Andy Palmer tells us more about the car Aston will race in Le Mans’ new top class
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£14,420 when new
What’s this, then? It’s the new Fiat 500, successor to the 2007 reimaginating of Italy’s budget icon. ‘New’? Yep, apparently. Fiat says some 1800 parts are different to the original-new 500, 98 per cent of which, we assume, are buried deep down below the surface… So there are new engines?
Erm, no. Sorry. As with the outgoing 500, you can choose either the thummy two-cylinder TwinAir or a more conventional 68bhp, 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol. That TwinAir can be had with either 84 or 104bhp (we’d go for the latter because, y’know, power). Same old. A diesel, and ‘Eco’ spec version of the 1.2 petrol will follow soon after launch. What is new, then? Well, the front end, as you may or may not have noticed, is a bit more 500X-y, and out back there’s a pair of new taillights. There are also new colours, decals and alloy wheels to add to the bewildering array of personalization options so enjoyed by your typical 500 buyer. But the biggest change is inside, where the old (and terrible) CD-radio set-up has been ditched to make room for Fiat’s ‘Uconnect’ infotainment wizardry. It’s a 5-inch touchscreen with, if you tick the right boxes, TomTom nav and a whole host of ‘Live’ services, including Internet radio and Twitter. Twitter? Yes, Twitter. Just in case you get the urge, while driving in the outside lane of the M1, to check what your mates have had for dinner. Outside lane. That’s a bit optimistic, no? If you buy the 1.2, yes. It may be smooth, quiet and reasonably refined, but 68bhp engine’s lack of outright grunt is most irritating. You even feel it around town, where, if you’re not on the ball, you’ll be out-dragged by even the plumpest of cyclists. Best go for the TwinAir, which is a cracker. Quick enough in 104bhp form, torquey and playful. It suits the 500 down to the ground. Fiat claims it’ll do 67.3mpg too, bettering the 60.1mpg offered by the 1.2. For now, eco champions will want the 84bhp TwinAir, which supposedly manages 74.3mpg. But if you get anything like these figures from your 500, you’re driving it wrong. Speed up, seriously. How does the ‘new’ 500 drive, then? Well, if unremarkably. The ride isn’t great over the roughest of surfaces, but the steering is light and precise, if a little lacking in feedback. But who cares? Owners will spend all their time in town, where the 500’s at its best. The whole car makes you feel a bit caddish – as if every gap, no matter how wide, is there for you to exploit. A good city car, if ever there was one. How much? Just under £11k buys you a 500 in its most basic form. A 104bhp TwinAir with all the trimmings is £14,420, climbing north of £17,000 if you go for the 500C soft-top. Ouch. And the Abarth? Patience. The old Abarth will still be available when the new 500 goes on sale in September, and will likely get the new nose, nav and remaining 1,798 tweaks some time next year…
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