Interestingly, our thoughts on the exterior design of the three cars are pretty much mirrored on the inside. The Honda represents a more futuristic view, with the MINI and the 500 portraying their design heritage, albeit one more successfully than the other.
The Honda is a triumph in this area, and not just because of the dominance of screens, of which there are five. The one in front of the driver carries all the relevant driver information, two central ones that can vary their displays to show infotainment, menus or sat nav as you see fit, and of course, the two small outer screens that work as mirrors, and much better than the terrible ones in the Audi e-tron.
But it is more than that, it is the whole ambience of the Honda. It has just enough physical controls that you can have quick access to what you need, and the cabin just feels special and different. In our initial road test of the car last year we said that it reminds us of the wonderful BMW i3 interior with its innovative use of materials, and its distinctive design that brings something new to cars without alienating people.
The Fiat also delights, albeit in a different way. What Fiat has managed to do is really quite clever. At first, you think that the car is very simple, perhaps even basic. But in reality, this interior is a marvel. What they have done is combine the simplistic allure of both the original 1950s car and the second generation 2007 car with every conceivable requirement you will need. Wireless charging pad? Beautifully integrated into this one-piece dash. Separate screen in front of the driver with integrated map display and driver information? All housed in this almost circular binnacle that is just like the last cars fussy and cluttered instruments. An easy to reach touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Designed to mimic the dashboard mounted rear view mirror of the original car. It is just a delight. Even the large panoramic roof brings you in mind of the fliptop canvas one in the classic 500. The materials used are recyclable and yet feel special. The equipment level of our test car was high with heated seats, the aforementioned smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels, cruise control and all the safety tech you could want. And then there are the details such as the Turin skyline embossed in the phone charging pad, and the “Made in Torino” legend emblazoned in the door recesses. Electric parking brake, and these simple to use transmission buttons along the dashboard just make this interior feel simplistically luxurious.
And so to the MINI. It feels like it is trying a bit too hard now. Back when BMW Group relaunched the MINI in 2001, that large central speedo and toggle switches really worked well to help us reminisce about Issigoniss’s original car. Now, however, it is starting to look a little bit too overdesigned. What it has in its favour, however, is a feeling of quality, and that is a good thing. Everything feels solid, and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen is easy to navigate and you get brilliant, figure-hugging sports seats that hold you just right in a really good driving position. We still like the interior, and its signature MINI, but it does trail the other two that just feel a bit more special.