Retro delights: Fiat 500
The Fiat 500 is back – retrospective but with an eye on the future. Sean O'Grady reports
Saturday 01 March 2008
When it comes to cars, retro is risky. In the right hands, it can lead to critical acclaim and – most critically of all – a drive into profit. BMW's New Mini falls cheerily into this category, as does the reborn Ford Mustang and the current Bentley Continental GT. Do retro cack-handedly, though, and you end up with a slow selling curiosity. Volkswagen's New Beetle, which was just a Golf in a more costly suit, enjoyed a brief spike of interest before flopping, as did the Jaguar S-type and the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which was just vaguely old-fashioned without recalling any particular classic. Saddest of all was the elegant Rover 75 – retro where it was least needed in a company already lumbered with an "old man's car" reputation.
The signs are that the new Fiat 500, echoing the design cues of the original, much loved (and much smaller) 1957 model will be another chapter in the story of Fiat's return from the brink. True, this car isn't as fresh a design as, say, the New Mini. Under that cutesy bodywork lies a Fiat Panda, made in Poland and a fine hatchback, but with a 500 you get less space and less practicality for more money.
However, the 500 is a much more accomplished fashion item than the new Beetle could ever hope to be, thanks to its gorgeously detailed interior. In this it has much more in common with the New Mini, which admittedly has little to do with the 1959 original. BMW's version didn't redefine the small car in the way that Sir Alec Issigonis's invention did.
What it was, and is, is a cheap, front-wheel drive, smallish BMW, with all the quality and reliability that marque inspires, while still being unmistakably British and Mini-ish. The New Mini's extensive options list offers BMW generous scope for inflating margins; the same should happen with the 500, which will rival the Mini for customising possibilities. But will it be as well made as a Mini, or its dealers as solicitous as a New Beetle's? Will it be cheap enough to tempt buyers? These are also traditional factors for a car's fortunes...
Life & Style blogs
Looking past the search results: Google 2.0 will 'build airports and cities' says report
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
Surviving cancer: They were expected to die - yet these childhood-cancer patients knew nothing of their diagnosis
iOS 8: how to free up memory on your iPhone or iPad to install the update
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
- 5 New Tricks: Dennis Waterman to leave the show after a decade of crime-solving
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...