FIAT 500D - INTERIM REPORT

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The Fiat 500D is of interest not only because in spite of increased Import Duty it remains, at an all-in price of £410, the least expensive 4-wheeled car on the British market, but because many people to whom its price is not its primary appeal are using these little cars as second-string family transport. Perhaps defiantly, in a world of Minis!

As mentioned briefly last month, I have been putting the smallest of the Turin family through its paces. So far, it has covered 1,875 miles in less than five weeks in our various hands, novice and “expert,” has been spared not at all, has never been serviced, and is going like a cracker. Long runs with the accelerator flat on the floor, speedometer needle off the dial (it records to 70), the Fiat usually heavily laden, have been interspersed with local pottering. The presence of a towing attachment has even inveigled us into retrieving other vehicles, an elderly Ford included, behind the 499½ c.c. twin-cylinder engine, the Fiat showing no concern. Under this sort of treatment (and a stiff engine to begin with) petrol consumption of the cheapest-grade fuel has averaged 48.1 m.p.g., and over the first 20 gallons was 50.6 m.p.g. Just under three pints of Castrolite have maintained the oil level. The only trouble has been a broken throttle cable, after 644 miles, replaced expeditiously by the local (Aldershot) Fiat agents, to whom we were unknown, although the car was taken to them, on a fixed butterfly setting, late on a busy Friday afternoon—the bill came to 15s. 9d.

The Pirelli tyres have held their pressures and the 500D has never failed to start with commendable promptitude. I love the little thing, using it for going to London and back and for long runs, as well as for local shopping chores. In spite of the Fiat’s modest price you get a sun-roof, self-cancelling indicators, dual vizors, lamps-dipping by steering-column stalk-lever, a good heater, anti-dazzle facia warning lights, screen washers, and wind-up windows. If it isn’t quite as “dodgeable” as a Mini it isn’t far behind, helped by quick, precise steering, while its small dimensions make it an extremely useful town-car, either in action or when parking. The ride, too, is very good for a car with a wheelbase half-an-inch over 6 ft., the finish and action of the controls excellent, the dog-clutch gearbox calls for a modicum of skill which keeps one’s hand in, and although the “lawn-mower” noise level is high, it is acceptable to one who likes the idea of a simple air-cooled twin-cylinder engine for a baby car. This little Fiat 500D may well be the last of the “modern cyclecars” and I am very glad to see that there is a growing cult for them. (The Production Manager and my late Assistant Editor both possess Fiat 500Ds as second cars, respectively to Porsche and Jaguar E-type, the former’s a Giardiniera, but I hear practically nothing about them, a sure sign that they are so reliable and well-behaved that, like the sparking plug you used to “fit and forget,” they are taken completely for granted.)—W. B.

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