A lot can change in 60 years.

Introduction

Almost a decade old now, the Fiat 500 just keeps getting better and better, and the update introduced in 2016 has really injected new life into the range. You couldn’t get more retro than the 500, and it’s hardly the most practical car around, but it's bouncy and engaging to drive, looks utterly gorgeous and it’s probably Fiat’s best-built car ever. Hard to resist, really.

 

Body Style: Hatchback Seats: 5 MRP from £11,350 - £18,230

 

Did you know? The original Fiat 500, launched in 1957, was powered by an engine in the rear of the car. We saw 'power', but it only had 13hp…

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

If ever there was proof that evolution, not revolution is the way to go then the Fiat 500 is it. Its structure and engine line-up has barely changed since it was first introduced in 2008 yet the constant stream of small and detail updates and improvements have kept it feeling fresh. Yes, it’s tiny in the back and has a small boot and the driving position is bolt upright, but you just can’t help smiling when you drive one and that has to be a good thing.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

 

2017 Fiat 500

We Like

Gorgeous retro styling

Hyperactive handling

Upgraded infotainment system is excellent

We Don't Like

Ride still too bouncy at times

Awkward driving position

TwinAir engine is too thirsty

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)

2017 Fiat 500

There’s a reason that the 500 has been a big seller for Fiat for almost a decade (in fact, it saved the company from bankruptcy at one point); it looks brilliant. It’s one of those cars that always catches the eye when you see one pass by, and while it’s a shamelessly retro knock-off of the classic original from the fifties, you can’t fault it for being a successful update of that 1957 Nuova 500.

The 2016 update, wisely, didn’t change much of the outside, but it did introduce new LED daytime running lights, chunky new 3-D rear lights with a body-coloured centre section and lightly tweaked bumpers and colour options. The basic shape was left well enough alone and for that we are thankful.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Fiat 500

There’s a slightly split decision here. The interior looks great, and is mostly great to use, but comfort is not the 500’s forte. You sit high and a little perched up on the seat. Taller drivers will find that they will struggle to get comfortable and their thighs will start to ache on a longer journey, but shorter people will be fine. Overall quality is great; in fact, the 500 is probably the highest-quality car that Fiat currently makes, and if you dip into the options catalogue (which runs to more than 16 pages of the car’s brochure) then you can have a cabin that looks, quite simply, stunning.

Practicality

The 500 is practical enough for its intended role as a city runabout, and small kids will just about fit into the back seats. The 185-litre boot is utterly tiny, but you can squeeze the results of a decent-sized shopping trip in there, so it’s not too bad. Basically, though, this is a cute, very small car that you simply don’t buy if practicality is top of your priority list.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Fiat 500

The 2016 update also brought with it a major upgrade to the 500’s infotainment system. Basic models come with a uConnect radio, which does without a touchscreen, but includes USB and aux-in connections so that you can at least get your own music playing. Spec up a bit and you get the five-inch uConnect touchscreen system, which includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB, and uConnect Live services, which means you can integrate the likes of TuneIn radio, Reuters news, Twitter, and Facebook into the system. There are also apps for vehicle information and an eco:drive system that monitors your driving and gives you tips on how to be more economical.

The top-spec system is the seven-inch uConnect touchscreen, which is impressively slick to use (better than what you get in some cars costing three times as much…) and which can be specified with TomTom satnav with live traffic services. The 500 still lacks items such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as yet, and there’s no option for an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot either.

There is, though, the option of a seven-inch TFT digital instrument pack, which not only functions very well but also looks impressively expensive.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Fiat 500

 

Much here depends on wheel choice. Stick with the standard 15-inch wheels and anyone who drove a first-generation 2007 500 will be amazed at how much better controlled the ride quality is and how the old pogo-stick bounce has been toned down. Go for the 16-inch optional wheels and it all comes rushing back, well most of it anyway and progress can be interrupted simply by too much vertical bounce on badly made roads.

Either way, you’ll be having fun though. The steering is hardly the last word in feel and feedback, but the 500 is so light, so small and so agile that it hardly matters. You’ll have a smile on your face whether just hopping around town or attacking a back road. Just stay away from the motorway – the 500 will cope with big roads and long journeys, but it gets noisy and fuel consumption rises alarmingly.

Engines

Of the three engines currently on offer, the 900cc TwinAir two-cylinder turbo engine is the most obviously charismatic one. Fire it up and it sounds like it’s trying to do an impression of a Ferrari flat-12 engine from the 1970s, or possibly a Subaru turbo flat-four from the mid-nineties. It growls and grumbles all through the rev range in a highly entertaining manner, but you’ll pay at the pumps for giving it its head too much. The 85hp version is entirely adequate for the 500’s 930kg weight. That said, the 1.2-litre 69hp engine is actually just fine. Ancient in design it may be and packing a tiny power output it certainly is, but with just 865kg to push around it feels lively enough and saves you a considerable amount at purchase time over the TwinAir.  

