Forgive the rash of smartphone holiday snaps, but a recent stay in Rome provided an opportunity to check out the local motor cars.
Sadly, the biggest impression left on me by scanning the roads of Rome from the Borghese Gardens down to the Colosseum was what I did not see: not one of my beloved Cinquecenti. And, I don’t mean bright, Broom Yellow, Sportings, I mean none of any type or colour; not one! I am not sure what that says about that model – I saw examples of both its replacement (the Seicento) and antecedents (the 126 and the Nuova 500), but of the Cinq, ‘niente’!
Maybe they were all culled in a round of Government-sponsored ‘scrappage’?
Apart from that, the overriding sense was that the small car is definitely king in Rome. More so than London, Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam. They were driven, pretty well universally, with verve and audaciousness, and parked with a kind of studied abandonment.
I came hoping to see cars which one rarely, if ever, sees in the UK – aka Lancias. I was blessed to find a range of generations of the Y cars, and was reminded of how much poorer UK consumers are to be bereft of the choice of these pleasant and charming oddities. There is, in particular, a certain plushness and warmth to their interior trim which I liked. They are a nice size, distinctive looking, and curiously desirable.
Also present and a delight to stumble upon was the Issigonis Mini. Pictured below is a lovely and well-used example in BRG with a vinyl sunroof and pepper-pot alloys (almost miniature versions of those seen on latter day Series 3 XJs). Seeing them alongside a number of that other classic miniature, the Nuova 500, stirred something within me to desire one of these little gems.
So, when I had the chance to sit in one of the latter last week whilst our Tychy 500 was visiting a local dealership to have its 3 year service and MOT, I jumped in … thwacking my head on the door-frame in the process. Goodness me, miracles of packaging they may be, but it’s still a tiny car with tiny controls and shockingly little in terms of protecting incumbents from a crash incident. People are definitely taller and bigger on average than they were 40 years ago …
Smart has found a bountiful audience among the Romans, with a number of electric versions spotted hooked up to charging points. Indeed, environmental concerns seem to abound in Rome, which I took as the explanation for the large number of Yaris Hybrids I saw (I can see no other reason why anyone would choose one, except maybe for Toyota’s reputation for reliability).
As to the previously mentioned Seicento, there were a number of what must have been later models branded as ‘600’, sporting Tychy 500 style bonnet and grille adornments. I guess that FIAT decided the model still had some legs after the retro-styled 500 was launched and trimmed and badged it such that it would make some kind of sense in its range.
Finally, respect to the local rozzers for the array of Puntos, Bravos and Pandas (nice to see a true Panda-car in these troubled times) in the joyously coloured and ritzily labelled livery. The italic (what else?) two tone lettering in particular would look more at home on a fizzy drink can, but that sense of Italian style means they pull off the look with elan.