Small but Perfectly Formed

The 1991 Cinquecento was a great city car and, in design terms, a hard act to follow, as Fiat found out with its replacement.

1994 Fiat Cinquecento Sporting (c) fiat.com

Fiat in 2021 is a pale shadow of the once mighty automaker that dominated Italian industry for decades. Half a century ago, the company produced a full range of cars, from the diminutive rear-engined 126 to the handsome V6 engined 130 luxury saloon and coupé. That notwithstanding, Fiat was always best known and most highly regarded for its expertise and success in small cars.

The 1955 Fiat 600 and its smaller sibling, the 1957 500 model, successfully mobilised Italy in the post-war years. They were small, light, economical and robust cars that fitted perfectly into the historic streetscape of many Italian villages, towns and cities, with their narrow, winding streets. Both were notable for their longevity: the 600 remained in production until 1969. The 500 continued until 1975, selling alongside the 1972 126 which was, effectively, a rebodied 500.

The 126 continued in production in Italy until 1980 when it was partly replaced by the larger and more practical Panda. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign, this was intentionally a back-to-basics car with its flat glass, exposed door hinges and sprayed-on bodyside stone chip protection. Inside, a hammock rear seat, removable and washable seat covers and a full width open shelf in front of driver and passenger emphasised its utility and versatility. It would go on to be a huge success for Fiat, selling almost 4.5 million units over 23 years on the market.

For all the Panda’s success, some within Fiat felt that its utilitarian nature did not appeal to all buyers, in particular city dwellers. A compact, economical, but more conventional and smarter looking city car would complement the Panda within Fiat’s range.

The 126 was still manufactured by FSM, Fiat’s Polish commercial partner, and remained Fiat’s city car contender. However, it was unsophisticated and increasingly dated, and was short of both interior and boot space. Work began on a replacement that would reprise the 500 and 126 formula, but in a modern FWD package. The name for the new model seemed inevitable: Cinquecento (500) in honour of its 1957 ancestor.

The Cinquecento was styled in-house under Ermanno Cressoni. Working within the tight constraints of the city car footprint, centro stile designed a neat three-door hatchback with an upright tail and low, sloping front end. The front grille was incorporated into the grey plastic impact-resistant bumper and the smooth nose was adorned only with the contemporary Fiat five-bar logo.

Slim, horizontal tail lights immediately above the bumper allowed the hatchback opening to be as wide as possible. The bodysides were adorned with a subtle horizontal crease, below which was a more pronounced indent connecting the wheel arches. To maximise interior space, the car was almost as tall at 1,435mm (56½”) as it was wide at 1,490mm (58¾”). The wheelbase was 2,200mm (86½”) and the overall length was 3,230mm (127¼”).

1993 Fiat Cinquecento (c) se.pl

The FWD mechanical package was resolutely conventional except in one respect: Fiat decided to carry over the carburettor-fed 704cc 31bhp (23kW) flat-twin engine(1) from the Polish-built FSM 126p Bis(2). This would be mounted longitudinally under the bonnet, unlike the larger fuel-injected 899cc 39bhp (31kW) inline four-cylinder option(3), which was installed transversely. This necessitated the use of two different gearbox/transaxle units. In order to take advantage of lower labour costs, the Cinquecento would be built at the FSM plant in Tychy, Poland and sold in that country under the FSM brand. The smaller engine would only be offered in that market. All Fiat versions would feature the larger unit.

The Cinquecento was launched in December 1991. To distance it from the similarly sized Panda, it was offered with a number of optional luxury features such as central locking, electric windows and air conditioning.

In 1994 the 1,108cc OHC engine from the Punto was installed for the warm hatch Sporting version. This was distinguished by body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, 13” alloy wheels on lowered suspension, sports seats with red seat belts, a tachometer and an optional signature yellow body colour. There was also an Abarth option, but this was merely a cosmetic pack with no further mechanical changes. The engine produced 53bhp (40kW), enough to give the light and wieldy Cinquecento lively performance.

The Cinquecento was also offered in Elettra EV form from 1992 to 1996, with a choice of lead-acid or Ni-Cd batteries. The former had a range of 100km (62 miles) the latter 150km (93 miles). Despite a high price and limited range, it was surprisingly popular in mainland Europe.

The Cinquecento remained on the market for seven years and sold steadily without any significant updates. Total sales were 1,164,525. Its last three full years on sale were its best, with over 200,000 sold each year. Had Fiat anticipated that buoyancy in sales, it might have postponed the Cinquecento’s replacement, but a new model had been developed for launch in 1998.

