I’ve spent the last week behind the wheel of the retro chic Fiat 500. It was a fun car to drive but it was not without its shortcomings.
Well in a nutshell not a great deal. Fiat have taken the approach of evolution not revolution but as the 500 is the brand’s biggest sellers I suppose an overhaul was not needed. What is new though is the funky ‘cutout’ styling of the rear lights, revised styling on the front lights and the range-topping lounge gets a stylish 3D effect grille.
Space and Comfort
I’m a tall chap so I was expecting the 500 to be cramped to drive but it’s actually quite spacious in the front. The driving position is not ideal however and you feel quite high up when you’re driving. Some may like that but I felt it was odd in small city car. Despite being top of the range the steering wheel adjusts for rake only meaning it’s harder to find a comfortable driving position.
In the end I found the bottom of the speedo screen was cut off as I had to have the steering wheel at the highest point so the bottom wasn’t rubbing my knees. There’s barely any space to put my left foot either so when it’s not needed for the clutch it’s squeezed awkwardly in the corner of the footwell. The ride can be a little firm at times but I did not find this to be a real problem, plus the seats offer a good level of comfort and support which helps counteract it. I even found the car to be easily capable on long distance journeys so this car is not just for getting about town.
The top of the range ‘Lounge’ comes with quite a few toys although the one I had on test had a few options. What comes as standard are rear parking sensors. LED running lights, Uconnect infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and AUX ports, leather steering wheel with control functions, 15” alloy wheels and air conditioning. The base model – ‘Pop’ – is probably best avoided unless you’re a real budget as it does not come with alloy wheels or air conditioning.
The optional extras included for this model were the camouflage second skin (£850), automatic climate control (£300), electrochromatic rear view mirror (£125), 16” alloy wheels (£400), DAB radio and TomTom satnav (£600), Crossover Black metallic paint (£500) and the 7” TFT screen (£275). That pushes up the price to costly £17,630, quite a lot of money for a small car I’m sure you’ll agree. Even its standard form the ‘Lounge’ is still not what you call cheap at a price of £14,580.
On a more positive note the stereo was surprisingly good, yes it was a little tinny but I found it to provide some decent bass and the sound was clear. The steering mounted controls make changing tracks or radio station very easy which is just as well as the Uconnect system is a bit of reach to get to comfortably.
The 500 may have a small engine but thanks to its rev happy nature you may find the MPG you achieve will not match official figures. I embarked on four long distance trips and despite my best efforts I achieved figures in the region of 55-61mpg which are quite a way below the 80.7mpg official figure. I found economy was more realistic when driving around town – where it’s more likely to call home – as I was able to get around 38-40mpg.
On one day I came very close to matching the urban figure of 51.4mpg but traffic getting into town scuppered my chances despite the stop/start function. In the end I managed 44.3mpg, not a bad effort though. On a combined cycle I was able to achieve (insert quote here). A good fuel economy is possible but it means you’ll have to lay off the revs which is a shame as the car’s character really comes alive when you force the needle towards the redline. Not that you’re able to hit it though as the car has a soft rev limiter so you will need to change gear sooner than you may want to.
The 500 is a very likeable car and one that I enjoyed driving despite its awkward driving position. It’s a stylish city car that will tick many boxes for prospective buyers but be careful when adding options, it’s very easy to push the price of the car up and the car is not cheap to buy to begin with, not unless you go for the base model. However if you do so you will have to sacrifice alloy wheels and air conditioning.
My heart wants to grade this car higher but I need to think with my head and for that reason I give the Fiat 500 3/5. The high price and the awkward driving positions are what cost the car dearly in my opinion.
Car Obsession Rating: (3 / 5)
- Fun to drive
- Big character
- Retro styling
- Lively engine
- Driving position
- Large price tag
- Lack of space in the rear