Fiat 500 (2007 - present): Review, Problems, Specs

The Fiat 500 has been around in this current shape and form since its introduction in 2007. Although a recent facelift may have visually spruced it up a bit, it’s still the same basic car from nearly one decade ago.

It’s always been a car you buy for its cutesy look and city-friendly dimensions; it’s also quite efficient whichever engine you choose and oh-so easy to thread through traffic and park.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • One of the easiest cars to drive
  • Highly customizable
  • Cute retro styling
  • Interesting TwinAir engine (Engine of the year 2011)

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Very noisy at speed
  • Cramped, uncomfortable back seat
  • Uninspiring to drive quickly
  • Stiff suspension causes rear end to skip on 2007 - 2009 models
  • Tiny trunk, especially for the drop-top

Stay Away From
  • base 1.2-liter gasoline engine
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • Rumor of issues with flywheel on 1.3-liter MultiJet engines
  • TwinAir engine failures caused by owners turning them off while turbos were hot
Car Details
Powertrain

The 1.3-liter MultiJet diesel engine is by far the most frugal on offer, returning a claimed 3.4 l/100km, yet it’s not the best engine to go for. Its low-revving nature is at odds with the character of a small Italian city car, so you’re better off with one of the turbocharged gasoline units.

If it’s the post-facelift version we’re talking about, then the only turbo gasoline engines on offer are the TwinAirs. These can be had with either 85 or 105 hp and they come with five- or six-speed gearboxes respectively. An automatic is available, but it only has five speeds.


Handling

The 500 won’t set your heart on fire through the bends, unless it’s an Abarth, but it’s nippy and maneuverable enough for what it is. There isn’t really that much roll through the corners, and the brakes are adequate for its mass.


Safety

The 500 may have been awarded five Euro NCAP stars when it was tested in 2007, it surely wouldn’t match that performance were it to be tested. The reason is its lack of active safety features now required for the maximum rating. In the States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said it was Good in all of their standard tests, with the exception of the small overlap crash where it was marked as Poor.

Comfort

The 500’s ride couldn’t be described as particularly extreme - it’s neither soft, nor hard and compliments the car’s character well. Its seats are nothing to write home about, either.

They’re pleasant to sit in at first, but the lack of lateral torso support renders them annoying on longer journeys on twisting roads. They’re also set a bit too high with no option to lower them in order to not feel like you’re sitting on top of the car, instead of in it.


Quality

Inside build, fit and finish are average at best, with neither category being particularly good. The car does feel solid, but still far from a quality product or any premium or pseudo-premium vehicle.


Practicality

With a modest 185 liters of carrying capacity, the 500 is not great for long journeys, unless you are a packing ninja and you fit everything into very small cases.

Headroom in the rear is also quite poor, unless you get the 500C version, which comes with infinite headroom on sunny days.


Infotainment

The 500 comes with FCA’s latest Uconnect infotainment system operated through a fairly small five-inch touchscreen. It comes with inbuilt sat-nav by TomTom, USB and audio jack input, as well as digital radio.

Efficiency

Being a small and light car, the 500 will prove efficient regardless of which power plant you go for, although it’s the 1.3-liter diesel that will obviously be most frugal. Fiat’s new pair of TwinAir turbocharged twin-cylinder engines are efficient on paper, but only if you do your best to avoid hard prods of the throttle.

Of the gasoline engines, the 1.2-liter will probably be best at the pumps under normal driving conditions, although the TwinAirs will beat it if you try to hypermile both variants.All new 500s come with standard Uconnect infotainment, manual adjustment for the climate control, seven airbags, height-adjustable steering wheel, 14-inch steelies with hubcaps and electric windows.


Equipment

All new 500s come with standard Uconnect infotainment, manual adjustment for the climate control, seven airbags, height-adjustable steering wheel, 14-inch steelies with hubcaps and electric windows.


Acquisition

Even nearly a decade after its launch, the 500 remains a tempting buy for a city runaround. As a car, it’s not particularly great at anything in particular, but as a stylish package with a clear retro vibe, it’s definitely worth a look.

With the recent facelift, it was infused with much-needed tech and gained not only a touchscreen infotainment interface, but also a part-digital gauge cluster.

It’s cheap, fairly economical, cute and very characterful, so yes, the 500 is a valid buy in the small city car segment.

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