The new model was named Seicento (600) which was at the same time logical in that it implied progression, but illogical in that it discarded the name recognition and goodwill for the outgoing model. In any event, the Seicento was obviously a heavy reskin of the Cinquecento, retaining the same platform and mechanical package. Width, height and wheelbase were all unchanged, while the overall length grew by 107mm (4¼”) to 3,337mm (131½”).

In order to distinguish the Seicento from its predecessor, Cressoni tried to overlay a more curvaceous style, which was problematic within the confines of the existing dimensions. Looks are, of course, subjective, but the Siecento was noticeably less successful than its pert and attractive predecessor. The upswept rear side window appeared slightly forced, while the upwardly curved lower edge of the tailgate(4) looked either to be poorly fitting, or the result of a nefarious attempt to jemmy it open.

1999 Fiat Seicento (c) rac.co.uk

At the front, the Cinquecento’s central slot beneath the bonnet’s leading edge was, depending on the model, either replaced by two slots under the headlamps, or widened to run under the headlamps as well, terminating at the direction indicators. This made the headlamps and indicators look misaligned, with the former too shallow for the latter, or vise-versa. In fairness to Cressoni and his colleagues, being required to update a previously near-perfect design and make it sufficiently different to look new was a difficult task within the constraints they was under, and they made a reasonable job of it.

1998 Fiat Seicento (c) honestjohn.co.uk

The 704cc flat-twin engine was not carried forward to the Seicento, which was launched with the outgoing model’s four-cylinder units. The 899cc engine was pensioned off in 2001, at which time the 1,108cc engine was given multi-point fuel injection to improve economy and emissions. The Sporting version continued and was augmented in 2000 with a slightly preposterous Michael Schumacher special edition with the Abarth bodykit, to celebrate the F1 racer’s success with the Ferrari team. What Schumacher privately thought about this is unknown, although he did appear in a German language TV commercial for the Seicento Sporting, which may be found here.

The Seicento remained on the market for twelve years and outsold its predecessor, with total sales of 1,328,973 units. There were the usual upgrades to trim and equipment to stimulate interest, and it even survived a poor Euro NCAP rating of 1½ stars, for a while at least.

The economics of manufacturing small and light city cars like the Cinquecento and Seicento are now pretty unattractive, mainly as a consequence of increasingly tough crash safety regulations. The same regulations are partly responsible for the zero-sum automotive arms race to ever larger and heavier cars, which is precisely the wrong direction for the industry. A shame and, potentially, a tragedy.

(1) The relocation of the engine to the front required it to be extensively re-engineered, however. Even the direction of rotation of the crankshaft had to be reversed.
(2) The Bis was an updated version of the 126p, launched in 1987, with an enlarged 704cc engine, now water rather than air-cooled, and a hatchback rear door.
(3) This was an update of the venerable 903cc engine from the Fiat 127, with a slight reduction in capacity to accommodate taxation bands in certain markets.
(4) This was done to provide a handle to lift the tailgate. The Cinquecento instead had a push-button release with a built-in handle, a neater solution.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

50 thoughts on “Small but Perfectly Formed”

  1. The Cinquecento was once ubiquitous in the Netherlands, now I can only find 19 for sale. Such is the fate of small economic cars, apparently. One exception to this rule is the first generation Twingo, which I still see every day. First generation Panda’s are becoming a bit of a rarity too.

    Despite these being almost everywhere back in the day, I have never driven one and only been a passenger once. On that occasion I hurt my back when my friend Patrick, who was driving, went over a large bump. I’d reckon the small wheelbase and probably the inappropriate speed we were traveling at were the cause of this. Luckily no permanent damage was done to my back and the car stayed in one piece as well.

    Back to the car itself. My sentiment resembles yours, Daniel. The Cinquecento is quite nice, while the Seicento design is less wel executed. I wonder how a one box design Cinquecento – like the Twingo I mentioned in the beginning – would have looked. The Twingo is roughly 20 centimeters longer and wider, which changes the proportions considerably. Not sure with packaging in mind if the added interior volume of a one box design would have resulted in more useable space.

    1. The 1993 Lucciola concept by Italdesign was a great, realistic proposal for an one-box Cinquecento which channels the old 500 in a very interesting, totally non-retro way (the round headlamps, the grille-less front, the side crease, the C-pillar, the canvas roof). It has ended up as the MK1 Daewoo Matiz (I’m not sure if Fiat had considered and rejected a production version themselves or not – the Matiz is perfectly nice but a Fiat version, with a smarter interior and a three-door profile close to the concept, could be a lot better).

