If there is ever an iconic small car in this world, then it is the Fiat Cinquecento. It always has been. Right from the start, the original Cinquecento won hearts, and has an army of faithful followers right until this day. Building a modern day successor is no small feat. But Fiat has succeeded wonderfully here, and did even so well, that also this so much younger sister can also justifiably be called Cinquecento.
Certainly so with its Twinair two cylinder engine. We enjoyed every meter we drove it. Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, the heart of every automobile is its engine. And the original Cinquecento breathed, and really came alive with the typical throb of its twin cylinder. This was brought to even higher levels with the mythical Abarth versions. Remember the 695 EsseEsse? If you have never driven this Cinquecento, don't shed tears: the present turbo driven Twinair has the same dramatic, hissing twin cylinder sound, and plenty of thoroughbred power to give your Cinquecento wings, and let you taste the joys of genuine sporting motoring, in the truest classic sense.
Indeed, this Cinquecento has a truly sporting heart. In its standard turbo version, this 875 cc twin cylinder watercooled and very ingenious engine develops an impressive 62.5 kW or 85 HP at 5500 rpm and, even more importantly, has a healthy torque of 145 Nm at a low 1900 rpm. So when you step on it, this twin really pulls. Revving up, if you only let it, in a ravishing and beautiful staccato, just like its iconic ancestor, it well send your heart racing too...
But the beauty is, that you don't even have to do this to enjoy pure speed. Stay between 2 and 3000 rpm, and you can feel the thoroughbred power already, as torque is fully there around 2000 rpm, as we said.
Our Cinquecento came with the sequential 5 speed box, which added to the sporting pleasure. It does bring extra sporting drama with the paddles at the steering wheel, allowing you to flick up and down all the gears like a pro. When down changing, the box instructs the engine to rev up a bit for those super smooth fast changes.
When you are a bit more lazy, you can in this manual mode only use the paddles to change up, and let the box do all the down changing, which it does smoothly. Only when coasting to a standstill one notices clearly when the box chooses bottom gear, but under braking everything works totally smoothly. As said, performance is more than lively with a 0 to 100 km acceleration in merely 11 seconds, and a top speed of 173 km/h.
Cruising at the legal 120-130 km/h limits is completely effortless, and can be kept for hours on end with only a subdued engine hum.
The Cinquecento turns out impressive consumption figures for a sporting car with a thoroughbred petrol engine, and the results depend of course entirely on the way you handle this twin cylinder. Let it pull only at low revs, and even when you drive it with verve, you will stay easily below of around 6 litres/100 km.
This is also the average consumption we achieved during our test. Of course it is all too tempting to rev it and really put it through its paces, but even then consumption will hardly ever reach more than 8 litres. If you drove the mythical EsseEsse with abandon, rather more litres of super would flow through the Weber venturi's...
Of course all this is due to the clever construction of this twinair engine, about which we commented extensively in these columns. Notably at its introduction and when we drove the Panda Twinair and the elegant Lancia Ypsilon with CNG.
We just give you here some links...
Surprisingly comfortable with state of the art handling.
One has only to look at the Abarth versions or see the "corse" versions hurtle around the circuit to be convinced about the handling potential of the Cinquecento chassis. We had the privilege to be driven around the Zolder track aboard one of the Corse Abarths, with a professional racing driver behind the wheel. We give you here the link to our enthusiastic report...
Indeed, the suspension and chassis does handle the turbo power of this Twinair easily. The Cinquecento steers neutrally up to very high cornering speeds, and will hardly ever surprise its driver.
On top of this very surefooted handling the Cinquecento Pleases with remarkable comfort, taking potholes in worn out city streets or forlorn country roads quite well in its stride. Long cross country trips and fast motorway voyages do not take the Cinquecento out of its depth. Of course this Fiat truly shines in the city, where it wins hearts with its excellent maneuverability.
A pleasant cabin made for “la dolce vita…”
The pleasure in owning and driving the Cinquecento does not stop with drivetrain and chassis. It is also fun live with, indeed to sit in its pleasant cabin and use all its controls.
We love also the white color of steering wheel, instrument clusters and dashboard, the elegant design of seat upholstery and other details like the door handles for instance.
The shape and styling of it all bears a family resemblance to its iconic ancestor, yet is well and truly timelessly modern. Up to date is also the infotainment system with the state of the art U Connect feature we find in recent models of the Fiat group. It lets you hook up your smartphone of course, and enjoy any music streaming you might like. The sound system is also surprisingly good.
We are also fans of the big, decorative steering wheel, which evokes luxuriousness, and the typical Latin flamboyance of the special coach built coupés and spiders in the early fifties with their opulent interiors. Remember that the early Giulietta’s for example too had dual tone steering wheels with chromed claxon rings. This very “Dolce Vita” panache one finds back in the Cinquecento, and makes the car truly stand out.
The same goes for the white colored controls on both sides of the steering wheel column and the gear change paddles of course.
The 500 is also reasonably practical with enough room in the back for two children, or babies with their safety seats, and it is good to know that the rear seat has a split fold back feature, so there is enough space for some more sizeable supermarket shopping trips.
With its thoroughbred twin cylinder twinair engine, this Fiat has all the character and panache of its iconic ancestor, yet is totally up to date and timelessly modern. With this engine, the 500 truly deserves to bear its “Cinquecento” name, as it feels and sounds the same as the original “nuova” 500.
To rive and own this car is a constant pleasure. Not alone by its cute looks and pleasant cabin, but also the way it performs, handles and drives. It is comfortable and seats two adults and two children with ease, offers also enough luggage space with one of the back seats folded down.
Its twinair turbo engine is state of the art when it comes to modern petrol engine engineering, and it is not only fun, but is also quite economical once you drive it in the manner it is designed for to deliver optimum efficiency.
So if you want to treat yourself to a car with personality, which will be nice to look at and drive year after year, then this iconic Cinquecento is the car for you… we certainly regretted parting with it after our test drive!