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Fiat 500 Review

Find out more about the Fiat 500 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£7,216
Average Price
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  • Pros
  • Stylish exterior
  • Fun to drive
  • Efficient engines
  • Cons
  • Short on practicality
  • Reliability is not Fiat’s strong suit
  • Looks won’t be to everyone’s taste
  • MPG
    52 - 74
  • CO2
    88 - 126 g/km
Model Review

The original Fiat 500 launched in 1957, and it became the darling of the Italian working class. Like the Mini in Britain, it brought affordable motoring to the people, and like Alec Issigonis’ hatchback, it became a retro icon of the country that spawned it.

When, in 2007, Fiat brought it back, the 500 became bigger and less practical, but its cute, retro image made it an instant hit. In some quarters it was slammed for being half car, half handbag, but that didn’t stop Fiat selling them by the hatful.

There was more to the 500 than just style, though. It was offered with some peppy two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines that oozed Italian charm, and the chassis actually made for a fun driving experience, despite copious body roll and slightly vague steering.

Although still a car bought more for its looks than anything else, it proved more than good enough to fend off more spacious rivals such as the DS 3 and Vauxhall Adam, and surprisingly strong reliability credentials mean it remains a decent used buy.

Latest model

By Fiat’s own admission, the 2015 updates constituted little more than a light facelift, so the 500 has remained more or less unchanged in its 10-year production period. The car uses the same engines and platform as before and the design was only mildly modified.

At the front, a new lower grille and new headlights were added to the mix, while new tail lights were screwed on to the back. Inside, there was a new five-inch touchscreen infotainment system for top-spec models and a multi-function steering wheel.

A host of personalisation options arrived, too, with a range of colours, the option of two-tone bodywork and a plethora of interior finishes and exterior decals.

At first, the only engine options were the basic 1.2-litre petrol and the more powerful 0.9-litre turbocharged engines, but a 1.3-litre diesel joined the range later to offer an economical variant for those doing high mileages.

Basic new cars start from £11,490, but prices rise to more than £14,000 for a high-spec model with a few optional extras.

 

Value for money

The 500 starts at £11,490, and for that you get the basic Pop model with steel wheels and black door mirrors.

Upgrading to the £12,365 Pop Star affords alloy wheels and air conditioning, while you have to go for the top-spec Lounge to get a touchscreen infotainment system and parking sensors.

Those preferring sporty touches, meanwhile, will be served by the £13,390 S. Featuring bulkier, more aggressive bumpers, grey alloys and sports seats, as well as a sportier chrome exhaust finisher, it invokes some of the style of the Abarth models without the price tag or running costs.

You can spend a lot less by going for a used version, though. Early cars with high mileages go for around £2,000, but you’ll be spending around £3,000 to pick up a tidy example.

Post-facelift cars date from late 2015 and come in at around £6,000 if they’ve got sensible mileages.

 

Looks and image

The 500’s styling will probably be something of a love/hate thing for most. Some will love its rounded lines and cute, doe-eyed ‘face’, while others will find its bulk and blatant mimicry something of an insult to the 1950s original.

There can be no question that there’s some baggage with the look – it’s often thought of as a ‘girl’s car’ (if such a thing exists) and it’s associated with those more interested in style than substance – but those preconceptions won’t be off-putting for a big chunk of this car’s target market.

Inside, the cabin follows the same recipe as the bodywork. It looks retro, yet still modern, with swathes of body-coloured plastic aping the painted metal finish of the original.

Colours and personalisation options are numerous, with a host of paint jobs available, as well as a range of decals and two-tone options. The interior is customisable, too, with a choice of upholsteries.

Video Review

Space and practicality

Although the new 500 is far larger than the original, it doesn’t seem to be much more spacious. The rear seats aren’t really capacious enough for adults – certainly not on long trips – and the boot is, even by the standards of the competition, quite small.

 

Mid- and upper-spec cars get a folding rear bench seat, though, which means the boot can be expanded to a much more useful volume.

