit quite the same amount of information through to the driver as the Mazda. But as we recently criticised the MX-5 for being overly communicative (bordering edgy), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The gearbox, although originally the same ‘box as that used in the MX-5, has been heavily adapted to take the extra torque, and it doesn’t seem quite as slick to use. The throw feels longer, from our brief drive, and we didn’t find ourselves changing up and down quite as eagerly as we did with the MX-5 Sport Recaro we recently had on test.

Fiat 124 Spider: Early verdict

Fiat 124: Early verdict

It’s difficult not to treat this as a twin test with the Mazda MX-5. The truth is, neither the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 is the better car. They’re both obviously very similar, with negligible differences.

But the differences are there, if you look closely. OK, the engine is the most noticeable. It’s clear from the launch that this could be divisive – some journalists, as you may well read in other reviews, prefer the punchy turbocharged Fiat unit to Mazda’s offerings. But we love ragging the naturally-aspirated Mazda units – and they sound better than the Fiat four-cylinder.

The Fiat 124 is less sharp than the Mazda, but that results in a less frantic drive. Will 99.9% of buyers miss the Mazda’s limited-slip diff? We suspect not – and those who do can opt for the Abarth instead.

That could partly explain why the Fiat isn’t as hardcore as the Mazda. By increasing refinement in the regular model, it leaves room for the Abarth – which will have more power, an LSD and a sports driving mode.

As we’ve previously questioned whether most MX-5 customers will find the Mazda a little bit over-the-top for their needs, we wonder whether Fiat’s strategy of offering a softer, more refined model, then a more hardcore model above it, might be the way forward.

For:

  • Looks great
  • Fun to drive
  • More refined than Mazda

Against:

  • Mazda likely the better option for serious petrolheads
  • Not as practical as we’d like
  • Sounds like a Ford Focus

2016 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus: specification

Price: £23,295

Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol

Gearbox: six-speed manual

Power: 140hp

Torque: 177lb ft

0-62mph: 7.5 seconds

Top speed: 134mph

Fuel economy: 44.1mpg

CO2 emissions: 148g/km

2016 Fiat 124 review: it's a more refined Mazda MX-5

2016 Fiat 124 Spider review: it’s a more refined Mazda MX-5

2016 Fiat 124 review: it's a more refined Mazda MX-5

Before the days of overweight faux-SUVs and customisable city cars, if we’d said the words ‘Fiat 500’, you’d have pictured a cute little Cinquecento from the 1960s. The sort you’d expect to see in pictures of Italian restaurants – less than three metres long and powered by a two-cylinder air-cooled engine.

Then Fiat cashed in and introduced the new 500, and its subsequent offshoots the 500L and 500X. And what a success that has been for a company responsible for the less-than-aspirational Fiat Punto.

Retro works for Fiat. Which is why it’s bringing back the 124 Spider. That’s its sexy, Pininfarina-designed 2+2 sports car, which was built between 1966 and 1980. However, we do wonder whether the Fiat 124 Spider quite works as well in marketing terms as the 500. How many non-enthusiast Brits remember the original?

Like the Fiat 500, which shares a platform with the Ford Ka, Fiat went elsewhere to find a base for its reincarnated 124. Hoping to compete directly with the ever-popular Mazda MX-5, who better to work with than the experts? A deal was done, and it was decided that the two firms would work together to create the fourth-generation MX-5 and its Italian cousin.

Only it wasn’t that simple. The Fiat 124 Spider was originally mooted as an Alfa Romeo – but then Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne piped up something about Alfa Romeos only being created in Italy. And the deal precluded that the Mazda/FCA sports car would be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan.

So, like it or not, it’s a Japanese-built Fiat. But has the Italian manufacturer done enough to give the 124 some Italian flair? We headed to Lake Garda to find out just how Italian this sporty little number actually is.

It’s very similar to the Mazda inside

It's very similar to the Mazda inside

Fiat hasn’t done a lot to the 124’s cabin to differentiate it from its Japanese relation. The dashboard is the same, the infotainment screen is the same… only the steering wheel and some of the materials are different.

