I had been waiting to get my hands on this car for a while. As a woman you can understand that the girlie side of me really wanted to touch and feel the real thing…Fiat press office were nice enough to let me test drive it for a week! My designer and journalist side were also eager to verify first hand if the quality and glamour of the uber brand that is Gucci could live on an equal par with the Fiat brand; although uber it its own right not realistically renown for luxury but utility. To my delight the Made In Italy legends married beautifully! Let me tell you why…
The Fiat 500 originally launched in 1957 was, like the VW Beetle and the Mini, a practical town car that quickly became an icon for many generations - even immortalised in films such as The Big Blue and Cars. In 2007 the original design was re-penned by Roberto Giolito, Fiat's Styling Director, based on the same designer’s concept Fiat Trepiùno (3+1) introduced at the 74th Geneva Motorshow in 2004. Since then the little titan has been winning award after award from Euro Car Body 2007 award to the Compasso d’Oro 2011 design award. However, it is its new radical TwinAir petrol engine that has changed the name of the game in terms of ecological performance and accolades.
Getting a combined result of 68.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 95 g/km is not easily done without having to sacrifice something buy Fiat’s TwinAir engine gives very little away with its gentle StopStart transitions and torque led performance. Press the Eco button on the centre console and you get even more economy from the car, its only let down being shifting from first to second gear, it rattles and leaves the diver wanting. Not a big deal though and something you get used to happily work around. There is so much more going on for the Fiat 500 that this becomes a negligible compromise.
Eco drive test passed it was on to scrutinising details, quality, and design. The Fiat 500 comes in many versions, Naked, Abarth, Ferrari, Barbie, but this year at the Geneva Motor Show 2011 Fiat debuted its 500 by Gucci concept! Designed by Gucci’s Creative Director Frida Giannini in collaboration with Fiat’s Centro Stile, Turin.
Although I was driving the sunroof fitted Fiat by Gucci I test drove the fully convertible Fiat 500 last year and loved the top as it folds all the way back down behind the rear seat passengers screaming ‘al fresco’. The Gucci edition also comes in two styles, fully convertible or hatchback with optional electronic sunroof (an extra £575) and although the Gucci red and green belt is undoubtedly stylish the same colours down the centre of the soft top make the convertible extra chic.
Every little detail has been meticulously designed in the 500 by Gucci, be it from the double stitched leather steering wheel to the traditional GG central motif on the gearshift. Ever paid attention to the texture or material of your seatbelt? You will in this car! It’s Gucci’s very own green and red web print, that is echoed on the ‘belt’ around the car and on the seats of the finely logo embossed trim. I was driving the soft and sophisticated Lux White with Glitter (you can actually see the specs!) edition with primarily black on white seats and white on black dash. The Black with Glitter edition feels sportier and more bling with black as the main colour inside and out, except from white central trim on the seats, accentuated by chrome detailing.
Just when I looked closely at the centre console thinking that it felt as if it had been treated with a soft touch finish I realised that even the foot mats were luxuriously plush accentuated with another red an green tab. The kick plates as you access the car and the diamond rims have even been embossed with the retro GG logo, now only used on vintage or retro Gucci pieces as a reminder of the founding family values. Naturally the Italian flag colours play in nicely with the red, green, and white palette but what seals the car’s deluxe pedigree is that even the sound of the closing the door is quiet and considered.
Gucci celebrated 90 years this year, and this is where the inspiration came to create such a unique product. For the cost of a few Gucci bags on top of the regular price of the Fiat 500 you drive away with a piece of automotive history, a fashion icon, a time to remember. I have to confess that memories of going to the Gucci factory when I was studying Italian Design as a teenager fled back in this retro car. It reminded me of the seemingly innate ability that Italians have to effortlessly create design with meaning, value, and culture…ultimately making this Fiat 500 quintessentially Gucci.
Does Fiat loose its brand identity by lending its most iconic vehicle as a blank canvas for other brands to cloth? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think much like a veteran Diva, the Fiat 500 will look good in anything. The fact that it is powered by the most fun and eco petrol engine on the market and that owners will want to keep this car as it becomes a collectible and thus not dispose of it prematurely adds bags of ecological value. With a base OTR price tag of £16,000 you couldn’t find a better city slicker deal in town. Oh and did I mention it has Fiat’s new eco:Drive software and Blue&Me voice recognition? More on that soon!