  2. Yet another example of FIAT getting it right first time, then messing up the inevitable facelift (or in this case face-drop).
    Although I’ve never driven one I’ve always appreciated the rightousness of the design: slightly up-right, easy to get in, cheap, simple etc. The VW Lupo followed the same philosophy but with a bit more sophistication.
    Sadly, they’ve nearly all gone here in Switzerland, a couple of nice Sportings and a few bangers are all that are for sale at the moment.
    Cheers
    Andrew

  3. Hello everybody! Ah, the Cinquecento, a wonderfully rational design! I love both the Cinquecento and the current 500, although they are opposites in terms of design and concept. The first one is functional and efficient, whereas the second one is all about style. Actually, when it came out I didn’t care too much for the Cinquecento, thinking that the Uno was much better proportioned and detailed, but recently I learned to appreciate the Cinquecento and how brilliant it is in doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. I guess that’s why the Y10 had to grow into a higher car segment when it changed to the Ypsilon in the early 90s; the Cinquecento did everything better and with no need for special, designer name versions.

    Here is a promotional video for the Cinquecento from the official YouTube channel of the Centro Storico Fiat and which helped me change my mind about the car:

    1. This comes up on YouTube when I stop the above clip found by cesargrauf. I remember watching it on Top Gear when it was first televised. I’d already ordered my Cinq by then and was waiting for it to be built and shipped to the UK (those were the days – imagine FIAT having a waiting list for any of its models these days!). Great fun!

  4. Funny the way different folk see things differently. The upswept lip at the bottom of the hatch on the Seicento was the detail that always caught my eye – the only bit of flair in an otherwise humdrum design.

  5. A really great little car, especially in Sporting trim (and as explained at greater length in the article of which the link is embedded in the text of this very nice piece by Daniel). This is one of three cars that I wish I could/ would have held onto rather than selling. For me, the design made it the Up! of its day, although, if you ever do see one near to or alongside an Up! (or a 500 for that matter), you see how small the Cinq is in comparison.

    I drove long distances in my ‘Cinq-Sport’ and always felt entirely comfortable doing so. It was a bit noisy, yes, but the stability and planted feel of the car on motorways and autoroutes, together with surprisingly good seats and driving position made it a fine place to be.

    As I noted in another, more recent article, a holiday in Rome highlighted how few there are left (I saw exactly none), which is a shame and odd, because it seemed well built and well rustproofed at the time … and the FIRE engine/ gearbox has only just gone out of production, so it’s not as if they can’t be easily maintained.

    The Seicento was a miserable replacement and quite odd looking. They even changed the suspension set up to make it more stable/ less fun, so it was a backwards step all round. I like the 500 and now own one, but it isn’t a patch on the Cinquecento in terms of drive, space efficiency / practicality and verve.

    1. We all know the Stone Age ended on at Tuesday afternoon, in May, 1200 BC when it was noticed that new material was available in the shops, a material that worked better (and so everything was iron thereafter such as the famous iron houses of the Iron Age and the iron clothing they all wore). Similarly, the appearance of the Seicento is perhaps the moment when Fiat´s internal decomposition reached the point that the carcass began to leak visibly. This car marks the moment Fiat´s decline was now going to be a continuous process.

    2. Good afternoon S.V. You mentioned three cars you wish should have kept. If you don’t mind me asking what are the other two cars?

    3. Hi, the Citroën AX I bought to replace the Samba I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and the Subaru Legacy 3.0R Spec B that came before the C6 I also wrote about recently. I sold the AX to my sister who owned it for a number of years afterwards.

  6. Good morning all. As I said in the piece, it’s sad to see the apparent demise of simple and practical small cars such as these.

    Freerk, I think you’re right to question the usefulness of the additional interior space created by many one-box designs. Unless the design is a ‘forward control’ vehicle like the original Fiat 600 Multipla, then it’s unusable ‘dead’ space between the front seat occupants and the windscreen, with the visually obstructive double A-pillar arrangement typical of most MPV-type vehicles. Here’s a reminder of the Multipla:

    Thanks for sharing the video, Cesar. It presents the Cinquecento nicely.

