In-depth reviews

Fiat 500 review

Still fashionable and fun, but the three-door Fiat 500 isn’t as practical as some city car rivals

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£12,064 to £18,134
  • Cute, retro styling
  • Fun to drive
  • Punchy TwinAir petrol
  • Basic entry models
  • Expensive to buy
  • Poor reliability

For fashion-conscious buyers, the Fiat 500 remains the city car of choice. Retro styling, a variety of limited edition variants and a wide range of customisation options mean that it’s still as popular as ever. The TwinAir engines are fun and the car's small size makes it easy to park, although there’s no denying that the 500 falls short in other areas.

A facelift in 2016 introduced a new infotainment system, but other flaws such as flimsy build quality, poor equipment levels and high list prices were left unaddressed. This is a shame, but even so the 500 retains a unique character that few other cars on the road can match. Millions of sales worldwide suggests the faults are often overlooked, too.

The Fiat 500 has been for sale in dealers for well over a decade now. It has gone on to spawn a sporty Abarth version and the 500C convertible, while the 500X SUV and 500L MPV take the city car's styling and add practicality to the mix. There's also the new 500 Mild Hybrid version offering more efficiency and lower emissions.

Go for the regular Fiat 500 and as ever you are spoiled for choice in terms of spec and equipment. This also means there is plenty of variety on the used market if you're looking for a second hand example.

If you're buying used, we'd recommend choosing the TwinAir two-cylinder turbo petrol engine. It's a nippy performer that suits the 500's character, with good real-world fuel economy. Also offered is Fiat's ageing 1.2 petrol, while the Multijet diesel is no longer available new as it's never been a big seller.

All Fiat 500s are three-door hatchbacks that have a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout - in contrast to the rear-engined original. Again, an automatic gearbox was offered for a while, but the current range only comes with a five-speed manual box.

The standard 500 range starts with Pop, while the Lounge version is a staple of the line-up that's pretty well equipped. The Fiat 500 Sport adds a racier look as the name suggests, although as it's powered by the same engines as the rest of the range, running costs are still low. As of 2019, the range was completed by Star and Rockstar editions, which add more kit to the mix, while there's also a Launch Edition trim for the hybrid version.

Over time there has been a revolving door of special editions that have come and gone. There have been variants based on the Gucci and Diesel fashion brands, one created in association with Riva yachts, as well as Fiat's own specials, such as the sportier 500 S, 500 Pink, 500 60th (celebrating 60 years of the original 500), the 500 Mirror with improved connectivity and the 500 120th, which marks Fiat's 120th anniversary.

In a way, the Fiat 500 has established itself as its own niche in the new car market. It's smaller than the other retro-inspired model for sale today, the MINI, while its compact dimensions aren't quite small enough to make it a genuine city car. Prices ranging from around £13,000-17,000 mean it falls between city cars and premium superminis in terms of price, too.

Other rivals you could consider include the Vauxhall Adam and DS 3, although both reached the end of their production lives in 2019. This leaves smaller city cars such as the Skoda Citigo, Citroen C1, Kia Picanto and their related siblings, although none offer the same level of personalisation, nor the 500's retro looks.

For an alternative review of the latest Fiat 500 Hatchback visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

More on 500

Used Fiat 500 review
Fiat 500
19 Nov 2020

Used Fiat 500 review

Read our full used car buyer’s guide on the Fiat 500, covering the model before and after its 2016 facelift (2008-present)
New 2020 Fiat 500 EV: UK prices and specs released
Fiat 500
22 Oct 2020

New 2020 Fiat 500 EV: UK prices and specs released

The new Fiat 500 electric city car will go on sale this December, with a starting price of £19,995 and up to 199 miles of range depending on battery
New Fiat 500 2020 review
Fiat 500
1 Sep 2020

New Fiat 500 2020 review

Fiat's all-new 500 city car has a range of 199 miles and is priced from £21k can it claim top spot in the small electric car class?
New Fiat 500 Mild Hybrid 2020 review
Fiat 500 Hatchback
25 Aug 2020

New Fiat 500 Mild Hybrid 2020 review

A new mild hybrid powertrain will help prolong the old Fiat 500’s life alongside the all-new electric 500 model, but age is not on the Italian city ca…
Fiat 500X review
Fiat 500X - front
Fiat 500 X
29 Jun 2020

Fiat 500X review

The Fiat 500X gets the retro looks of the 500 city car and grafts them on to a small crossover body
All-new Fiat 500XL set to replace 500X and 500L
Fiat 500 X
25 May 2020