 

What’s under the bonnet

The 500’s engine range comprises three basic engines. The entry-level unit is a four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol with 68bhp. It isn’t exactly fast, with a top speed of 99mph and a 12.7-second 0-60mph time, but it claims to return 60.1mpg.

 

If you want more power, you’re better going for one of the 0.9-litre two-cylinder engines. They don’t sound like much against the larger 1.2, but they’re turbocharged to produce as much as 103bhp. The result is a 9.8-second 0-60mph time and a slightly livelier top speed of 117mph. It’s more efficient, too, claiming 67.3mpg, although you’ll be hard pushed to achieve that in the real world.

 

The efficiency king, however, is the 1.3-litre diesel. The 94bhp engine returns an impressive 83.1mpg and emits just 89g of CO2 per kilometre, which makes it a great choice for company car drivers. It’s also surprisingly fast, with a 10.5-second 0-60mph time.

 

Running costs

With such frugal engines under the little clamshell bonnet, the 500 won’t cost the Earth to run, and the comparative lack of power means insurance won’t be outrageous either. Its reliability means it ought to be fairly cheap to maintain, too.

As standard, new cars come with a three-year warranty, so anyone with any worries might be well advised to go for a new or nearly new car that still has some guarantee remaining.

Things to look out for

Fiat’s reputation for reliability is not a strong one – in fact, some say Fiat stands for Fix it again tomorrow, but the 500 has not suffered from too many gremlins.

One of the most common problems is with the interior trim, which can break or fall apart. The seat tilt mechanism is particularly prone to failure.

Under the bonnet, Fiat famously had problems with the 1.2-litre engine’s inability to climb hills, so check the recall work was carried out before buying and you should have no problems. The only other issue is with the diesel engine, which needs regular oil changes to avoid costly repair bills.

 

Rivals

The 500 doesn’t have many rivals, but it does face strong competition from the Mini Hatch and the DS 3 (formerly badged as a Citroen). Both cars are a little larger more practical and more expensive than the Fiat, but they appeal to the same market and offer a slightly more premium feel.

Other alternatives include the Audi A1, which is a little less open to personalisation but far more premium, and the Vauxhall Adam, which feels like a more grown-up option.

 

Depreciation warning

The Fiat 500’s desirability has meant prices have remained relatively strong. Even early examples, which are now approaching 10 years old, are selling for £3,000, which means they have only lost around 70 per cent of their value in that time. Given that most cars lose 60-70 per cent in the first three years, that’s pretty good going.

If you buy a used, but almost new example, though you can still save a few pounds compared with a new one. Granted, you won’t get the same choice of colours and specification, and the warranty won’t last quite as long, but you won’t have to wait for the car and the saving may be worth it.

Which 500 to Pick

Trims Explained

The Fiat 500 is available in a choice of four main trim levels, but a number of special editions have been sold for a limited time at various times in the car’s history.

Pop

The entry-level Pop trim comes with 14-inch steel wheels, central locking and start-stop fuel-saving technology, as well as LED daytime running lights.

Prices start from £11,490.

Pop Star

Upgrading to the Pop Star model improves upon this with 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a height-adjustable steering wheel and wheel-mounted audio controls.

Prices start from £12,365.

Lounge

The Lounge is the most luxurious option, providing a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard, along with leather trim on the steering wheel, chrome touches on the bumpers and rear parking sensors.

Prices start from £13,240.

S

For those seeking something a bit sportier, though, there’s the range-topping S. Featuring a seven-inch touchscreen, tinted windows and sportier seats, it’s designed to offer the 500 an exciting edge.

Summary

  1. Post-2015 facelift cars offer improved cabins
  2. There’s a range of personalisation options
  3. Prices start at £11,490
  4. Decent used cars start at around £3,000
  5. Reliability is better than the Fiat reputation would suggest
  6. Basic models are relatively poorly equipped
  7. Only high-spec cars get touchscreens as standard
  8. The 0.9-litre engine is actually the most powerful
  9. There isn’t much room in the boot or rear seats
  10. Iconic design means residuals are good
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