Thursday, July 15, 2010

The adorable Cinquicento !

A potential business venture took me to Milan last month. A 2 day trip with meetings in Bergamo gave me a chance to drive some once Italian country roads in the glorious Italian sunshine.
I reserved an Alfa Spider for collection at the airport, and upon arrival had a "Seinfeld" moment when I learned that the car wasn't available. The rental company had taken the reservation from me, but seemed to have forgotten the most important part and not actually held the car for me!

It was coming up to 11pm, and after a long flight, I was not in the mood for a fight, and I was told the only car available was a Fiat 500!

If you have read my interview by Kiran Chhabria from earlier this year, you will know that I do have a hidden passion for this car, so I hid my pleasure from the car rental clerk and begrudgingly took the keys to my red Cinquicento :)

As I stepped out into the Milan summer, I was greeted by a downpour of rain. Perhaps a good thing the convertible I originally wanted wasn't available !

The 500 is a, quite simply, a beautiful car. Of all the reincarnations of 70's vehicles (most notably, the Mini and the Beetle), this little Fiat has the most character and charm. Perfect proportions, it is a classic car brought up to date with modern touches around updated classic curves.

I have admired this car and it's design, from afar, since it's launch, but up close, I was most impressed with it's build quality. From the moment you open and open and close the door, the feel of the seats, the fit and finish of the interior ..... this is not a small and cheaply finished car. In fact, as long as you don't turn around and look backwards (to see that the car stops 2 feet behind the drivers seat), the car actually feels a lot bigger than it really is. You feel younger sitting in a decent mid size luxury saloon.

I had a 1.3l petrol car and found it drove well. It had reasonable acceleration and I took it to a reasonably high speed (that I really shouldn't disclose), and it was stable and not too much wind noise on the motorways.

There was a short shifting band sporty feeling manual gearshift, and my 2 hour drive to my meeting was enlightened (despite pouring rain).

A successful conclusion to my discussions 24 hours later saw the sun come out, and with almost a full day ahead of me before my return flight, I took the scenic route back! A series of B roads though the country and some rather nice vineyards let this car come into it's own. I have bee lucky enough to own and experience a number of fast and luxury cars. The 500 doesn't compare in class or performance, but it is sure footed, grips the corners well and has incredibly responsive steering. It is like a little go kart, and ironically, with it's dinky little engine, even with a push, you are travelling at fairly safe speeds and enjoying the car to it's maximum (this can't be said of Porsche's and Aston Martins).

Windows and sunroof open, I did miss the convertible, but I had no regrets I was left with this "consolation" for my trip. This book isn't let done by it's cover. In fact, the cover does the whole package total justice.

Well done Fiat! I was sad to say goodbye to the Cinquecento, but hope I will get another chance to enjoy one ...... soon!

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