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Friday 3 September 2010

Fiat 500C... I think it's love

One of my earliest memories as a child was my first trip to Italy at three and a half. My parents are from Sicily and when we visited our relatives there, some of the things I remember are: Giardino Bellini in Catania, feeding swans on a summer's day, visiting plenty of churches in Leonforte, my brother undoing nonna's knitting... and my beloved uncle's Fiat 500. I can't even recall the colour - I think it was white - but I do remember piling into it with my family and zipping across the rubble-y streets of Sicily.

So when I came across this glorious advertisement in Australian Grazia magazine, I was mesmerised. The 1950s retro twist is beautiful and of-the-moment.

Not only has the iconic Fiat 500 received multiple makeovers since I first fell in love with it in the mid 1970s, it has positively blossomed.

The new Fiat 500C - the open top version of Fiat’s Bambino - is here, and oh my, I want one! I just need to figure out where to put the twin pram and twinnies' baby seats. Or maybe I can make it my little escape vehicle. I went for a spin in a convertible a few weeks ago and frankly, I didn't want to come home.

“The interest in the open top Fiat 500 C has already proven as strong as it has been for the normal Fiat 500,” explains Andrei Zaitzev, General Manager for Fiat in Australia. “So we have opened up the order books now, so everyone who wants to be seen in the chicest car this summer can be ready to take their top off the moment summer arrives!”

The new Fiat 500C is available now to order in two versions, both equipped with the 1.4 litre 74 kW engine with a choice of a manual or DuaLogic gearboxes, with deliveries starting in early January. Prices start at an RRP of $28,990 for the manual version and $30,990 for the self shifting DuaLogic version (excluding statutory and on road costs).

“The 500C has been the car to be seen in during the European summer this year and the demand, like that for its solid roof cousin, has run well ahead of supply,” explains Mr Andrei. “With limited numbers coming to Australia and existing pent-up interest, we expect the expect demand to run ahead of supply here, too, so now is the time to start planning for chic open top motoring this summer!”

The stylish new Fiat 500C pays homage to the original 1957 fabric roof Fiat 500, but today’s thoroughly modern interpretation is a far cry from the model I squeezed into way back.

The Fiat 500C comes just 18 months after the local launch of the Fiat 500. Starting from the basis of the highly successful hatchback, the introduction of a soft top version still includes four comfy seats and its comprehensive safety equipment, but it does add new functions including easy access to the boot even when the soft top is fully open, thanks to a clever system of parallelogram hinges.

The folks at Fiat have been busy with aerodynamic research which means that turbulence experienced on the move with the roof open has been reduced to a minimum. And the electric sliding roof retains the shape of the classic vehicle.

Other cool bits include a glass rear window, a third brake light built into the soft top itself, automatic climate control and the innovative Blue&Me telematics system.

The Fiat 500's accolades are pretty darn impressive: 30 awards won worldwide, 11 million internet users who have visited its website (viewing a total of 200 million pages) and more than 360,000 customer orders for the vehicle received in the 59 markets where it is now on sale.

Impressive, especially when you can consider more than half of this vehicle’s sales have been recorded outside Italy, (50 per cent elsewhere in Europe and eight per cent in the rest of the world). In each country where it has been launched, the Fiat 500 has generated enormous interest: in Japan, for example, there have been more than 5,000 orders.

"The Fiat 500 C is not merely the open version of the 500," explains Roberto Giolito, Fiat & Abarth Style Director. "In fact, thanks to the wide range of available versions, this new model is really a whole new car in its own right, with a strong personality inherited from the original 1957 model and an undoubted sentimental value brought to it by so many fans over the years. If, on the one hand, the Fiat 500 C respects the original version, on the other it enriches it with new features which, thanks to stylistic choices, afford each one of us maximum freedom of use."

A few more stats for rev-heads and car enthusiasts:

Fiat’s 1.4 litre 16V engine delivers 74 kW at 6,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 131 Nm at 4,250 rpm. The Fiat 500 C has a top speed of 182 kmh and 0-100 kmh acceleration in just 10.5 seconds. Fuel economy is impressive too: in the combined cycle, the 1.4 litre achieves 6.3 l/100 km.

Okay, I am convinced. Where do I sign?

See http://www.fiat500.com.au/ for more info or to book a test drive.

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