They didn’t want to be pushed into saying it, but the team behind the 124 were suggesting on its launch that they felt the 124 was ever-so-slightly more upmarket in terms of finish compared to the MX-5. The difference is negligible, but there is something about the Fiat 124 that feels more like a boulevard cruiser than the very focused MX-5.

Materials inside, it’s no more suited to a long journey than the Mazda. Despite being 139mm longer, the 124’s cabin feels just as cramped. This isn’t helped by a large bulge in the floor of the left-hand-drive model tested here. This is to do with the gearbox, says Fiat, and unavoidable.

It hasn’t got any more storage space than the Mazda, either. The Fiat 124 very definitely isn’t a Lotus Elise – buyers will expect a glove box and various storage spaces for, at the very least, a day at the beach. They’re going to be disappointed – although, at 140-litres, the 124’s boot space is marginally up on the Mazda’s.

…But it drives differently to the MX-5

...But it drives differently to the MX-5

Unlike MX-5 buyers, who get a choice of a 1.5 or 2.0-litre engine, Fiat 124 buyers only get a 1.4-litre turbo engine (those wanting a little more performance can opt for the Abarth version, revealed at the Geneva Motor Show and on its way to the UK soon).

On paper, the 1.4 engine slots neatly between Mazda’s two powertrains. It produces 140hp, compared to the 1.5-litre MX-5’s 131hp and 2.0-litre’s 160hp. It’s a typical turbocharged unit – with 177 lb ft of torque at 2,250rpm. That’s much lower than the Mazda’s naturally-aspirated unit, meaning you don’t have to work it as hard, but it is quite a narrow band. It’s easy to bog the engine down at low revs – you have to be willing to use the gearbox often to keep the turbo spooled up.

It doesn’t sound particularly good, either – those who want to be heard will need to invest in an aftermarket exhaust system. We’re not saying sports cars such as the 124 need to be loud, but a bit more of a rasp would make the 124 feel more special.

Congested roads on the Fiat 124’s launch event in Italy meant we’d like a little longer with the car before coming to a full conclusion about how well it handles. Fiat’s done its own thing to the suspension, using its own springs and dampers, as well as the steering ratios.

The result? It’s not quite as focussed as the MX-5, but it does provide fun while, we suspect, not becoming quite as wearing on longer journeys. The steering is lighter than we’d like, and doesn’t transmit quite the same amount of information through to the driver as the Mazda. But as we recently criticised the MX-5 for being overly communicative (bordering edgy), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The gearbox, although originally the same ‘box as that used in the MX-5, has been heavily adapted to take the extra torque, and it doesn’t seem quite as slick to use. The throw feels longer, from our brief drive, and we didn’t find ourselves changing up and down quite as eagerly as we did with the MX-5 Sport Recaro we recently had on test.

Fiat 124 Spider: Early verdict

Fiat 124: Early verdict

It’s difficult not to treat this as a twin test with the Mazda MX-5. The truth is, neither the Mazda MX-5 or Fiat 124 is the better car. They’re both obviously very similar, with negligible differences.

But the differences are there, if you look closely. OK, the engine is the most noticeable. It’s clear from the launch that this could be divisive – some journalists, as you may well read in other reviews, prefer the punchy turbocharged Fiat unit to Mazda’s offerings. But we love ragging the naturally-aspirated Mazda units – and they sound better than the Fiat four-cylinder.

The Fiat 124 is less sharp than the Mazda, but that results in a less frantic drive. Will 99.9% of buyers miss the Mazda’s limited-slip diff? We suspect not – and those who do can opt for the Abarth instead.

That could partly explain why the Fiat isn’t as hardcore as the Mazda. By increasing refinement in the regular model, it leaves room for the Abarth – which will have more power, an LSD and a sports driving mode.

As we’ve previously questioned whether most MX-5 customers will find the Mazda a little bit over-the-top for their needs, we wonder whether Fiat’s strategy of offering a softer, more refined model, then a more hardcore model above it, might be the way forward.

