Blog: Dave LeggettJaguar XF and Fiat 500

Dave Leggett | 23 May 2008

I drove a Jaguar XF at Millbrook yesterday (SMMT’s annual Test Day for auto journalists). It was probably the highlight of the drives and I can see why the car has been getting generally very positive reviews in the press. We're talking good engines, good interior – design and materials – plus ride and handling hitting the right sort of notes.

And the external appearance, while a little watered down on the pre-production concept, is a definite grower. I drove the 4.2-litre naturally aspirated version, but my colleague Graeme Roberts tells me the 2.7-litre V6 diesel is very good, too. Rob Golding cooed with satisfaction after a go in the supercharged 4.2L V8 and said that was after he had been ‘quite prepared to be disappointed’. He is a long-time consumer of prestige brands - especially BMWs - so his fairly emphatic endorsement of the top-of-the-line variant is certainly interesting.

Another hit among the throngs of journos was the Fiat 500. It’s well designed, stylish and…cheap. There is real quality in the interior design and the whole package impresses. There are of course, decidedly BMW Mini-like elements in the way this car is pitched (trendy, modern interpretation of a classic aimed at young and young-of-heart, you can customise the look and so on).

Will Fiat though, ‘do a Mini’ and let the prices creep up over time in line with what the market will apparently bear? I hope any price creep doesn’t go too far. The simple yet stylish and relatively low priced package – achieved via a cost saving JV with Ford which meant there was resource left over to devote to things like a better quality interior – is a big part of the attraction. I wonder what the production capacity situation is at the Tychy, Poland, plant where it is built (Tychy also builds Panda and Seicento and gets the next Ford Ka later this year also)? Could Fiat’s 500 eventually be built elsewhere also? Fiat would be mad not to look into that question.

Mind you, while many new cars are undeniably impressive on many levels, I'd say a vintage racing Jag (C-type or XK120C, from the early 1950s - that's journalist Ian Adcock enjoying himself at the wheel in the below YouTube clip) made by far the best sound yesterday.



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