    Mervyn, I take your point about the rear hatch: it’s just the way my eyes ‘read’ it. I think it’s exacerbated by the fact that the bodywork above the cut-out is concave, reinforcing the impression that it has buckled inwards as the lower lip was levered outwards. In the rear three-quarter photo above, the uncertain, apparently wavy shut-line between the hatch and rear quarter panel is also unsettling. That’s purely a function of the camera angle and contours of the bodyside. From side-on, the shut-line looks fine

  7. Two Cinquecentos for sale at the moment on caraandclassic.co.uk – one a 1995 S in a rather fetching shade of blue with one lady owner from 1996 to date and yours for £2995……

  8. I have one memory of the cinquecento; hilarious fun. My car at the time, a Focus was back at the dealers for some recall work. The Fiat was my courtesy car. Initially highly dubious, it had petrol in it and was clean.
    I was late for work for I took the more circuitous route, the car was also filthy but my smile was wide. Great fun, chuckable, solid enough for the hour or two I was it’s keeper and probably best of all, memorable. This was my first and last drive in anything Italian.
    As for the Schumacher connection, I seem to remember reading him having involvement in the cars set up. Or was he just collecting the money? Either way, I’ve only ever seen two. One polished to within an inch of its life at a show whilst the other was on fire at the roadside with the fire engine in my mirrors. I was late for work that day, too.

  9. This brings back memories… In the early 90s a family friend had a Cinquecento exactly like the green one pictured in the article. A terrific little car and I recall she drove it happily for many years.

    I have to feel sorry for the designers of the Seicento… and they deserve some praise for making the best of a clearly impossible brief; improving the perfect little cubist original whilst reusing its structure. There is one still in daily use near me.

  10. Even though the 704cc engine was specific to Poland, it is strange why neither the Cinquecento or the Seicento made use of the 769cc FIRE engine in the Panda 750 or even a 3-cylinder FIRE unit as used in the 1984 Citroen ECO 2000 SL-10 prototype (though other claims state it actually used the 769cc 4-cylinder unit).

    Do prefer the Cinquecento over the Seicento in terms of styling, yet of the view Fiat could have done a bit more to widen its appeal and even use the larger 1.2 FIRE unit at minimum (instead of the latter becoming a popular engine conversion alongside the 1.4 FIRE engine).

  11. Chris Goffey of Top Gear takes the ‘Chinky-chento’ (whatever that is) to the city of squealing tyres, er, dreaming spires. “It’s got a complicated centre console”. Just you wait till the 2020s, Chris; you’re in for a treat.

    Features light-coloured poultry, briefly.

    1. Lordy, I had forgotten how annoying Chris Goffey was.

  12. Great piece, as always! This site never fails to impress.
    These boxes were all the rage in a displacement taxation choked Greece during the nineties (come to think of it, even today, the limit is 1.4lt. Anything beyond that is punished mercilessly), with the Sporting (and Racing) variants being driven, tuned and abused for years. A common practice was to swap the OHC 1.4 turbo unit from the Mk.I Punto, creating a pocket missile on a straight line, and a deathtrap whenever the wheel had to be turned. Some went further, turbocharging the original 1.1 FIRE, or even cutting, widening and elongating the engine bay to fit the transverse bialbero from the Ritmo/Strada 130TC, retaining the carburetors. Funny thing is that in Greek, the “Cinque” nickname translates as “tin”, suitably befitting of the overall design and feel of the car.
    The Sei lost all that simplicity and charm, moving a bit upmarket (a common critique was that it was more suitable for young females than males – Sporting version included). It also sold well, but the magic was lost, along with FIAT product planning and design.

  13. Hello Daniel,
    The Cinquecento was really a fun and well conceived little car- the mother of a friend of mine had a yellow Sporting and he sometimes borrowed it from her when we wanted to go out somewhere.
    The Seicento however was far less happy and one of the long line of weird retrograde facelifts that Fiat seems to have the monopoly on. Incidentally, the rear aspect of the Seicento always reminds me a bit of the cute Honda Z Coupe of the early seventies with its TV-screen rear window:

  14. Good evening all, and many thanks for your comments. Once again, there’s a lot of love out there for an old Fiat. It makes it all the more tragic that the company has been neglected to such a grievous degree over the past two decades. Maybe Stellantis can bring back some of the old Italian brio?

    Bruno, the Honda Z is mad, in a very good way, and in turn reminds me of this, the Suzuki SC100 ‘Whizzkid’:

    vkarikas, a 1.4 litre punto engine in a Cinquecento sounds like an absolute hoot, if a bit scary!

    1. I guess it’s what the Ignis is now referencing. The Ignis starts from £14k, new, which is a bit surprising. I never see any publicity for them.