For:

  • Looks great
  • Fun to drive
  • More refined than Mazda

Against:

  • Mazda likely the better option for serious petrolheads
  • Not as practical as we’d like
  • Sounds like a Ford Focus

2016 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus: specification

Price: £23,295

Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol

Gearbox: six-speed manual

Power: 140hp

Torque: 177lb ft

0-62mph: 7.5 seconds

Top speed: 134mph

Fuel economy: 44.1mpg

CO2 emissions: 148g/km

Fiat 124 Spider

New Fiat 124 Spider costs from £19,545, does 0-62mph in 7.5secs

Fiat 124 SpiderFiat has finally revealed prices for the new 124 Spider – and they start from £19,545 for the 140hp 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo-engined Classica model.

That positions it right in between the basic 1.5-litre Mazda MX-5 that it’s faster than, and the 2.0-litre MX-5 that it’s (just marginally) slower than. Fiat also argues the 124 Spider has a “high” standard spec including air con, cruise control, Bluetooth and keyless go.

You get some of that on the base 1.5 MX-5 SE, of course – but you don’t get a turbo and only get 131hp from the rev-happy 1.5-litre engine. With vastly more torque as well (177lb ft instead of the Mazda’s weedy 111lb ft), the Fiat is likely to feel the faster, sportier car during the all-important dealer test-drives.

Available to order soon in the UK, Fiat’s this week showing off the new 124 Spider to the world’s motoring press: Motoring Research is on an early wave and our first drive review will be up soon.

When it’s rolled out in the UK, buyers will get to choose from eight body colours – five regular metallics, tri-coat pearlescent white plus two ‘pastel’ (read: solid, and free) shades, either red or white.

Fiat’s also selling £22,295 124 Spider Lusso and £23,295 Lusso Plus models; the former adds sat nav, heated leather seats and a silver finish on the windscreen frame and rollover bars onto Classica trim, with the latter adding fancy LED headlights plus Bose stereo with speakers in the headrests on top.

Eager to get configurating but want to read a review before you go ahead and commit? The come back to Motoring Research tomorrow (Wednesday 8 June) for our first verdict on the reborn Fiat 124 Spider.

Fiat 500

Fiat 500: Retro Road Test

Fiat 500The current Fiat 500 has been the darling of the city car market and beloved of young and trendy urbanites since it was launched in 2007. But there is another way to go if stylish retro motoring tickles your fancy. The current 500’s predecessor – the Nuova 500 – first won over city drivers in 1957. Designed in part to get a country on wheels, its diminutive dimensions, simple two-cylinder engine and cute-as-a-button looks immediately earned it many fans. And, of course, it proved so popular, it unashamedly provided inspiration for its newer (and much larger) ancestor.

Replacing the front-engined 1936 Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’ (or ‘little mouse’), the Nuova (‘new’) 500 made use of the popular rear-engined template of the time. It followed in the tyre tracks of its larger 600 predecessor, and was part of the ‘economic miracle’ that was post-war Italy’s decade-and-a-half of sustained economic growth. Like the contemporary Volkswagen Beetle and Citroën 2CV, it can be considered one of the earliest mass-market ‘people’s cars’. It enjoyed an 18-year production run from 1957-1975.

Replaced by the angular, but similar-in-concept Fiat 126, the Nuova 500 is now a popular classic car. With a simple outlook and endearing character, it’s easy to see why over four million Nuova 500s were produced. Our test car is a 1966 500 ‘F’ with a 499cc 18bhp engine, which is owned by Great Escape Cars. Available to drive on the company’s road trip or corporate event packages, the car has also been used on the Antiques Road Trip TV programme. It was imported from Milan in January 2015.

MiniWhat are its rivals?

As its production run encapsulated almost two decades, the Nuova 500’s rivals are varied. Perhaps the most obvious is the ground-breaking Morris Mini Minor/Austin Seven/Mini of 1959, which brought front-engined, front-wheel-drive technology to the mass market. Similar in size to the 2,970mm Nuova 500, the 3,054mm Mini was more powerful: its 848cc four-cylinder developed 33hp – almost twice as much as the little Fiat’s unit. The Fiat weighed less, though; the tiny Italian car tipped the scales at 470kg, against the Mini’s 617kg. 

