Bubbly Bambina : Fiat 500 Dolcevita Review

There are few cars as widely recognisable as the little Fiat 500. It goes by 500, Bambina, Cinquecento and many more names depending on which part of the world you are from. Featuring in everything from the legendary ‘Roman Holiday’ to the latest YouTube video, the Fiat is nothing short of a cultural icon. However, it started life as an affordable family car in an era where steel was expensive. Hence the reason for the car’s unique shape and canvas roof. Today, the Fiat serves quite a different purpose being both a mode of transport as well as a fashion accessory.

So, I took the 500 for one last hurrah to celebrate its successes before it transitions into an EV.

Front three quarters view of the new Fiat 500
At home whether in town or at the water’s edge!

By today’s standards, the 500 is still a small car but it isn’t quite as tiny as it once was. While there’s been a quite significant growth in size, there’s been no change in character. That cheeky grin is still as prominent today as it was 50 years ago. The headlights are still little round things as are the wheels, that hide under a largely unchanged silhouette. That’s the beauty of the 500. It’s got a certain character that you seldom find these days. It isn’t designed to be practical, powerful, fuel efficient or whatever. There’s just one purpose behind this car and that is fun!

Rear three quarters view of the new Fiat 500 Dolcevita
The 500 adores city driving

With the theme of fun in mind, you should only get this car in a funky colour! It’s the only way to compliment the styling and persona that the 500 has. In this shade of red, the curvy silhouette caught the eye of many onlookers. And it is in this action that people pay the 500 the biggest compliment they can, a smile. I really adored this about the Fiat, it has an incredible ability to make the whole world happy.

Just like a clown at a children’s birthday party whose red button nose, balloon animals and such make life seem a little light hearted, the 500 has the same effect but with more style!

While the exterior brings light to other people’s life. The interior adds a sprinkling of fun to your own. That cheeky character translates so well into all the curves and colours of the cabin. Soft ‘Pelle Frau’ leather seats keep you afloat with a good amount of support. Though taller drivers may not find the interior so comfortable on longer drives but at least for short darts around town, it is plentiful. Practicality isn’t top of mind as you can imagine but I somehow managed some decently long trips with passengers!

On the other hand, styling is a high priority and one that is executed very well. The big red panel across the dashboard is colour coordinated with the exterior of the car and brings a good pop of life into the cabin. My suggestion for the exterior colour still stands here, be as funky as you can with your choice!

The Dolcevita package doesn’t just add a leather interior but also a fixed sunroof which not only floods the compact cabin with light but also pays homage to the original’s canvas roof. The dashboard buttons and circular design elements keep the retro style. So fashionable is the 500 that it will have you checking your look in the mirror more than normal! You’ll feel like dusting off those unique pieces of clothing you own as well as your unorthodox playlists. So with Italian jazz playing through the car, I went for a drive.

The 500 attacks every corner with zest. It’s little 1.2 litre engine revs away as you get through the gears using the centrally mounted shifter. With 51kW on tap and 102Nm of torque, you won’t win any races unless it’s against a classic 500! In saying that, speed isn’t the point of this car. Quite the contrary actually as it forces you to slow down and live the good life.

The ‘Dualogic’ robotised manual gearbox is just as cheerful as the car. With 5 gears on offer, you will find yourself making the most of the driving experience one shift at a time. This element of fun was so prevalent during my drive that I barely spent any time in automatic mode. Driving both in town and on the twisty roads gave me a good sense of the Fiat’s versatility around the city. The oversized steering wheel adds to the driving experience especially in corners where you can hurtle the car around bends with a gleeful grin across your face. Think of those old Italian films with people driving their 500s through the cobbled streets of Roma and Napoli. This new model takes you right back there!

As with any car, the little Fiat isn’t without its issues. The steering hits your knees constantly, there’s not much support to the seats, some of the build is a bit dodgy and the wing mirrors rattle when you go too fast. Honestly though, who cares?! There are few cars that could make you smile quite as much as the 500 so please forgive the impracticalities and enjoy the drive.

Dolcevita logo on the Fiat 500 Dolcevita
It is the good life indeed!

If you haven’t got the idea already, the Fiat 500 Dolcevita isn’t a perfect car but then I have yet to find one that is! Instead, what the 500 can offer you is an escape from all the troubles of life. With the rare ability to make the world smile as it drives by, there is something quite remarkable about this little car.

Thanks for reading! For more Fiat news and reviews, head to Tarmac Life.

Words and pictures by Matthew D’Souza. Car courtesy of Fiat New Zealand.

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