Picture the scene, Barbra has passed her driving test , the L plates are off and freedom awaits. But what car should magically appear on her 18th birthday, ‘hmmm’ her daddy consolidates as he hammers ‘CARS FOR GIRLS’ in Google images, and there is it, a bright baby blue fiat 500.
Step back though, is it really fair to Velcro the ‘suited for Zootopia ’ little 500 to the wall of ‘trendy fad’ shame. OK the little fiat has developed an image of being a ‘mobilised handbag’ but should we be so harsh, and sexist, on the Italian runabout.
If you slide into the 500 your met with a rather niche but well thought out cabin. The gloss, colour coordinated dashboard along with pastel coloured indicator stalks give a sense of joy in an otherwise dull, scratchy, ‘50 shades of grey’ world of black interior plastics. The gear stick is on the dashboard, like Mr angry mans transit, and is a doddle to slot into gear. Everything has a sense of being retro but functional.
This is the little Fiat’s strongest point, its easy to drive and live with without being as tasteless as wallpaper paste. And from £10,000 its one of the few ‘acceptable cheap cars’ having a class leading (A Segment) Euro ncap rating of 5 stars. Something not to overlook and sneer at when similar sized rivals like the Nissan Pixo or Suzuki Alto barley manage 3 stars, Which in blunt terms means big foot well intrusion and poor protection all round for driver and passenger. Safety is not to be sniffed at.
Admittedly the instrument binnacle looks like an elaborate countdown timer used on some low rent Japanese game show, and the rear seats are a novelty item. Oh and the boot is smaller than Ant Man’s arse.
But plonk yourself inside a fiat panda; on which the 500 is based, and it feels like the place where Eeyore became depressed. It literally stirs the human soul into a mushy meaningless sense of unhappiness as you stare at the tiny trumpet horn logo on the steering wheel, which summarises the size of your rapidly diminished self esteem
That’s why the 500 deserves more respect, yes it looks like baby George with his eyelashes burnt off but that’s missing the point. It gives the small car market some vigour and more importantly encourages more interest in driving among young people.
And then there is the way it drives, OK its hardly the ‘road going go kart’ the original Austin mini was famed for but as long as you stick to petrol it springs down the road like it’s being powered by a determined hamster on an exercise wheel . If you want a 500 powered by a Hammy the squirrel from ‘over the hedge’ look no further than the Abarth 500.
So rather than slating the 500 as ‘girly’ or a pointless fashion accessory remember that without it we would all have to settle for a Fiat panda. And to be brutally honest id rather settle for a life’s supply of dog piss that that hideousness crap on wheels.