Why the Fiat 500 is the Perfect City Car

November 21, 2016

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

POSH, BROKE, & BORED x FIAT: Part 2 of 2

I am, by nature, a creature of habit. You only have to look as far as my collection of monochrome handbags - aka 50 Shades Of Grey (thankfully, not nearly as gratuitous as its namesake, despite the graphic moans it elicits when I gaze upon it) - to see how set I am in my ways.

In my native Malaysia, the country that invented road rage, an SUV is a necessity if only to navigate our unique aggression-based driving culture (parking restrictions are summed up in 4 words: "it fits, it sits" and traffic lights translate to "red: 5 more cars, amber: STEP ON IT, green: watch out for bikes") of the bigger the Kahuna, the higher your chances at survival. If my overprotective parents had their way, I'd be rumbling down Jalan Petaling in one of these bad boys

So it's NO MEAN FIAT prising my highly-strung soccer mom grip  from the wheels of my SUV then dispatching me across the city in anything smaller than a warship and have me not only return emotionally-unscathed but also GUSHING about the experience, especially when London is a minefield of nightmare traffic, brick-dropping slopes, and impatient drivers (despite what somewill have you believe about the British being an apologetic lot). Yet here I am, a tank-driving creature of habit, loving and contemplating getting a Fiat 500 (in grey, naturally).



Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car
Dressed to match my Electronica Blue Fiat 500s with Satin Graphite finish

Meet FIFI, my new BFF (Best Fiat Forever). She holds a key to my heart, a key that unlocked the farthest reaches of a vast city bound by an intimidating network of tangled mass transit lines and threaded with higgledy-piggledy streets.
*If Fifi could spoon me while braiding my hair, we'd be Facebook-legit-dating.


Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Being a creature of habit, I find the Fiat 500 comfortingly familiar - for both its prolific presence in photography (The recipe for Tumblr/Pinterest/Instagram success = White or mint green Fiat 500 + row of pastel-coloured or whitewashed London Georgian/Victorian buildings +  cherry blossoms/wisteria) and also its retro design inspired by the iconic 1950s original. The classic gets an update: new colours Electronica Blue and Marching Green, with interiors available in black fabric and blue, yellow or white inserts, or leather to match all the body colours. Satin Graphite finish frames the door handles and side mirror handles and the 15" alloy wheels, or a 16" matt black with diamond finish for a more understated accessory.

With its iconic sporty shape and electric blue, the convertible-

roof button should've come with a caution: "Warning: may cause  inflating of head due to attention caused by; turning heads and camera phones pointing your way, and London tour buses waving at you". Driving through touristy parts of London (my route from The City to South West London via Embankment, Westminster, and Piccadilly) was an exercise in catching glances. Happily, the Fiat 500 has the substance to match its style. Its deceptively compact body had ample room in the interiors, what with my photography equipment, extra clothes, and shopping strewn across the 'I forgot it's there!' back seats. I did forgo a takeaway coffee as I was wearing a white cashmere jumper, instead I put the drinks holder to use as a  hands-free 'incubator on wheels' for my Pokemon eggs while my phone (and my unborn monsters) enjoyed being juiced-up via USB charger.

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car
Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car
Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

My well-intended, if misguided attempt to personalise 
the keys with a grey (naturally) keychain of my own. 
It refused to face the right way up for photos...argh.


Trying to anthropomorphize the Fiat500 by dressing

 it up in my accessories and giving it a name. 

And thus, Fifi was born.
Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

There's a simple reason why I've not owned a car in London despite a decade of living in the city and being the proud owner of a driver's license and international driving permit for 13 years. My only other attempt at driving in London turned into a cruisin' for a bruisin' - between the city's many hills and sloping narrow streets straight out of the Dark Ages (bonus points for cobblestones), plus traffic wardens who remain unmoved by my impassioned wails about curb appeal (ie. I appeal that I had no choice but park on the curb because I can't parallel park), London can be unforgiving to drivers.

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Miraculously, I didn't roll down a single hill thanks to the easy switch between gears, even with an automatic. I did however embarrass myself by locking the steering wheel (and with it, the engine) and appreciated the safety and security factor of the feature only after I spent 5 minutes Googling for "how to be a functioning adult...or something". I performed a flawless parallel park in three moves, just around the corner from traffic lights on an especially busy patch of Brompton Road, mind. No doubt the gearbox, positioned higher than usual, helped - it felt more intuitive to move my hand only a few inches left from the steering wheel, rather than drop my arm to reach for the gears. 
It certainly doesn't hurt that the Fiat 500 is a space-efficient little package with tight turning and responsive steering, as my emboldened U-turns would attest. Funny story about that: I have a friend who lives in Notting Hill and we hardly see each other because neither of us can be bothered to venture to the opposite side of the Central Line (I live in Shoreditch). Being blessed with a car, I made the executive decision to do a U-turn toward his house...only to find that like me, he was out on a shoot...in East London. No words. Between its Houdini-esque ability to defy the bounds of small spaces and its affordability to buy and run, it became clear why the Fiat 500 is such a popular sight in cities.

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

I am generally skeptical of portmanteaus unless they run along the lines of 'brunch' and 'Pokemon', but I'll make an exception for INFOTAINMENT. Beaming at me from the dashboard with its 7" high-def smile, the UconnectTM 7” HD screen was like a cheery concierge - ever present, whose quiet demeanour belies an array of services waiting to be called upon.

Though I gave Deezer and Reuters - both of which were available as part of the INFOTAINMENT package, for streaming music and the latest news - a miss, I made good use of the car touchscreen. The TomTom navigation system was a God-send in a city with a confusing one-way system.

Likewise, the Bluetooth® technology made a world of difference toward enhancing my driving experience. Syncing my Spotify playlist made especially for the occasion, using both wireless and with auxiliary input, made the drive truly my own. With the haunting coos of The Black Skirts plus the pomp and ceremony of The Moldau booming from the Beats Audio HiFi system (featuring an 8-channel DSP amplifier, 6 speakers and a subwoofer, with a total power of 440 W), the atmosphere was so transcendent that I forgot to use the UconnectTM LIVE services to check in on Facebook and update my Twitter feed. Having too much fun to tell everyone on the internet that you're having fun...I can't think of a better #FirstWorldProblem.

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

Why The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car

It's easy to see why I anthropomorphised the Fiat 500 (So Fifi are you OK? Are you're OK, Fifi?). Even in the short time I spend with the car, the ingenuity and intuition of the Fiat 500 proved for a very pleasurable and indeed, personal experience that elevated it from car to companion. With a myriad of customisation options from the inside out (the trim level choices includes a Denim Edition for the '90s baby who never wants to grow up), lifestyle-led technology including built in apps for social media and the inclusion of fashionable Beats speakers, driving made easy and a body engineered for efficiency, the Fiat 500 is build for the city - compact, cosmopolitan, and comfortable. The cherry on the cake? With prices starting at £11,050 (OTR), the Fiat 500 is affordable - a luxury within most shopper's reaches that bridges the gap between aspirational and attainable.

Thank you, FIAT UK, for making me step out of my monster truck-sized comfort zone
 and for making a #FIATFANATICO out of me.

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