£11,690 - £15,790 Price range
53 - 74 MPG
The Fiat 500 is a small retro-style city car that was significantly updated in 2015. The update improved comfort, added more personalisation options and improved fuel economy. Its main rivals are the Mini Hatchback, the Vauxhall Adam and VW Up.
The interior has been brought up to date with the addition of a new infotainment system, but the criticisms about the interiors poor build quality and materials remain, even if it does have a stylish design.
The way the new 500 drives is exactly the same as the previous model – light steering makes for easy urban manoeuvring and soft suspension irons out city potholes.
The engines are the same as the ones offered for the previous model, but have been tweaked to lower CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.
Only the entry-level Pop, mid-spec Pop Star and the top of the range Lounge get the updates with the more sportier Abarth models getting an update later in 2016.If you want a sporty 500 without waiting for the pricey Abarth, check out the Fiat 500S which gets a sports bodykit and some choice interior upgrades.
Standard equipment on the basic Pop includes remote central locking, electrically adjustable door mirrors and seven airbags, although strangely only the convertible model gets air conditioning.
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. For the top of the range Lounge model there is an optional TFT digital display that replaces the speedo and can show a wealth of information to the driver.
Fiat 500 passenger space
The Fiat 500 was never meant to be a people carrier (there is the seven-seater 500L for that) and there’s limited space for passengers, especially in the rear. The seats, although very supportive, are criticised for being positioned too high.
Fiat 500 boot space
There isn’t much boot space – the 500’s 180 litre load bay is beaten by the VW Up, which can hold 251 litres. Fold the Fiat’s rear seats down and you get a maximum capacity of 550 litres.
Being a supermini, it’s a pretty useful car in town. According to testers, 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. Some testers report a fair amount of road noise at higher speeds as well.
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.
Fiat 500 petrol engines
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.
Testers say 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.
Fiat 500 diesel engines
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.
Reviews of the quirky TwinAir equipped 500 are generally fairly positive. Quite a few critics are big fans of it, stating that the dinky little engine is a hoot to use, offers good pace and, on paper at least, returns hugely impressive fuel economy.
Fiat bills this as the most efficient petrol engine on sale today, it's road tax exempt and gets nearly 70 mpg on the combined cycle. It’s also fairly brisk for a car with such a small and frugal engine – there’s decent power and torque on offer across the rev band, so it has enough poke to get up to motorway speeds.
It’s not all a barrel of laughs, though – some testers thought that the engine’s characterful thrum, though pleasant in town, was a bit irritating on longer journeys, it’s not the cheapest 500 on sale and some testers had difficulty matching the lofty fuel economy figures. That being said, the TwinAir is still an efficient, affordable and charming option that’s certainly worthy of your attention.
Despite being one of the most basic 500 variants on sale, the 1.2 petrol model still gets some fairly impressive reviews. Most of the critics are quite fond of it, with favourable comments being given to its affordability, cheap running costs and alluring charm.
With only 68bhp and a relatively narrow torque band, the 1.2 petrol model certainly isn’t the quickest in the range, with some testers complaining about its lethargic nature and lack of refinement at higher speeds. That being said, it’s not terribly slow, can still return nearly 50 mpg when equipped with the stop/start system, and a handful of testers thought that it suited the car fairly well in urban environments.
Overall, the 1.2 petrol is a good engine that does have some alluring merits – the asking price is low, and it claims to be an affordable unit to run and its highly usable in towns and cities. That being said, it’s not the best engine in the range, so we’d recommend having a look at the other options as well.
Though Italian cars are often depicted with small petrol engines, the only diesel 500 in the range appears to be just as capable as its petrol powered siblings. Testers were hugely impressed with the cheap running costs, a fairly supple ride and an improvement in refinement over the petrol models.
With a claimed combined figure of 67 mpg and a low CO2 output, the MultJet 500 is amongst one of the most efficient models in the range. However, there are more benefits to the diesel than just fuel economy – the unique suspension setup for the diesel model means it’s not quite as unsettled on rougher surfaces as the petrols are, and it’s much more refined at motorway speeds as well.
There are a few downsides, though, albeit mostly on a subjective level. Some didn’t think that the diesel suited the 500’s character as well as the fizzy petrols do, it’s still a bit on the slow side and a well specified TwinAir offers similar levels of efficiency for the same price as the most basic diesel model.
If you intend to use it primarily as a citycar, then we’d be more inclined to recommend the cheaper petrol models. However, if you’re the sort of person who does lots of long journeys, then the refinement and efficiency of the MultiJet model would make sense in the long run.
The general consensus of the top spec 500 is that it’s a fairly impressive little car. Critics appear to be quite pleased with the extra power the 1.4 motor has over most of the other engines in the range, along with its relative affordability and peppy characteristics. However, a few didn’t think it was the one they’d personally go for.
Being the largest and most powerful engine in the non-Abarth line-up, the 1.4 petrol motor has a fair bit more grunt over the lesser variants, though some did reckon that it was a bit weedy at lower revs. That being said, it’s superior to the other petrol engines on motorway journeys, part of which can be down to the six speed transmission (the other 500s only get a five speed), and the claimed 45 mpg is perfectly reasonable for such a car.
However, there are other areas of the car which weren’t so satisfactory. Despite the extra gear, it’s still a bit noisy at higher speeds, and the other engines on offer are noticeably cheaper to buy and run. It’s a good little car, and one that has quite a few distinct USPs over some of the other 500 variants, but we’d recommend having a look at the other engine options.
The old 500 scored five-stars back in 2007 when Euro NCAP tested it, but the testing regime has changed since then to be more stringent and the new model has yet to be put to the test.
That should not be very difficult, because the new 500 is well equipped with safety systems and driver aids: advanced stability control, hill hold assist, seven airbags and bigger brakes are some of the numerous safety updates the new 500 gets.
The 500 is quite good value, all things considered. It’s not the cheapest supermini on the market, but it’s still an affordable car to buy and does undercut its premium rivals such as the Audi A1 by a noticeable margin, while retaining the retro appeal of the original 500.
Fiat 500 Pop
Standard equipment is generous with base model Pop getting LED daytime lights, a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system and engine start & stop.
Fiat 500 Lounge
The 500S gets sportier front and rear bumpers, 15-inch alloy wheels and a boot lid mounted rear spoiler. You can choose from electronica blue and matt green paint – both come paired with satin graphite exterior trim pieces. A seven inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity is fitted as standard.
Fiat 500 Riva special edition
A collaboration between Fiat and Italian speedboat builder Riva sees the release of the new 500 Riva. This model comes as standard with exclusive Sera Blue paintwork, aquamarine pinstripes, 16-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic glass sunroof and multiple mahogany trim pieces in the cabin. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and LED daytime running lights are also fitted as standard.
The new Fiat 500 is not a complete makeover of the old model, but a subtle update that brings it up to speed with more technologically advanced rivals. The new 500 is a stylish, comfortable and cheap to run supermini that has subtle nostalgia-inspiring touches and if you look past the poor build quality and noisy engine it is a pretty good buy.
To see what the car could have been without the limitations of nostalgia one only needs to glance sideways in the FIAT range to the Panda, which has the same underpinnings but a more contemporary body – and is all the better for it. But for just you and a significant other, the 500 is one of the coolest, cheapest cars on sale today.