I've now had a chance to drive the 500 and I was pleasantly surprised, although I think the MINI will still be the driver's choice among the retro small cars if only because of the availability of the sporty Cooper and Cooper S versions which don't (yet) have any direct counterparts in the 500 range. Did someone mention the word Abarth?
On the other hand, for some time to come, it's the rarer 500 that's going to be getting the admiring glances. But the Fiat's strong suit is this; at the moment, the 500 is at least as cool as the MINI but it's much cheaper. In price terms, the 500 range tops out at about the same level as the cheapest stripped out MINI One without essential options such as air con. Against that, of course, though, the MINI has a fantastic depreciation performance and very good multi-year servicing packages.