Recommended engine: 1.2 69hp FIRE

0-62 MPH

7.6 seconds

Fuel economy

60.1 mpg

Emissions

110g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

2017 Fiat 500

Tested way back in 2007 by Euro NCAP, the 500 received a five-star score for adult occupant protection, three stars for child occupant protection, and two stars for pedestrian protection. To be honest, we think that it might struggle to retain those scores were it to be re-tested today, partially because the NCAP test has become much tougher since 2007, and partially because the electronic safety revolution has passed the 500 by. It does come with seven airbags as standard, pretensioned seatbelts, ISOFIX points in the back, LED daytime running lights, electronic stability control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system, but it lacks items such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping, active cruise control, and a blind spot monitor. It’s fundamentally a safe car in an accident, but crash-prevention technology has moved on.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels : ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Fiat 500

Colours

The 500 can be had in a range of pastel colours including Pasodoble Red, Smooth Mint, Bossa Nova White, Glam Coral, Countrypolitan Yellow, Tech House Grey, and Volare Blue. There are also metallic options in Groove Metal Grey, Epic Blue, Electroclash Grey, Avantgarde Bordeaux, and Crossover Black, with the final option of a ‘Tricoat’ finish in Urban White. Well, we say final option but there are others, including some matte finishes for the slightly sportier 500 S and a near endless line-up of stickers, decals, and vinyl wraps. There is almost no car more customisable than a Fiat 500.

Trim Levels

How much time have you got? The 500 has an almost bewildering amount of options, extras, and trims, and that’s without even taking into consideration special edition models such as the one that celebrates the Riva Acquarama speedboat (yes, really).

The basic trim divisions start with the Pop, which includes seven airbags, LED daytime running lights, 14-inch steel wheels, electric door mirrors, chrome door handles, USB connection for the radio, steering wheel mounted audio controls, front electric windows, and remote central locking.

Pop Star versions come with air conditioning, heated door mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, and split/fold rear seats, while top-spec Lounge adds a glass roof, five-inch uConnect touchscreen with Bluetooth and DAB, upgraded 15-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, front fog lights, height adjustable driver's seat, leather steering wheel, and an exterior chrome design kit.

After that, you can just go nuts. There are a dozen different interior colour schemes, 10 choices of alloy wheel, 13 different dashboard colours, even 11 different colours for the key fob, including some with Swarovski crystals. The 500 might be small, but you can spend hours just deciding on a spec for yours.

Size and Dimensions

The 500 is tiny, really small. It’s a doddle to park and specifically designed to nip into gaps in heavy traffic, so if it won’t fit into your garage, then your garage might be a shed.

Length

3,.571 mm

Width

1,627 mm

Height

1,488 mm

Max towing weight without brake

400kg

Max towing weight with brake

800kg

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Fiat 500

The 500’s score in this area depends on (a) how seriously you take the official fuel consumption figures, and (b) how you drive your 500. If you take the official figures at face value, then the 500 looks amazing. The most basic 1.2-litre petrol engine records combined economy of 60.1mpg and emissions of 110g/km (and does slightly better in both respects with the optional Dualogic automated manual gearbox). The 85hp 900cc TwinAir two-cylinder turbo does even better – 74.3mpg and just 90g/km of CO2, while its slightly more powerful 105hp version returns 67.3mpg and 99g/km.

All of which is utter rubbish. In reality, the TwinAir will struggle to get past 50mpg in daily driving, and if you drive it as enthusiastically as it begs for, you’ll do worse than that. The ancient 1.2-litre FIRE engine, whose origins date back to the early eighties, is probably the better option as it should return a steady 45-50mpg no matter how you drive it.

Reliability and servicing

The 500 has been recalled a dozen times in its decade-long life, for problems ranging from faulty lights to incorrect seatbelt installation, to brake issues, to airbag problems, and even loss of steering assistance. That said, it’s one of the more reliable Fiat models overall, and the level of quality from the Polish factory where the 500 is built is generally high.   

All models

Every 9,000 miles  or one year

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Fiat 500

The 500 might be small, but it’s not quite as cheap to buy as you think it will be. Prices start at around the £11,000 mark, but you have to remember that’s around £2,000 more than the cheapest Fiat Panda, which has all the same mechanical bits as a 500 and is more practical, if less adorable. The Volkswagen Up is also considerably cheaper, and you could hardly accuse the Up of being any less of a brilliant car than the 500, even if perhaps it’s not quite so cute. You are paying for that extra dose of Italianate style, so it’s down to you to work out if that’s worth it.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

First Time Driver

1.2 Pop – cheap(ish) to buy, easy to drive and gentle insurance rates.

Trend Setter

Lounge models – you’ll find no more stylish car around town than this.

Car Enthusiast

TwinAir 105hp – laugh-out-loud engine note and entertaining handling

Rivals

Audi A1

Much more expensive, arguably more desirable, but definitely less fun.

Citroen C3

Citroen’s supermini is far more practical than the 500 but barely any less funky.

Fiat Panda

The 500’s sensible brother still has a cool sheen of Italian styling and fun to it.

Mini One

Way pricier but not a whole lot less practical than the 500.

Renault Twingo

Almost matches the 500 for exterior cuteness and much more useful inside.

What others say

What Car?

If it’s retro charm you’re after, the chic Fiat 500 is one of your cheapest options.”

Car Buyer

"The Fiat 500 has an unashamedly retro style, but thoroughly modern engines, making it a strong city-car performer. There are lots of ways to make the 500 unique, too"

 

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