A genuine sports car you can also drive in a busy city – and park in a tiny supermarket space? Is it really possible?
Well firstly the size of the thing makes it easy to park as it is basically a Fiat 500. That’s no bad thing in my mind – my wife had one for years and reluctantly parted with it when our daughter came along nine months ago, the only reason being it was not really practical getting the baby in and out of a two-door car. Never mind fitting all the paraphernalia in to a boot limited by the dinky proportions of the car.
So I was familiar with driving the 500 and was curious if this solidly built and very drivable, stylish little Dr Jekyll supermini could be transformed into a Mr Hyde by dropping a 160bhp turbocharged engine in the front.
You have to say that it does. On starting the engine and giving it a few revs, it brarps nicely and blatters along with a throaty snap, crackle and pop as though there are rice krispies having a pool party in nitro-glycerine under the bonnet. It sounds good, and you expect it to be quick, but it still surprises with the sheer level of its acceleration, from scratch or at low speeds.
Coming off a roundabout on to a dual carriageway, staying in second means you can then blast past startled drivers who you can see in your mirrors are thinking, What the hell is that? as you accelerate away into the distance with a smile on your face.
It feels a bit jittery over bumpy roads, despite the excellent, supportive leather seats, but the “sport” setting on the dash firms up the feel of the car and seems to make it settle a bit, as well as making the most of the power.
In terms of looks what was already a chic little car has been improved by a few tweaks such as lowered suspensions and discreet skirts and spoilers.
So, is there a “but” coming? Yes, there are a few.
What starts as a low-level throatiness from the engine does become a bit harsh as you accelerate, plus there’s the jitteriness mentioned earlier. There’s also the problem of the inside. The radio/cd is a bit dated and, to be honest, for the price you would expect something a bit better than standard 500 fixtures – and a satnav too.
The main circular dash behind the steering wheel is smart and shows a regular set up of revs, speed and fuel gauge, as you would expect, but on pushing the “sport” button it gets a bit silly. Now a picture of the car appears and on either side and above it are G-force meters. No, really. To show the amount of G-force affecting the car, particularly when cornering. Now, I cannot see the point of this. The last thing you should be doing when going round a corner at speed is looking what sort of G you’re pulling – you should probably be looking out the windscreen to see what’s around the corner. The only reason I can imagine you would want this would be to get one of your friends to take pictures over your shoulder of the 1G – woo – you were reaching when going round a roundabout with your foot down, and then posting the photos to an online forum. To appeal to other, like-minded people, who post similar pictures on online forums.
So it’s a chic little car with a sporty facelift and a powerful engine which throws it pretty quickly at the horizon, making it good fun to drive. But there are some bits that are a bit cheap, dated or downright daft for a car that starts at £17,990.