2018 Fiat 500 Review

Model Overview

The Fiat 500 is a refreshing and characterful alternative in the super-mini city car class which generally tends to focus on the cheap rather than the cheerful. It draws its inspiration from the 1950s original and while practicality is not one of its strengths the retro-cute looks make up for a lot. For 2017, the Fiat 500 has received some additional standard equipment and some trim changes.

What’s it like inside?

The attractive exterior styling continues inside where the painted metal dashboard, stylish door handles and subtle retro touches make for a unique and pleasant cabin. Material quality is not quite so good though and betrays the budget nature of the 500, rival offerings have higher quality interiors but they do tend to cost more too.

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That short wheelbase means that interior space is tight, front occupants will not have too much trouble getting comfortable although the rear is best suited for very small children. The trunk offers adequate cargo space in the standard models but convertible versions severely restrict the available storage space.

How does it drive?

The little Fiat is a joy to drive around town, it rides and handles better than you would expect from its tiny dimensions. The ride quality is good over most surfaces although larger wheels such as on the Abarth trim can make for a harder ride. The body does exhibit quite a bit of lean into corners but grip levels are good and you would need a lot more power than what is on offer before the chassis started to feel overwhelmed.

Highway driving is not the Fiat 500s forte, base models tend to get a bit breathless at higher speeds although road noise is subdued and shorter trips are well within its capabilities.

What about the performance?

The base Fiat 500 models are now available only with a 1.4-liter inline-4 engine producing 101 horsepower and 97 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged 1.4-liter motor which makes 160hp and 170 lb-ft is reserved for the Abarth trim variants. Front-wheel drive and a 5-speed manual transmission are standard. A 6-speed automatic transmission is also available.

The overall performance of the 101 hp 1.4-liter is somewhat disappointing. The real strength of the Multi-Air engine is its fuel efficiency, offering 31mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, the power-sapping automatics fare slightly worse.

What are my options?

For 2017 the Fiat 500 is available in Pop and Lounge trim offerings. There are also Abarth and Convertible variants but these are covered in separate reviews.

The base Pop trim comes with the 101 hp 1.4-liter engine and offers 15-inch alloy wheels, 5-inch touchscreen, 6-speaker audio system, premium cloth bucket seats, keyless entry, heated power exterior mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, folding rear seats.

Lounge trim adds heated front seats, leather trim, chrome exterior mirrors, automatic temperature control, additional exterior colors, fixed glass roof on hatchbacks and rear park assist system.

A Navigation and Satellite Package includes the somewhat obvious navigation system, the Popular Equipment Package offers climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

A power sunroof, 16-inch alloys and a number of visual and appearance upgrades are available too, either as individual upgrades or as packages depending on the trim level.

Verdict

The Fiat 500 remains a stylish city car that focuses on retro-cute charm over practicality. Base trim levels are well-priced and fuel efficient although performance levels are not particularly impressive and not all trim pieces are of the highest quality. A decent level of standard and available features keeps the little Fiat competitive though, and few alternatives offer as much customization at the price.

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