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Fiat opens up 500C for $29K

Top that: The peel-back-lid Fiat 500C will be priced from $28,990 when it hits Australian showrooms in January.

New Fiat Bambino ‘topolino’ convertible set to go on sale for under $30,000

7 Sep 2009

ELLE Macpherson’s favourite car, the funky “sardine-can-top” Fiat 500C convertible, will go on sale in Australia in January for an entry price of less than $30,000, making it Australia’s most affordable fresh-air four-seater.

The new-generation “Bambino topolino” will be priced at $28,990 (plus statutory and on-road costs) in manual form and $30,990 for the self-shifting, semi-automatic DuaLogic gearbox-equipped version – a premium of just $1000 on the current top-of-the-range hard-top Fiat 500 Lounge variants.

Only the two-seater 1.0-litre Smart ForTwo Cabrio can claim to deliver an open-top experience for less, at $22,990. But among real four-seat convertibles, the Fiat 500C undercuts its nearest rival, the one-size-larger $35,990 Peugeot 207 Cabriolet, by $6000.

Although the 500C is still months away from arriving in Australian showrooms, Ateco has thrown open its order books for what it expects to be a limited allocation of stock because of hot demand around the world for the little soft-top convertible.

36 center imageAteco says it is yet to be advised how many 500Cs it will get in its initial shipments, but expects the convertible to comprise about 10 per cent of its Fiat 500 sales. This year, Ateco has sold 247 solid-top Bambinos at the rate of about 30 a month, including 20 in August.

Fiat general manager in Australia, Andrei Zaitzev, said interest in the 500C had been as strong as customer inquiry on the solid-top 500.

“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 the summer arrives,” he said.

Well, not quite when summer arrives, as the first registrations are expected in early January.

The Euro-chic 500C, whose appeal stems from its faithful homage to the 1957 original, down to the slide-back soft-top that 1950s buyers likened to a peel-back sardine tin lid.

In the 21st century, the new generation 500C also appeals to fashion-conscious city-slickers with a green conscience, sipping fuel at a combined test cycle of 6.3 litres per 100km in both five-speed manual and five-speed semi-automatic guises – the same as the five-star rated 1.4-litre hatch. CO2 emissions are a respectable 140g/km.

The 1.4-litre 16-valve engine delivers 74kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque of 131Nm at 4250rpm, and is said to propel the 500C from zero to 100km/h in 10.5 seconds – 0.2 seconds faster than the 1.4-litre petrol solid-top.

This is somewhat surprising, considering kerb weight figures quoted overseas suggest the 500C lugs about 40kg more beef than the roofed version.

This extra weight is easily explained, with extra body strengthening to minimise scuttle shake, a deeper windscreen to allow for a stronger upper cross-member for safety reasons and reduce body flex while also affording rear-seat passengers a better view.

Unlike the elbow-grease-propelled sliding roof on the original ‘topolino’, electric motors drive the new 500C’s roof into either part-open or fully open settings, and also open it fractionally automatically when the boot-release is pulled, freeing up the bootlid to open fully.

The luggage capacity of 182 litres is just three litres short of the saloon version’s hatch space – a benefit of the no-frills sliding soft-top that does not fold away behind the seats, like many space-gobbling foldable tops.

Safety features include electronic stability control (ESC), an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), hill holder and hydraulic brake assistance to aid emergency stops.

A driver’s knee airbag is included with the usual front and side airbags.

Handling is improved by the addition of a rear anti-roll bar from the sporty Abarth 500.

To make sure the 500C sparkles, a standard chrome kit adds chrome trim on side sindows, exhaust pipe tip, interior door-handle inserts, gear lever and front and rear bumpers.

Standard equipment includes auto climate control, foglights, parking sensors and 16-linch alloy wheels with 185/55 R16 tyres. To make sure the owner remains well connected, the 500C comes standard with Bluetooth in Fiat’s hands-free, voice-activated Blue&Me system.

The leather-bound steering wheel gets a number of function switches, including controls for the DuraLogic gearbox shifts, should the owner tick that box.

Ateco says there are no plans to add a diesel variant, using the 1.3-litre 55kW/145Nm common-rail four-cylinder JTD oil burner currently available in the 500 Lounge, nor the entry-level 1.2-litre SOHC petrol alternative available in the 500 Pop base model.

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