First drive: 2014 Fiat 500 Cult in Italy

First drive: 2014 Fiat 500 Cult in Italy

2014 Fiat 500 Cult 11
If you remember, we had gone to Italy last month to drive a couple of cars, including the Fiat 500L and the Alfa Romeo 4C. We also drove the latest version of the Fiat 500 Cult, a new trim level with a new engine and a manual gearbox, before it was even revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last week. We’d never driven a 500 before that, but damn is it good with the Euro-spec hardware.

Sharing its name with the 1950s icon, the little 500 first debuted in its current modern form in 2007. And it’s doing so well that Fiat has chosen to continue the design unchanged, which isn’t surprising considering the original ran from 1957 all the way till 1974.

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There are a few changes over and under the skin though. In Cult trim, it gets new colours, chrome door handles, black or chrome mirrors, black roof with sunroof, 16-inch wheels, leather and a few interior bits, including a new 7-inch LCD screen for a gauge cluster. It looks great on the outside, and while the inside is all hard plastic, the overall look is still premium, with body-colour dash panels and the leather seats. We forgot to peek in the back seat, but up front, there was no shortage of space for two average-sized guys.

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The one we drove came with a “TwinAir” 0.9-litre 2-cylinder turbo engine that made “only” 105 hp. But the car weighs in at 1005 kg. And with a 6-speed manual, it’s an absolute hoot to drive. It’s supposed to do 0-100 kph in 10 seconds, but it feels a lot quicker thanks to the short gear ratios and turbo torque. It could be considered a Mini Cooper rival, except that the Fiat’s a bit easier to drive thanks to its lighter clutch that complements the tightly-spaced shifter. All that and it’s still supposed to consume only 4.2 litres/100 km of fuel.

For city roads or country twisties, it’s perfect. And yet, when we hit the highway, doing 145 kph, it didn’t feel out of breath either, since we were way short of the 188 kph top speed.

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There’s no obvious body roll when cornering at above-average speeds. The communicative steering was quick and the pedals were responsive, both things we were starting to miss in other modern cars.

The ride is a bit firm, but still surprisingly compliant given the short wheelbase. If we remember correctly, wind and road noise reach only moderate levels at speed, but we weren’t really paying attention as we were busy negotiating cramped countryside roads and tricky toll booths. Little cars like these are so darn involving to hustle with the right drivetrain.

The Fiat 500 certainly turned out to be a much better car than we anticipated. What we expected was a slow little runabout with delayed responses and an awful ride, but got a rioting monkey instead. If only it were offered in this exact drivetrain-spec in the UAE, but we hear it’ll only be available here with the older non-turbo 100 hp 1.4-litre mated to an automatic, which is exactly what our market wants really. The new turbo motor should make its way here sometime in the near future, but a manual would be a hard sell here, which is a shame really.

What do you think?



  1. fun car and more into its root than the ever growing Mini

  2. I own a 2011 Fiat 500 Sport, with the Dualogic single clutch semi auto which is essentially the same as the older Alfa Selespeed, and the 1.4 100HP motor. Although the maintenance is a little on the higher side, and the AC isn’t very powerful, the bottom line is that the car puts a smile on my face every time I drive it. The engine is excellent – one of the best 4 cyl. motors I have ever driven, with a beautiful exhaust note. A lot of people have complained about the transmission, and after a year of driving it, all I have to say is that you cannot drive it like an auto or a manual – you really have to adapt to the semi-auto, and once you do, it’s a whole different ball game. That and the fact that as with most Italian cars, it loves living on the higher end of the rec-counter. Love it.

    • I test drove one as I really love this car but man, the transmission is so weirdly slow that lacks enough power to cross a roundabout safely! all what this car needs is another 20hp and it will be greater value that Mini Cooper imo.

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