Cars we love: buying a second-hand Fiat 500
Most Fiat 500 buyers pick the car for its looks. But there are many more great reasons to own one, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. And many of them are grounded in common sense.
For instance, and because this baby Italian is in big demand as a second-hand buy, it loses value more slowly from new than many other cars – and that makes it cheaper for you to own. In this respect, it rivals that other must-have small car, the Mini. It is also beautifully built – from its retro-style dash and cabin to its tough running gear and proven diesel and petrol engines. What’s more, it is very cheap to run; sipping fuel and falling into usefully cheap insurance groupings while servicing is easy and simple because it shares engines and other parts with the Fiat Panda and the new Ford Ka.
How much should I pay for one?
You’ll need at least £7000 to buy a 2008, 08-reg 1.2 litre Pop, which is the entry model. Add £1000 to your budget to buy a 1.4 Sport or Lounge (the other trim levels available). This will get you one of the oldest 500s, registered in 2007 and on 57-reg. It’ll have covered 30,000 miles.
Moving up to a 500 with a diesel engine (to our minds the best of the range because of its superb fuel economy and strong low-revs power) will cost from £9000.
From there a big cash jump separates you from the most desirable 500s: the Abarth, and the 500C, which has an electric slide-back cloth roof. The 500C comes with the same engine and trim options as the standard metal-roofed car. But from new the ability to open up and let the sun stream in added £3000 to the cost, and that extra is pretty much maintained when you’re buying second-hand. And because they’ve been around for only just more than a year, you’ll struggle to find one cheaper than £11,000.
Top dollar for a used 500 is a heady £15,490, which’ll buy you a 500C 1.4 Lounge that’s on a 10-plate and has 50 miles on the clock. That’s pretty what you’ll pay for a new one – but with this one you avoid a typical three-month wait between order and delivery.
Which model is best?
Now £3000 is an awful lot to pay for an opening roof even if it runs the length of the car and whirrs to and fro thanks to an electric motor. That’s the case with the 500C, though in fairness you do get one or two extra items through in for good measure. But, despite the cost, this is the 500 we like best.
The entry model, the Pop, has the same retro charm as costlier 500s and has an attractive simplicity about the cabin that we like. It’s also by far the commonest of the three trims to be found on second-hand cars. Note though that alloy wheels and air conditioning are extras on this model. To get these items as standard you’ll need to move up to the Lounge or Sport.
Engine-wise, the 1.2 petrol is fine if most of your driving is alone and involves cross-town hops. But the 1.4 petrol is a better all-rounder. The 1.3 multijet diesel promises an amazing 72mpg overall but used 500s with this motor are scarce and expensive.
The 500 Abarth is the quickest baby Fiat and is a proper little road rocket. It is expensive, quick and hard-riding.
All models were offered with a huge array of options from new. So if you want yours to come with crazy stripes or a chequer-board roof, you can have it. There’s also a limited edition that comes only in bright pink, and another with an interior by jeanswear house Diesel.
Whichever you buy, it’ll have seven airbags aboard plus anti-lock brakes. No surprise then that the car has earned a coveted Euro NCAP five-star crash protection rating for driver and passengers. All have four seats and a fair-sized boot, too.
Where should I buy from?
Fiat dealers have by far the best choice of cars. They also offer the Approved Used scheme which promises at least a year’s warranty. And, if you get the car home and then don’t like it, you’ve 30 days in which to return it in exchange for another Fiat. Few of the little Italian cars seem to end up with car supermarkets, though it’s worth a look at your nearest one.
Similarly, few non-Fiat dealers seem to stock many, although you will find one or two. Same’s true of cars private sellers – most who buy them want to keep them.
What should I watch for?
Fiat hasn’t in the past had the best reputation for building long-lived, dependable cars. But the 500, in common with most of its range-mates, makes a break with the past. It uses engines shared with the Panda and Grande Punto and shares some parts, too, with the latest Ford Ka, so most mechanical items are proven and tough. Since the car has been around in the UK for less than three years, most problems arising have been dealt with under the warranty Fiat offers from new. So there’s little to worry about beyond the checks you’d make on any used car. Many 500s live in cities and cover small mileages. If you’re considering one such, check that it has had all the servicing it requires – because some owners wrongly wait until the car has covered a certain number of miles until they’ll book it in for work, ignoring the fact that a once yearly going-over is wise.
If you’re considering an Abarth, check its wheels for signs of kerbing and ensure that its panel gaps are straight and even because there’s an increased risk of buying a crashed one.
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