Buying used: Fiat 500C v Citroen DS3 Cabrio

Buying used: Fiat 500C v Citroen DS3 Cabrio
Buying used: Fiat 500C v Citroen DS3 Cabrio

Two city-friendly drop-tops put to the test

Europeans know it rains almost all the time in Britain. They also know we buy more convertibles than any of them. Why is this, they wonder? Why, it’s simple: on the rare instances it actually is sunny, we want to make the most of it. Chuck in the fact convertibles are feel-good and fashionable, and you can see why it’s a no-brainer for many.

Here we’re looking at two city-friendly secondhand open-top models, the Citroen DS3 Cabrio and Fiat 500C Abarth. Both are fashion-conscious, popular with buyers and both fitted here with sprightly turbocharged engines. With prices for both broadly similar, starting from £8,500 for a 2013 model, we decided to find out which is best.

Citroen CS Cabrio

Driving experience

Against the clock, the DS3 is quicker, as you’d expect: it has a 1.6-litre turbo engine, compared to the Fiat’s 1.4-litre. But the smaller Fiat is lighter and has racier gearing, so it feels just as effervescent. Many may prefer the more mature feel of the DS3 though, which is exciting yet refined enough to use as everyday transport.

Compare this to the yobbish nature of the Abarth-badged Fiat, which scrabbles up the road, rasps and resonates within and is as darty at slower speed as it is twitchy at higher speeds. Needless to say, it’s fun in the corners, but it’s challenging with it: the DS3 hangs on better and blasts out of bends more easily.

For cabriolets, these are both solid-feeling cars – and as their roof pillars are fixed, there’s less buffeting when the roof is open. This solidity is good, as neither has a particularly smooth ride; the DS3 is jostly at slower speed and the 500C gets bouncy and uncomfortable at higher speed.

Interior

It’s a similar story inside. The DS3 feels better quality and more mature, feeling classier than the funky but plasticky 500C. It has more equipment too, and its bigger cabin is better for comfort and visibility. Neither has a particularly commodious boot, though – indeed, the Fiat actually betters the Citroen here.

Fiat 500C

Running costs

Also surprising is the fact you can pick up a DS3 for less than the price of a 500C Abarth. That’s due to steeper initial depreciation – and the fact this tails off a few years means you won’t lose any more than Fiat owners from this point on. It’s also the more fuel-efficient car, while lower CO2 emissions means it costs £130 a year to tax, rather than £185.

The reliability records of both are so-so – not amazing, but not disastrous. The sister hatchback versions of both, the Citroen C3 and Fiat 500, are both sold in greater numbers, and statistics show the Citroen is slightly more dependable than the 500. It’s a similar story for the reliability of both brands, this time with Fiat edging slightly ahead.

Verdict

So which is our pick? You can’t deny the 500C is charming. It looks cute and is a real little tearaway to drive, which for some will make it the perfect choice. For many, though, it may all be a bit too much. It’s also pricier, smaller inside and not as high-quality as the DS3 either.

That’s why the Citroen is our pick here. It’s not perfect itself, with the boot in particular being badly flawed. But it’s fun to drive, sophisticated-feeling to drive and generally an easier, classier, more refined machine to live with. Add in the fact it’s cheaper to buy and more economical to run, and you have our winner.

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