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Fiat 500 – “l'arte di arrangiarsi”


It’s been 60 years since Alberto Sordi starred in the 1954 Italian comedy “l’arte di arrangiarsi”, in which he was cast as a 20-year-old layabout with only two loves: women and money.

Like most Italians of the day, he was having an affair and, in keeping with the politics of the time, he went from being a Fascist to a Communist and then a Christian Democrat, only to end up pretending to be from Frankfurt, selling fake German goods on the streets of Rome.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the title of the movie “l’arte di arrangiarsi” roughly translates into an Italian saying of the time, “the art of getting by”.

It was with the plot of this movie on my mind that I set off recently in a 2014 Fiat 500.

If there was an award for the cutest looking car ever, it would have to go to the Fiat 500.

Originally produced from 1957 to 1975, there were four million happy Fiat 500 owners who probably still regard it as the best little car they ever owned.

In its original incarnation, there was an air-cooled 497cc motor producing 13 brake horse power (9.7 kW) and no back seat.

Fiat 500s were assembled all over the world, but in their New Zealand-built version, the cars were lovingly called ‘Bambinas’, which will forever be the name that I know them by.

I have very fond memories as a medical student of trips in a colleague’s stretched Fiat 600 from the Italian suburb of St Lucia to Indooroopilly Shoppingtown.

There was room for all five from my Anatomy table in the little car.

It was slightly more powerful than the Fiat 500, with 28 brake horse power, and was water-cooled.

This was a particularly important feature, as it overheated constantly in the harsh Queensland tropics, and it was unwise to travel anywhere without plenty of water to top-up the radiator.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Fiat 500, an all-new model was released in 2007, based on the Ford Ka, and that’s basically the same vehicle as is on sale in 2014.

For $14,000 drive-away, you can have yourself a brand-new Fiat 500 Pop, with a water-cooled 1.2 litre engine pumping out 51 kW. Automatic transmission adds $5979 to the price.

Just like the original Fiat 500, there still is no glove box. This storage would not have been missed by Gina Lollobrigida, who never wore gloves, or much at all.

Though there are a number of variants of the Fiat 500, with prices going all the way up to $75,865 for an Abarth 500 695 Ferrari, for $14,000 the Fiat 500 Pop is half the price of a Mini or VW Beetle, and I think at that price it’s a steal.

2014 Fiat 500 Pop vs 1957 Fiat 500

For: The cutest car in history.

Against: What could you ever replace it with?

This car would suit: Nostalgic Italian doctors in no hurry.


                1.2 litre 4 cylinder (0.5 litre 2 cylinder) petrol

51 kW power @ 5,500 rpm (9.7 kW)

102 Nm torque @ 3,000 rpm

5 speed (4 speed) manual

Length 3.5 metres (2.97 metres)

5.1 l/100 km (4.5 l/100 km) combined

$14,000 Drive-away (465,000 lire)


Fast facts:

Fiat and Chrysler merged in 2013.

The 2014 Fiat 500 is made in Poland and Mexico.