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Fiat 500 Test Drive Review

Date: 06 August 2015   |   Author: Guy Bird

Category: City car
P11D price: £12,585
Key rival: Mini
On sale: September 2015
Equipment: Seven airbags, stop/start, aircon, panoramic fixed-glass sunroof, 5.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth, USB and AUX, rear parking sensors, 15in alloy wheels
Engines: Petrol: 69hp 1.2, 85hp & 105hp 0.9 TwinAir; Diesel: 95hp 1.3 (Jan 2016)
Trims: Pop, Pop Star, Lounge
Transmissions: Five- and six-speed manual, Dualogic robotised auto

Billed as 'a new 500', in reality this 2015 version is little more than a facelift. An all-new model is rumoured to be coming in 2018. Still, when the existing car's stand-out looks and great customisation options have won 1.5 million hearts worldwide (70% of them female) since its 2007 launch - and it still tops city car sales charts in 2014 - big changes are, understandably, unwise.

Last year, some 44,000 500 and 500C cabriolets were sold in the UK, with almost a third going to fleet (13,437).

The facelifted car's exterior changes are small and include a new elliptical graphic within the existing lamp cluster, and more 3D rear light clusters that are now ring-shaped rather than solid. The 500's customisation options continue with new exterior colours, plus smart Prince of Wales seat trim.

Less impressive is the new Uconnect infotainment system. While the 500 finally gets a colour touchscreen, this 5.0-inch version feels small by modern standards and is far from intuitive.

The lack of shade and sloping angle make it unviewable in certain bright-light situations, the touch response is slow and the graphics lack sharpness. Some of the basic driver ergonomics remain poor, the rear is still cramped for taller folk and the boot offers only a tiny 185 litres with the rear seats up (even the three-door Mini has 211).

Engines remain the same. The 69hp 1.2 petrol manual (60.1mpg / 110gkm CO2) is the key unit. It is expected to take 85% of sales but it's not fun to drive.

Controlling the revs in first gear is hard, power pick-up in second is painfully slow (neither is good for a city car) and the ride feels bobbly over uneven surfaces.

The next most important engine (10% of sales) is the 105hp 0.9 TwinAir, added to the range in 2014. Although official mpg stays the same at 67.3, CO2 keeps reducing from 99g/km in early 2014 to 90g/km now. Either way, it's still pleasingly zippy and has a characterful, two-cylinder engine note.

A tweaked 95hp 1.3 diesel due January 2016 (promising 89g/km) should nab the remaining 5% of sales but there is a lower-emitting model available now - an 85hp 0.9 TwinAir (74.3mpg and 88g/km in automatic Dualogic guise).

However, UK head of brand Elena Bernardelli says it will account for only tiny sales and the 'robotised transmission' feels as weird to drive as it sounds. Avoid.

Despite it all, the 500 remains the most distinctive city car range available, and at still low prices. If your drivers agree, they probably won't care about its shortcomings, and that latent demand should ensure RVs stay strong.

For the mainstay 1.2 Lounge, CAP predicts 41.1% (3yrs/30k) and 34.5% (3yrs/60k), figures that are beaten only by the more expensive Mini. Still plenty of reasons to like, then.

Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge

Model price range £10,890-£17,070
Fuel consumption 60.1mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 110g/km (17%)
BIK 20/40% per month £36/£71
Warranty 3yrs/100,000mls
Boot space (min/max) 185/550 litres
Engine size/power 1242cc/69h


Still unique and charming, but feels like a stopgap
  • Unique style
  • Feel-good factor
  • Residual value
  • New infotainment system
  • 1.2-litre engine