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More than a letter

Smart, sporty and stylish – that’s what the ‘S’ in the new Fiat 500S stands for.

Fiat is in the process of updating the effervescent 500 range with a new instrument display and a more powerful, 105hp version of the exceptional TwinAir turbo two-cylinder engine. But the S trim came in last year and with endless rivals spewing forth into its marketplace, we thought it worth seeing if, and why, this Abarth-inspired model, with the 85hp TwinAir motor remains so relevant.

The 500S’s styling looks as à la mode as it always has, and the S body kit and optional 16-inch alloys eliminate the overly-cute look of the lesser trimmed cars. Moreover, to add to its sporty credentials, the 500S caps things off with a chromed oval exhaust. With its chunky bumpers and bold looks the car turns up smartly dressed.

Inside is hip without being contrived, with the switchgear thoughtfully laid out and finished in quality materials. The S gets sporty seats and an Abarth-style steering wheel, which is a delight to hold. But drop the driver’s seat to its lowest position and the go-kart drive feeling kicks in.

The car packs the usual big car toys, including climate control and a Bluetooth hands-free system with USB connection.

As this 85hp engine is shifting a mere 930kg, the S is light-footed and can easily keep up with bigger boys

Fire up the TwinAir engine and you’re in for a surprise. The tuneful chug of the two cylinders pounding away is superb. As this 85hp engine is shifting a mere 930kg, the S is light-footed and can easily keep up with bigger boys. When stuck in traffic – and that is no rarity – the engine note drops to a pleasing thrum and the drive is as smooth as anything.

The brakes are most effective, the gear change is pleasant, with well-spaced ratios and the ride is slightly firm, settled and comfortable. You can cover long distances without getting frustrated with the small Fiat. The 500 has an enthusiastic cornering attitude that is fun, in a roly-poly way, plus the steering wheel is very sharp and reactive, so you are in control at all times.

If you’re planning on buying one of these and you’re male, you need to have that robust self-esteem and fashion awareness as this car will really put you up there. Women will definitely love it as it’s pretty but aggressive.

Talking of size, the 500S is a clever piece of packaging. The boot is useful with a fair amount of floor space, although the sloping hatch will prohibit tall, bulky loads. The rear seats are generous, especially considering the size of the car, and four adults can fit in comfortably without the driver having his or her knees rammed into the underside of the steering column.

There are bigger cars in this class but as a comparison this modern style icon can really elbow its way through the competition. Especially now that Fiat is offering a five-year warranty on all new models.

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