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Driving a Fiat 500 is very much a question of keeping up momentum. The low first gear means it's surprisingly nippy off the line but this initial acceleration soon turns into a gentle gathering of speed as you change up through the gears. Once wound up, the 500 wilt hold 50-55mph on the flat and will come tantalizingly close to 60mph with a downward slope and a following wind..

You never slow down unless you really have to, making the most of any downhill slopes to provide the necessary go to reach the next crest. Corners are best negotiated as near to full tilt as possible; the negative camber on the rear wheels means that the swing axles are already parts of the way to tucking under, but the limits are not easily reached in a standard 18bhp 499cc car. With more power, though. and higher speeds, the outside wheel can really tuck under, resulting in the whole world turning on its side. I should know; my first car was a 500 with a 126 650cc engine and I found that it fell over rather easily when mixed with a corner and a little youthful exuberance.


Changing down through the crash box means double declutching, and on hills you need to be quick. so the car loses as little speed as possible. The tiny drum brakes are man enough to stop the half-ton car from the modest speeds attainable and only fade if you really give them some stick. The steering is light and responsive, and the turning circle is such that three-pointers are redundant in all but the narrowest lanes.

 


Driving the car on motorways, mixing it with the slower lorries, is a little unnerving, and a headwind or- hill will strip the car of several mph. It's best to stick to smaller roads if at all possible, and plot a route with a minimum of hills. For town driving though, it's off-the-line nippiness that matters. People let you into the traffic flow in a 500. No other vehicle will raise as many smiles and chuckles. Combine these two factors with the car's compact dimensions, and it makes the baby Fiat the ultimate town car. There is no gap too narrow, no parking space too tight  and t here is no cuter commuter. EdHerridge

   
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