As the Nuova 500 entered the 1960s, more rivals appeared in the shape of the similarly-powered two-cylinder 1961 NSU Prinz 4, as well as the four-cylinder Hillman Imp of 1963. Both newcomers shared a rear-engined layout with the Nuova 500, but had larger dimensions than both the Italian car and its British Mini rival. Coincidentally, there was another NSU link: the pretty Neckar Weinsberg 500 Limousette and Coupé were based on the Nuova 500 and produced by NSU/FIAT Weinsberg Karosseriewerke in Heilbronn, Germany.

Fiat 500What engine does it use?

The first 500 models were powered by a two-cylinder 479cc engine (500cc nominally, which gave the car its name) that initially developed 13hp, then 15hp. A larger-capacity 499.5cc ‘Sport’ variant produced 21hp. The 500 ‘D’ arrived in 1960 and ushered in an enlarged 499cc two-cylinder engine, this time with 18hp, which powered the little car – including our 1996 500 F test model – until 1973. The last incarnation of the 500, the ‘R’, borrowed its 594cc engine from the similarly diminutive 126. It produced a heady 23hp. Abarth versions were even more dizzying: engines ranged from 593cc to 689.5cc with power outputs from 27hp to 38hp.

Fiat 500What’s it like to drive?

The first thing that strikes you when you first get into a 500 is the amount of space inside. Despite its bijou size, it uses what interior space it does have to much better effect than the newer model that shares its name. Thanks to its rear-engine, rear-drive layout, there’s no bulky transmission tunnel to get in the way (unlike the current car), and its large and upright glasshouse makes it feel spacious and easy to place on the road.

On the move, the engine really has to be revved to get any decent performance, and although our mildly hilly, open-road test route wasn’t best suited to the little Fiat, it coped well. Once the engine is on song, it does assault the ears somewhat, but don’t worry – it might sound like you’re doing it some damage, but that’s just the way it is. Quiet it’s not, but then that’s one part of the original 500’s multi-faceted character. Top speed is just 59mph, so motorway cruising is something denied to Nuova 500 drivers.

The hardest thing to master if you’ve not driven one before, is the non-synchromesh ‘crash’ gearbox. You need to double de-clutch every time you change gear – you’ll do it very often – and it can be a tricky thing to get the hang of. The steering can feel vague out on the open road, too, but the 500 feels quite nimble and light on its tyres. The brakes work well enough, and you’ll be glad when you have stopped, just to give your ears a rest if nothing else. For a small car, the little Italian can feel quite demanding and tiring to drive for long periods. But isn’t that just part of the fun?  

Fiat 500Reliability and running costs

Although the downsized two-cylinder engine was a departure for Fiat, it has a reputation for being a tough little unit. The car’s non-synchromesh gearbox was used throughout its life, but thankfully is also famed for being strong. If it does need repair, though, it’s not a simple task.

The 500’s dinky dimensions mean parts prices aren’t too prohibitive: a front panel can cost from as little as £72 from an independent specialist, while bonnets start at around £95. Door hinge kits are as little as £6, while doors themselves range from £288 to almost double that. 

With not much power – and therefore not a huge amount of speed – the 500 has an advantage when it comes to economy, with 53mpg commonly reported. Most now fall under the VED historic vehicle exemption rule for cars registered before 1 January 1976, too, meaning they cost nothing to tax. To further keep costs to a minimum, a classic car insurance policy would be a wise investment. 

Fiat 500Could I drive it every day?

For today’s congested streets, the Nuova 500’s pint-sized footprint is perfect. A modern Smart Fortwo may still be shorter – so 90-degree parking facing the kerb may be off the cards – but the 500 can nip through narrow streets that would be out of bounds to bigger cars, its later relative included.

If you want more practicality, the equally cute ‘Giardiniera’ estate version of the Nuova 500 was made from 1960 to 1977 and enjoyed a larger carrying capacity, thanks to the engine being turned on its side and mounted under the boot floor.  Don’t forget the sunroof on the standard car, though – fold it back to carry long loads and you’ll possess the coolest load-lugger in town.

While longer journeys out of town may prove more of a challenge due to that small engine, our 1966 test car provided modest fun out on the roads surrounding the Welsh borders. However, you do have to rev the little unit to its absolute limit, so it’s best to keep to the urban landscape. 

