Fiat 500 Hatchback review
Mixing retro looks with a wide array of options, Fiat 500 builds on success of BMW’s MINI
Inspired by the cheeky Fifties original, the latest 500 uses its eye-catching style to attract customers. Three trim levels are available - Pop, Lounge and Sport. However, it’s the huge array of options that will allow owners to personalize their Fiat, making sure no two are alike. Like the MINI, however, you have to be careful with the extras, as the basic price can soon rise steeply
Although it’s based on the same platform as the practical Panda, the 500 has a poorly packaged cabin. There’s plenty of room up front, but those in the back will feel cramped and the boot holds just 185-litres. Upgrading from ‘Pop’ to ‘Sport’ is worth considering, as it will bag you air-con, leather steering wheel, alloys, front foglights and Bluetooth. Surprisingly for a city car, sat-nav is not even an option.
Until the 135bhp Abarth arrives later this year, we’d opt for the 75bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel motor. It costs the same as the 98bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, but serves up more real world pace and superior fuel economy – although it can be a little clattery at low speeds. The entry-level 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol can feel underpowered and is a little thrashy when worked hard, but will return 55mpg and emits just 119g/km of CO2.
The 500 certainly can’t match the MINI for polished driving dynamics, as its steering lacks feel and body control suffers over poor surfaces. But it’s still fun to get behind the wheel and the agile handling matches the car’s cheeky image perfectly. The Abarth version is a genuine junior hot hatch, with sharp steering and minimal body roll in sharp turns. Hardcore Essesse option pack raises power from 135 to 155bhp and adds even more focused chassis settings.
Lots of style for not a lot of cash is how we’d sum up the 500. Again, it’s the 1.3-litre oil-burner that makes the strongest case for itself, thanks to a fuel return of 67mpg and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km. The 1.2-litre petrol proves to have the best residuals, retaining an impressive 48 per cent of its value after three years. Sadly servicing costs are expensive for the 500, and the Italian firm doesn’t offer a similar package to MINI’s excellent TLC scheme.
The 500 has secured a five-star Euro NCAP rating and is unique in its class in having seven airbags. Pick the 1.4-litre petrol-engined car and you’ll get ESP as standard, while it’s an option on all other models. The optional rear headrests cost very little and are worth specifying. With low emissions and decent fuel economy, the Fiat is reasonably eco-friendly. Only the 1.4-litre motor disappoints, as it emits 149g/km of C02
Our Choice: 1.3 Multijet Sport £10,700