    2. Kia and Hyundai´s small cars are rather well done. And the Suzuki Celerio is fantastically indifferent to all current trends. It is simply a decent small car.
      Okay – those things over there, those are my socks which were blown off. Has anyone seen Hyundai´s model range? It´s bigger than Australia. And in this article we were noting Fiat´s shrivelled state. The contrast is stark. It´s really hard not to see Fiat´s condition as a reflection of the state of Italy. There´s no other word for it.

    3. And then Hyundai also have the Ioniq 5 coming up which is what I wish the Volkswagen ID.3 looked like.

      The Fiat video that I posted features the line ‘The car we tested had difficulty going in to first and reverse’. That’s on a press car, that’ll be appearing on Top Gear. Perhaps the Centoventi / new Panda will prove to be the turning point.

      If I didn’t own a perfectly good, low mileage car, I’d be down to my local Suzuki dealer for an Ignis faster than you could say 5 years’ no interest finance.

  15. We live in Naples, Italy, and the Fiat Cinquecentos, Seicento/600s and Pandas still abound — largely because the streets here aren’t so large. Italy seems to have ceded the small car market to the Koreans, with throngs of Hyundai Altos and Kia Picantes. But where it all goes from here is anybody’s guess. The roads won’t get larger, but Italians seem to have been bitten with the SUV bug. Oh well, at least there’s the lovely new Suzuki Jimney. Sigh.

    1. The original Panda and Seicento were sold in Italy for years longer than the rest of Europe (Panda 2003. Seicento 2010), and amazingly cheaply. The end of days Panda Young (which it certainly wasn’t) cost about £3400, when anything else justifying the description of a car was around £6000.

      Agree about the suv pandemic hitting Italy – last time I visited, nearly two years ago, there were loads, but at least there was some exotic curiosity by way of some Great Walls and Cherys unfamiliar to the rest of Western Europe.

    2. I think the original Panda was in the Dutch catalogue right up until production ended. The Seicento, however left us in 2007.

  16. Sergio M did a deal with the Italian government for ‘support’ in return for moving Panda production from Tychy to Giambattista Vico (as we must now call the Neapolitan Linwood). Not long before he left us, he talked of returning the Panda to Poland – where it would be built beside the 500 and White Hen, and using Giambattista Vico to build Alfas once more. It seems there was some sort of historical and national imperative – remember his “Wop engine” remark.

    It will be interesting to see what happens now that Alfa now it is in the – genuinely – capable hands of Jean-Philippe Imparato. Hopefully Monsieur Learned will make a far better job of it than Big Reidland did.

    1. Well spotted, Alex. It had an in line two cylinder.

    2. Hadn’t noticed that, but nevertheless was prompted by the article to look into the Steyr-Puch 126 – who doesn’t like a regional oddity?

      Although the earlier flat-twin 500/650 must have paid its way, the SDP 126 with an 643cc Austrian flat twin was short-lived (1973-75) and only 2069 were produced. The ending of Haflinger production in 1975 probably played its part.

  17. I think the combustion 500s remain Polish, the new electric-only 500 being Italian made.

    Richard: I agree about the Celerio – also the Ford Ka+ and Vauxhall Viva/Opel Karl – all been pulled though (at least in the UK). As have even occasional sightings of the Cinquecento*, Seicento and mk1 Punto.

    Is there any plan to produce a joint Stellantis city car or are they leaving that to the 500s? The c1/108 are being discontinued this year as they have left the joint-venture with Toyota. The Aygo is to continue, based on the latest Yaris platform. https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/354156/new-2022-toyota-aygo-arrive-yaris-inspiration

    (*apart from the appearance of a yellow Cinquecento Hawaii in Channel 4 teen-comedy The Inbetweeners, where it was the butt of numerous jokes, and eventually rolled into a lake)

  18. At the risk of sounding contrarian, I’m going to defend the Seicento. While it certainly isn’t better than the Cinqe, which is utterly correct and really ought to have been left alone (as Daniel rightfully points out), I thought the Seicento was acceptable. I actually like the way it looks, to the extent that I mounted a half hearted search for one a number of years ago when I was in the market for a cheap small car. (No, not that cheap small car…) I still find the diminutiveness of the thing rather thrilling, even if the idea of making contact with anything remotely on speaking terms with the concept of solid is not really to be contemplated.