All-new Fiat 500XL set to replace 500X and 500L

The next-generation 500X and 500L models are likely to merge into the Fiat 500XL and our exclusive images preview how it could look
Fiat confirms pricing for new 500 and Panda Hybrid ranges
Fiat 500 hybrid - front
Fiat 500
24 Jan 2020

Fiat confirms pricing for new 500 and Panda Hybrid ranges

New low emission Fiat 500 city car starts from £12,655, while Panda Hybrid sibling is priced from £13,855
Used Fiat 500L review
Used Fiat 500L - front
Fiat 500 L
26 Nov 2019

Used Fiat 500L review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Fiat 500L covering the 500L Mk1 (2013-date)
New Fiat 500X Sport: prices announced
Fiat 500 X Sport - front
Fiat 500 X
13 Sep 2019

New Fiat 500X Sport: prices announced

Fiat has confirmed the 500X Sport will have a starting price of £22,500
New Fiat 500X Sport 2019 review
Fiat 500 X Sport - front
Fiat 500 X
9 Sep 2019

New Fiat 500X Sport 2019 review

We get behind the wheel of the new Fiat 500X Sport, which adds a touch of flair to the ageing crossover’s range
Used Fiat 500X review
Used Fiat 500X - front
Fiat 500 X
27 Jun 2019

Used Fiat 500X review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Fiat 500X covering the 500X Mk1 (2015-date)
New Fiat 500 Star and Rockstar editions launched
Fiat 500 Star and Rockstar
Fiat 500
13 May 2019

New Fiat 500 Star and Rockstar editions launched

Sitting at the top of the Fiat 500 range, the two new editions add fresh colour combinations and more standard equipment
Fiat announces pricing for 120th Edition range
Fiat 500  '120th Edition'
Fiat 500
8 Mar 2019

Fiat announces pricing for 120th Edition range

Unveiled at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the new range celebrates 120 years of the Fiat nameplate with tech and styling updates
New Fiat 500X S-Design brings a style boost
Fiat 500X S-Design - side
Fiat 500 X
30 Jan 2019

New Fiat 500X S-Design brings a style boost

The Fiat 500X S-Design styling pack adds a host of black exterior trim, an exclusive interior and copper-coloured badging
Fiat 500X vs Renault Captur vs SEAT Arona
fiat 500x group test header
Fiat 500 X
1 Jan 2019

Fiat 500X vs Renault Captur vs SEAT Arona

We see if new turbo engine and fresh tech have given Fiat’s 500X the edge against small SUVs from Renault and SEAT
New Fiat 500X 2018 review
Fiat 500X - Front Tracking
Fiat 500 X
10 Oct 2018

New Fiat 500X 2018 review

The facelifted Fiat 500X looks the part but has a tough challenge in today's crowded crossover segment
Fiat 500X refreshed with new engines and tech
Fiat 500X - front
Fiat 500 X
28 Aug 2018

Fiat 500X refreshed with new engines and tech

The Fiat 500X has been facelifted for 2018, getting a subtle makeover and FCA’s latest petrol engines
New Fiat 500 Spiaggina special edition models revealed
Fiat 500 Spiaggina by Garage Italia - front
Fiat 500 Convertible
6 Jul 2018

New Fiat 500 Spiaggina special edition models revealed

Coach-built special and limited-run models based on 500 Convertible mark 60th anniversary of original 500 Jolly
Fiat 500C review
Fiat 500 Convertible
15 Mar 2018

Fiat 500C review

If you want a characterful open-air runabout, the Fiat 500 is a cost-effective rival to the MINI Convertible
Fiat 500 Mirror special editions launched, starting at £13,965
Mirror special editions 2018
Fiat 500
19 Jan 2018

Fiat 500 Mirror special editions launched, starting at £13,965

Available on the Fiat 500 hatchback, 500X crossover and 500L MPV, the Mirror edition offers the latest in infotainment technology
New Fiat 500X updated for 2018
Fiat 500X in Donatello Bronze paint
Fiat 500 X
5 Oct 2017

New Fiat 500X updated for 2018

It's on-sale date is yet to be confirmed for the UK, but the updated Fiat 500X crossover will go on sale in mainland Europe first
Fiat 500L City Cross launches in Europe
Fiat 500L City Cross 1
Fiat 500 L
29 Sep 2017

Fiat 500L City Cross launches in Europe

Although it's not coming to the UK, the jacked up Fiat 500L City Cross MPV features bold new colour schemes and more equipment as standard
‘A decade on, the Fiat 500 is still going strong’
Fiat 500
9 Aug 2017

‘A decade on, the Fiat 500 is still going strong’

Editor Graham Hope pays homage to the Fiat 500 city car ten years after its first road test