AA Buyer's Guide: retro revivals
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When you’ve got a winning formula on your hands, it doesn’t make sense to change it too much. Manufacturers know this all too well when it comes to their most loved models.
Many of these retro classics were originally designed to meet the basic requirements of past generations, but motorists now expect a lot more from their cars.
So by encapsulating the essence of the original design, improving performance, and ensuring it’s kept up-to-date with modern safety aids and comfort, manufacturers keep finding new ways to revive their classics.
Originally launched in 1957, the Fiat 500 was fitted with a two-cylinder, air-cooled engine. The modern version was released in 2007, with a 1.2l engine and 51kW – modest but pretty quick when compared to the feeble original!
Only the flamboyant Abarth-tuned 595 Competizione model is currently available from new in New Zealand; it produces 132kW/250Nm.
The modern 500 received a five-star safety rating from ANCAP, which extended to the entry-level Pop model. This is a pretty special result for a vehicle that’s still very small by today’s standards.
There’s also a new electric version, based on a brand new platform – the Fiat 500e - now available in some markets, although we’re yet to find out if this will be available in NZ.
Although VW has now stopped production of the modern-day Beetle, this list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the fourth-best-selling car of all time.
The original was in production for an incredible length of time: 1938-2003. The modern-day equivalent was introduced in 1997 and received several updates before it was finally retired last year. It got more powerful as time went on and with a seven-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG), the Beetle was a fun car to drive.
The car still looks relatively modern, and there are rumours that Volkswagen might resurrect the bug-shaped hatch again as an electric vehicle (EV).
The cute Mini was also brought back to life when BMW acquired the rights for the car at the turn of the century. The German manufacturer injected a lot of luxury and comfort into this small modern hatch, while maintaining the styling of the original, with a central media centre, vintage chrome embellishments and toggle switches.
BMW has also produced other variants of the Mini, including convertibles and the Countryman station wagon, both of which have been relatively successful. The original Mini was also available in different forms, including a pick-up truck with a capacity of 680kg. BMW has yet to revive this variant so far, although we’re sure there would be a market for it.
We’re all still watching BMW closely to see what they’ll do with future models, but an EV Mini has just been released in NZ, alongside the plug-in hybrid version of the Countryman SUV.