    But it’s such a cheerful looking little thing, and that in itself is something worth having. Especially now. Of course, a Twingo would be preferable, but we didn’t get them round these parts…

    1. óin,

      it is fine to find the Seicento appealing. As always with face-lifts (or, as A.Rowlands rightfully invents – ‘face-drops’), the face-dropped model is always inevitably compared to the original, and in the Seicento’s
      case it’s a lose-lose situation.

      But viewed as a stand-alone model (which is hard as a mental exercise), it’s not that bad, betrayed only by the general lack of roofline curvature. The general straightness of the roof/A-pillar transition somehow conveys its ‘origins’ – aesthetically inconsistent with its details.

      As for the size appeal, it is nothing short of fascinating: ‘Kei-car+ footprint’ European cars have recently acquired (what with the advent
      of “C-segment”, essentially XM-sized ‘family cars’ in the streetscape,
      not to mention the SUVeillance) a particular appeal for the visually literate, as, in contrast, they actually appear almost Kei-car-minus sized.
      A.k.a. irresistibly diminutive (try spotting a Cinque next to an Ami Electrique or a Twizy, not to mention a ForTwo… )

      The orig. Twingo, whose only ‘packaging sin’ was its slightly too negligently projected width, suddenly appears as a half-size smaller, making it one of the best choices in 2021 (and that is not only
      in aesthetic terms). The UpMiiGo is almost a blatant conceptual
      replica of the Twingo, with a slightly less light-swathed interior / marginally higher belt-line, if you will. Their commercial success
      in 2016-2019 has super-verified, so to speak, the future-proof validity
      of Le Quement’s thinking, as early as 1990-1991 when the Twingo
      was conceived/developed.

      An imminent off-topic would be the orig.Twingo itself being possibly dubious in terms of authenticity (Beskid?).

    1. No problem. In fact, while the missing E looks somewhat odd, it’s closer in this form to how it is pronounced. The sine fada over the ‘o’ provides emphasis, while also lending an air of sophistication I fall absurdly short of in reality.

    2. You might style yourself ‘eÓin’ for added sophistication…😁

    3. My parents left me with names free of diacritical marks. An umlaut would have been good, or a cedilla. I wonder can one add them without having to alert the authorities. Could I be Rïchárd Hérriött?

  19. Interesting. Made me curious as to what would the ethymology
    of Eóin as a name be? Is it of same origin as Ian / Jan, or is there
    a further root to the name itself?

    1. I think we’ve covered this in the past, so I apologise if I repeat. My understanding is that Eóin is the original spelling of the Irish-Gaelic name for John. It is what is referred to here as (old-Irish). Like many Irish-Gaelic names, there are a number of different spellings – in this case, Eoghan or Owen. The latter is more associated with Wales, but not exclusively. However, they all translate as John. Just to confuse matters further, there is the (modern-Irish) derivation, Séan, which also translates as John.

      Since there was already an embarrassment of Séans in the family when I was born, an executive decision was made to delve into the back-catalogue – or so I’m informed.

      Richard: By my reckoning you could get away with the sine fada over the ‘a’ without incurring any official sanction, and given your place of residence, I’d probably go with the umlaut over the ‘o’ if it helped you sleep better at night. The rest comes across as being a tad greedy.

    2. Oh, such trivial concerns!

      You lot should experience what it’s like to have my surname, being asked to spell it by a call-handler in Bangalore, replying, “It’s oh, apostrophe…” and causing endless confusion. Or trying to buy airline tickets online, where you’re warned that your name as entered must match exactly with your passport, then finding it is automatically rejected because an apostrophe “is not a valid character”. Grrr…😬

    3. What is this ‘airline ticket’ you refer to? I have never heard of such a thing. I suspect you’re delusional…

    4. You´d think the world´s transport system (at least the airport part) would be wise to other characters apart from A-Z. This would not just be about handiness for the passenger but also a time saver. Who wants a fight with a passenger over a diacritical mark? Also, it takes a high level of bone-headedness to dispute the difference between OReilly and O´Reilly. Some countries might be worse at this than others….

      Did anyone see the Fry & Laurie sketch where a man has to explain to a police sergeant his name is Derek (drops a lighter on the table): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq-dchJPXGA

      Apparently many Americans don´t know Hugh Laurie was a comedian.

    5. Try to convince US immigration officers to ignore differences between your ESTA and your passport, preferably slashed/non-slashed zero vs. upper case ‘O’.

    6. I can easily imagine the officer with the 8th grade education being confronted by an orthographic irregularity. In trust-based societies people can be allowed small bits of discretion. In low-trust societies the customs officer is working in fear of the repercussions of making mistakes ranging from reprimand to loss of employment.

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