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Fiat 500 Review

7 / 10
3 November 2023

The revived Fiat 500 has been on sale for more than 15 years but its timeless style and several big updates mean it’s still a charming choice for city driving

What we like:
  • Cute retro styling inside and out
  • Affordable to buy and cheap to run
  • Easy to park
What we don't like:
  • Very tight back seats
  • Small boot
  • A Mini is more fun to drive

Should I buy a Fiat 500?

The ‘new’ Fiat 500 arrived in 2007, mimicking the cute, rounded looks of its namesake from the 1950s. However, its enduring popularity means the newer 500 is just as much of an icon as the old car, with hundreds of thousands of examples finding homes in the 21st century.

There’s a lot to like about the little 500, too. Its design is charming and attractive without the ‘tackiness’ of some retro-inspired rivals that arrived around the same time. Plus, those good looks continue in the cabin, where Fiat has used plenty of bright colours and funky switchgear to hide the car’s affordable origins.

Those cheaper bones do, however, mean that Fiat 500 prices are affordable, so you don’t have to sacrifice style to get your monthly costs down. It doesn’t have the affordable end of the market all to itself, though, with the likes of the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Volkswagen Up all in contention. All of those cars are more practical than the 500, but arguably none offer the Fiat’s charm.

Interior and Technology

The first thing that greets you in the 500’s interior is a big slab of coloured plastic stretching across the dashboard. It’s a simple touch but immediately lifts the Fiat above rivals that use a little too much cheap, grey plastic. Depending on the body colour, some models also get an off-white steering wheel and switchgear, further brightening the cabin ambiance. You’ll also find snazzy seat cloth materials, with tartan and part-leather choices widely available.

Fiat has deployed its interior-design budget wisely, so a lot of what you see and touch is attractive – the snooker-ball style gear lever right next to your left hand is a highlight. However, you can find cost-cutting moves if you search deeper in the cabin – the cloth trim in the boot looks and feels cheap, and there are lots of scratchy plastics below your waist level.

Older Fiat 500 models and those in entry-level Pop or Pop Star trim lack an infotainment system, only coming with DAB radio and Bluetooth. However, most 500s on the nearly new market include a five or seven-inch touchscreen system which, from 2020 onwards, included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.


This isn’t the 500’s strongest suit. It’s strictly a four seater and, even then, isn’t a particularly good choice for carrying four adults. It’s best to think of the little Fiat as a car that’s ideal for individuals or couples who only need the back seats to give occasional lifts.

Tall people in the rear will find their legs akimbo around the front seatbacks and very little space for their feet. The already limited foot room gets even worse on 1.0-litre hybrid models because the battery pack sits under the front-passenger seat, robbing even more room from your rear passenger’s toes. Plus, the rear windows are fixed in place, so those stuck back there can’t even enjoy the relief of a stream of fresh air.

The 500’s boot is large enough to carry three or four big shopping bags with all the seats in place. If you fold the rear row down, there’s enough space to hold at least two big suitcases and a couple of soft bags – ideal for a driving holiday as long as there’s only two of you going.

Engines and performance

There are three main choices in the Fiat 500 engine lineup, assuming you’re not shopping for the red-eyed Abarth 595 hot hatch. All regular engines are petrol powered and none are especially sporty, so performance fans should probably search elsewhere. It might not be powerful but the 500 is, at least, cheap to run, with strong mpg figures and affordable replacement parts.

Many buyers looking at pre-2021 cars will select the 1.2-litre petrol. This has no hybrid or turbo complications and provides just enough power to get the 500 up to motorway speeds without too much fuss. There’s also a rarer 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbo petrol engine called the TwinAir. This is noticeably quicker than the 1.2-litre, but you’ll either love or hate the raspy sound this tiny little engine makes when you accelerate.

A 1.0-litre mild-hybrid model badged ‘Hybrid’ arrived in 2020 and became the only engine option from 2021 onwards. This delivers similar performance to the 1.2-litre petrol on paper but, in practice, feels slightly nippier thanks to having six speeds in its gearbox rather than just five.

Driving and comfort

The 500 is fun to drive thanks to its tiny dimensions but can’t quite match the sporty appeal of rivals like the Mini Hatchback. The steering is light and accurate, making it easy to cut through city traffic, again aided by the car’s minuscule footprint, and you can hit the ‘City’ button to make the wheel so light you can spin it with just one finger. There is a little body roll in corners, however, which means the 500 doesn’t feel as poised as some rivals.

Ride comfort also isn’t quite up to the standard of the class best. The 500 isn’t uncomfortable in most day-to-day situations but it does thump over larger bumps, with those undulations being felt through the slightly bouncy suspension. You also feel vibrations from rougher road surfaces through the base of the seat and, on buzzy two-cylinder TwinAir cars, this mixes with a little extra shaking from the engine.

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