Realigned Fiat unleashes cooler, more defined & competitive SA 500 line-up
Let’s get something straight from the get-go. There’s nothing new about the Fiat 500. Bar a few badges and colours, that is. The big deal here is all about the 500 range being reshuffled into dare we say, a cooler, more defined and more competitive line-up as Fiat chases increased sales in a new lease of life under Stellantis in SA.
500 is plenty cool enough
To be honest, the King of Superminis does not need a technical update — or anything else like that, for that matter. It’s plenty cool enough as it is having sold 6 million cars, half of those since it’s ’07 comeback. So technically and aesthetics wise, 500 carries on as it has since its 2016 nip and tuck. The 500 has however been refreshed with new trim levels, colours and interiors and the introduction of this new Cult, Connect, Dolcevita and Sport range.
Now let’s get this straight too — I understand 500 because we own one. We’ve had Fred, our TwinAir Lounge four years now and he’s very much part of the family. Fred is our fifth 500 since it came back. But while I know all about our 500, there were a one or two aspects I never knew too well before. Perhaps the most important of those, is just how well specced this brilliant little car is, from the bottom of the range.
Now known as Cult and coming in at just R219K, that’s pretty impressive all on its own. See, the whole 500 range is premium. So considering that the cheapest car in SA costs just sixty grand less, that’s quite a bargain. Because the Cult comes complete with every important Fiat 500 advantage from the splendid state-of-the-art TwinAir turbo petrol twin that also pays homage to the original 1960s 500’s two-cylinder engine, to a most impressive level of spec across the board.
Brilliant turbo petrol twin engine
The downsized 63 kW 145 Nm 875cc TwinAir delivers maximum twist at just 1,900 rpm in a splendid and spirited manner. With a wonderful, classic twin cylinder burble. It returns a claimed 4 litres per 100km and a most respectable 11 second 0-100km/h dash. TwiAir is totally unique, grunty and accommodating and has a creamy and enjoyable nature. And every Fiat 500 in the range has the benefit of TwinAir turning the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
Every 500 from the Cult up also comes with seven driver’s, passenger, knee, side and curtain airbags. Add ABS braking across the range, Electronic Stability Control, a hill-holder and a speed limiter too. Impressed? You should be! But wait — every Fiat 500 also comes with user friendly Uconnect HD tablet touchscreen Infotainment with DAB Radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth tech with voice recognition.
So you get all of the above in the entry level Fiat 500 Cult. which also gets that cool new Arancio Sicilia orange colour option in the picture up top, among 500’s sexy palette of hues. Cult runs on 14-inch steel wheels with smart hubcaps, it has black wing mirrors and halogen headlights above those DRLs. And it has blue fabric seats, an optional Techno Blue Matt dash and manual air-conditioning.
Stepping up to Connect
Next up, the Fiat 500 Connect is tailored to the modern connected lifestyle. Connect steps up to the bigger screen smart gesture seven-inch Uconnect infotainment system with DAB Plus, CarPlay and AndroidAuto, and two additional rear speakers. There’s also optional TomTom 3D map HD Navigation and Connect also gets LED lighting, 15-inch alloys and specific side skirts, rear spoiler and bumpers with and a Matt Silver dash option.
Our Fred has a new name. Out with Lounge, in with Dolcevita. Which means the Sweet Life. Cool hey? DV keeps Lounge’s neat bespoke 16-inch alloys and chrome accents on the optional two-tone paintwork and adds neat new badging. Dolcevita also gets splendid Matelassé fabric seats with techno leather details, and a 50/50 split rear seat over the Connect. And it comes in the choice of a neat glass roof or the cool 500C Cabriolet drop-top.
Dolcevita is also available with the option Fiat’s MTA transmission. Fiat stresses that this is an automated manual rather than just an automatic and stresses that it must be driven as such. Looked at like that, MTA proved the other revelation of my suburban cruise around Jozi. Drive it as it should be driven and MTA is quite engaging as you can can pre-empt gear changes via the throttle. Which really does heighten involvement and fun.
And then there’s the 500 Sport
The final new 500 is the sexy Sport, which likewise comes in the choice of Cabriolet and the MTA transmission. Bringing a hint of boldness to everyday life, Sport gets unique 16-inch alloy wheels, Sport badging, and specific side skirts, bumpers and rear spoiler. Add a new Cloud Grey colour choice and arrow electro trim with a titanium dashboard and a red 500 logo. The same TFT seven-inch digital cluster accompanies automatic air conditioning that comes in at Connect level.
Fiat is in the process of evaluating the new all-electric 500e — as an alternative, not a solution. That’s one battery car we cannot wait to meet. And the Abarth and rebranded 500X ranges are also imminently due to be repositioned.
So yes, there’s plenty of excitement around Fiat 500 right now. This re-imagined line-up peps up the coolest small car on the SA market and we’re looking forward to seeing many more of them on the road. And after four seasons with Fred, all I can do is highly recommend a 500. Bring it on! — Michele Lupini
Fiat 500 0.9t TwinAir Pricing 500 Cult R219K 500 Connect R260K 500 Sport R269K 500 Dolcevita R274K 500C Sport R319K 500C Dolcevita R324K