Fiat 500How much should I pay?

Most early-1970s, good-condition 500 F, L or R models command around £6,000-£8,000, while top collectors’ cars can go for upwards of £20,000. Restoration projects start as low as £1,500, with fully-restored 500s priced around ten times that much. A car around the same age as the 1966 car pictured here can be had for around £8,500, while 1970s-era 500s can be advertised for up to £1,000 less.

Cars that need importing may be cheaper still – mid-1960s cars can be around £3,500, but don’t forget you will need import duty and VAT adding to the total bill. It goes without saying that cars that have been better cared for fetch higher prices – we’ve seen one 1971 500 F that has been resprayed, serviced and kept in a garage for £12,500. Later 500 Rs see peaks in demand as they offer a combination of the later running gear with the early, retro-style ‘round speedo’ dashboard, rather than the plastic padded one of the 500 L.

Fiat 500What should I look out for?

As with almost all classic cars, rust is one of the biggest enemies of the 500. Examine the front panel behind the headlamps closely, along with the areas around the front and rear windows, as well as the engine cover. Don’t forget the usual spots, too, such as the bottoms of the doors, sills, wheel arches, and wings. Open the front ‘bonnet’ and check there, too, paying particular attention to the battery tray and spare wheel well. The floor can need attention on cars that haven’t been looked after, too. Rot is usually caused by leaks from that same large sunroof that gives the car a certain amount of its character.

Oil leaks from the engine are common, but a lot of smoke from the exhaust suggests the little two-cylinder will need a rebuild. The dinky unit also relies on its cooling flaps working correctly – if they don’t, it can overheat and substantial engine damage can result. Also look for worn carburettors, timing chains and clean, regularly-changed spark plugs. A check of the suspension morning points is also worth doing, too. Look at both the rear semi-trailing arms and the transverse front leaf spring for corrosion. Every 1,000-1,500 miles the front kingpins need greasing, too. 

With so many leaving Fiat’s Lingotto factory in Turin, a great number of Nuova 500s will be left-hand-drive like our test car. If it’s known that a particular car has been subject to a steering wheel swap to right-hand drive, an independent specialist can check if the conversion has been carried out properly. As befits its car-for-the-masses roots, the 500’s interior is refreshingly simple. Wear and tear will be noticeable, but parts (as well as exterior panels) on early cars can be difficult to find. 

Fiat 500Should I buy one?

As with almost all classic cars, there’s characterful appeal to the 500 that rubs off on you as you drive it. A happy little car with plenty of personality, for retro-chic appeal, a Nuova 500 beats the current Fiat 500 hands down. Healthy production figures mean there are still plenty around, and the tiny silhouette is one of the most well-known and endearing on the classic car scene. We’d buy one and keep it for high days and holidays, unless its condition and patina dictates everyday use.

Later 500 F and L cars from the mid-1960s onwards will probably be the most reliable, for those considering a longer-term proposition. As well as the engine, last-of-the-line R cars shared some of the chassis with their 126 successor and so will be more robust still. But, even the final examples will now be more than 40 years old. However, even though it’s so instantly recognisable, we’d probably have a Nouva 500 over a similar vintage Mini, purely for the added style and Italian character it offers. With a starring role as Luigi in the first Cars movie, your kids will thank you, too. 

SMEG fridgesPub facts

For the first eight years of its life, the Nuova 500 had reverse-hinged suicide doors, but they were phased out in 1965 due to safety concerns. However, the Giardiniera stuck with the rear-opening doors for all of its production run. The estate version of the 500 also had its wheelbase extended by four inches. The original 500 was also the first car to be offered with a flexible finance package, set to appeal to the bank of mum and dad.

If you love your 500 that much and want to park it indoors rather than in a garage, you can also buy a Smeg fridge that immortalises the little Italian. ‘Because a refrigerator is not just a domestic appliance and a bonnet is not just a car’, the SMEG 500 has been available since 2013, and is based on the front of a Nuova 500. It has a 100-litre capacity under its ‘bonnet’, and is available in traditional Italian red, green or white.