REVIEW: Fiat 500 Spiaggina ’58

FIAT 500 Spiaggina

By Seán Creedon

Fiat has produced several versions of their best-selling 500 over the years and thankfully I have driven various iterations of the car. The funky-looking car began life in 1957 as the Cinquecento, a successor to the 500 ‘Topolino.’

The car was revived by Fiat in 2007 and has got a few upgrades since then. Back in 1957 the Cinquecento was seen as an inexpensive and practical city car; now the regular version is still not expensive, but a lot more stylish.

Last week I got to test another version of the 500, the Spiaggina ’58, which was called the ‘Jolly’ when launched 62 years ago. It certainly has that retro look which would remind you of the fifties and sixties.

My test car came in a lovely shade of blue. GAA fans over 50 would remember it as similar to the colours worn by the Dublin football and hurling teams in the fifties and sixties. Officially the colour is volare blue.

The 1.2-litre manual version is being phased out, but Colin Griffin from Fiat tells me that a mild hybrid 1.0-litre version of the Spiaggina will be available very soon. Yet another step in what Fiat describe as ‘the evolution of an icon.’

Externally it’s typical 500, but with a ‘soft top’ roof. Sadly the Irish weather is so varied right now you would be taking a chance leaving down the roof.

However, inside you could do with sun glasses the decor was so bright. The sky blue colour was replicated on the dash which was complimented with a lovely cream colour. Then the seats had a touch of cream and blue. The roof was also cream coloured to make for a really bright interior.

The dash is very busy with all the controls at your fingertips. And unusually the buttons to open the and close the front windows are included in the console near the gear lever and not on the door panels. The large digital speedometer on the dash would remind you of the speedometer in a Mini.

Only two doors and the back seat is tight and would be just about carry two children, who are not too tall. Or if you don’t have children the back seat would be ideal for a cute dog, maybe a Maltese terrier. But dog lovers be warned, the back windows don’t open.

Naturally the boot is tiny, but the good news is that you get a proper spare wheel and not the dreaded repair kit. I also like the old-fashioned style hand-brake. The cream-coloured alloys are also classy.

If you visit Italy you will see different versions of the 500 on every street. You may have seen pictures of the Fiat 500 navigating tight city streets and yes the car is nimble and easy to park.

I haven’t done much driving in Italy, but colleagues tell me that you could be motoring along the Autostrada at over 100 km/h in a big luxury car and suddenly find yourself being overtaken by an Italian driver in a Fiat 500.

Prices start at €20,295. If you opt for that sky blue colour, you will certainly get a lot of attention from curious car owners in the supermarket car park. It was cute and suddenly I feel in holiday mood and would love a Gelato.