Fiat 500 Review
The Fiat 500 is a small hatchback with stylish retro looks and a range of economical engines that make light work of inner-city driving but other equally compact cars have roomier cabins.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Cute styling
- Economical engines
- Loads of customisation
What's not so good
- Very small boot
- Cramped back seats
- Alternatives are more comfortable
Fiat 500: what would you like to read next?
The Fiat 500 is a charming small hatchback that’s cheap to run and ideally suited to cruising around town. In that respect, it’s similar to the likes of the Vauxhall Adam and the VW Up but the Fiat 500’s cheeky retro looks really help it stand out.
The Fiat 500’s dinky dimensions and fashionable, retro bodywork has helped make it the darling of fashionable boroughs all over the world. It looks like no other small car on sale and comes with loads of personalisation options if you fancy making it your own including fancy chrome trim, colourful graphics and eye-catching two-tone paint jobs.
The customisation options don’t stop when you climb inside, either. The Fiat 500’s funky interior can be had with a range of bright dashboard inserts and even a glossy wooden finish in high-spec Riva models that mimics the finish of a vintage speedboat. Apparently…
Unfortunately, even these fancy looking versions feel a little cheap inside. Most of the plastics on the dashboard and doors feel hard and brittle and the basic infotainment system has more in common with a 10-year-old phone than a brand-new iPad. At least you can upgrade to a flashier unit in mid-range cars with built-in smartphone mirroring.
It’s well worth steering clear of the entry-level car if only to get a height-adjustable driver’s seat. This makes it easier to find your ideal seating position and gives you a better view out. You also get sunroof to make the Fiat 500’s otherwise slightly cramped cabin feel a little bit airier.
Small runabout remains one of the most stylish ways to go to the shops
This’ll be of little comfort to passengers in the back, though. Unlike the VW Up, you can’t get the Fiat 500 with front and rear doors, so you’ll have to jump out to let your back-seat passengers climb in. Adults won’t have a great deal of space to stretch out, but at least two kids can get comfy without fighting over shoulder room.
Sadly, the Fiat 500’s no better at carrying large luggage than it is at accommodating lanky passengers. Its boot is much smaller than the VW Up’s and can barely carry a pair of suitcases. If you need to carry large luggage regularly, pick a mid-range model with folding back seats.
Chances are you won’t be using your Fiat 500 for regular trips to the tip, though. More likely, you’ll be nipping from shop to shop around town – something the tiny 500 does very well.
Its small size means it’s a doddle to park and its relatively large windows and light steering make it dead easy to manoeuvre through traffic. You can get it with a range of economical engines, including a few nippier units with a six-speed gearbox which make the Fiat 500 quieter at motorway speeds. It’s still pretty noisy, though, and doesn’t do a particularly good job ironing out bumps.
All but entry-level cars come with cruise control to help take the sting out of long journeys, but it’s a shame you can’t get the Fiat 500 with automatic emergency braking like the VW Up.
If style is just as important to you as safety, however, the Fiat 500 is a funky supermini that’s well worth considering. Check out our Fiat 500 deals to see how much you can save on one.
The interior of the new 500 looks very similar to that of the old model, but most of it has been redesigned to accommodate the new infotainment system.
Being a supermini, it’s a pretty useful car in town.
The 500 feels best in town and powered by a Twin-Air engine
There’s a small array of engines on offer, and all are well suited to city life, especially the nippy little petrols. All of them have been updated to meet Euro 6 emission standards meaning they are more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than in the old car.
The manual gearbox is smooth, but with only five gears (six in the most powerful petrol version) it makes the 500 quite noisy on the motorway and the Dualogic automatic option is not recommended unless you really need an auto, because it is slow and hesitant to change gears.
Pick of the petrol range is the 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder – its nippy nature is perfectly suited to urban driving. It is available in two power levels – 85hp that does 74.3mpg and 105hp that can do the 0-62mph sprint in 10 seconds and propel the new 500 to a top speed of 117mph while returning fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
The 1.2-litre has just enough power for city driving, but runs out of puff on the motorway and the TwinAir is generally a better bet. However, eight out of ten buyers opted for this engine in the pre-facelift 500, so there should be buyers who would prefer to add a bit more optional extras than to have a better engine.
The ‘Eco’ version of the 1.2-litre lowers CO2 emissions to 99g/km.
The 1.3-litre diesel emits only 89 g/km of CO2 and should return fuel economy of close to 80mpg. However, it’s expensive and only makes sense on the motorway where the 500 doesn’t really make sense.
The facelift 500 is identical to drive to the old model with light and easy-to-use controls and decent visibility, which sit well with the car’s small, easy-to-manoeuvre dimensions.
However, it’s not quite as sharp or as composed as its main rival, the Mini, because the suspension is too soft to prevent body roll and the ride is a bit jiggly, especially on the motorway. There’s also a fair amount of road noise at higher speeds.