Road tests

Fiat 500 Pop review

The Fiat 500 Pop is available with a variety of colours and options, so owners can tailor the car to them

Fiat 500 TwinAir front
Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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The Fiat 500 was launched in 2007, and it's proved to be a major sales success for Fiat, thanks to its chic Italian style, retro design touches and low running costs - and the entry-level Fiat 500 Pop is a popular choice.

Like its rivals, the MINI, Vauxhall Adam and Citroen DS3, the Fiat 500 is designed to be upmarket and places an emphasis firmly on style and individuality, and even the Pop model is offered with a variety of colours and options. That means owners can tailor their car exactly to their personal tastes.

As you'd expect, the Fiat 500 is a great for city driving thanks to the small dimensions and tight turning circle. But it's not limited to being a city car - it's fairly decent on the open road too.

The entry-level Pop model kicks of the range at around £10,000, but standard kit is sparse – even air-conditioning is an option. You can choose a 1.2 petrol or 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, although you have to move up to a higher trim level to get Fiat’s excellent 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir engine.

From the outside, the standard 500 Pop gets the same retro-inspired looks as other cars in the range, although it’s marked out by its silver plastic wheel trims. If your budget for options is small, then chrome wheel trims won’t break the bank and help to give the car a lift, or you can splash out on larger alloy wheels that give it a look identical to higher spec models. There are plenty of other personalisation options, too, including paint colours that Fiat changes with every model year, plus a variety of decals and chrome add-ons.

Inside, the retro theme continues, with a body coloured dashboard and door panels, plus art deco-inspired switchgear. The interior is well designed and feels solid while offering even more potential for customization, with different coloured seat fabric and even leather offered.

Fiat 500 TwinAir

While the 500 Pop isn’t as well equipped as a Fiat 500 Lounge, electric windows and MP3 connectivity are both standard.

The Fiat 500 Pop is easy to drive, especially around town, and pressing the City steering button on the dash makes the wheel very light, so parking is a breeze. The handling is nimble and fun, while the 1.2-litre petrol is the best engine to go for, as the price premium for the diesel is only really justifiable if you plan on doing lots of long motorway journeys, but then the Fiat 500 isn’t really designed for this kind of work.

The 500's ride is softer than the MINI and Vauxhall Adam, although there is quite a bit of body roll in the corners. Don't go for the optional sunroof if you are a taller driver, as it cuts headroom for the otherwise high driving position.

The Fiat 500 earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2007, although newer cars do face a tougher test, so it doesn’t really compare with rivals such as the Vauxhall Adam. The Pop model gets driver, passenger, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, as well as ABS and Isofix child seat mountings, but surprisingly rear head restraints and electronic stability control are both options – we think the latter should be standard across the range. While it’s not a safety concern, we’d also recommend upgrading to rear parking sensors, as they will help take the worry out of reverse parking.

Fiat's reliability record is improving but the 500 has been subject to a few setbacks and problems that mean it can't be put up there with the most reliable cars in its class.

The 185-litre boot is pretty small, but it's actually bigger than the boot in the larger Vauxhall Adam (170 litres). You can fold the back seats, but 50:50 split folding is only an option, but the 550 litre area is pretty good for such a small car. There are useful storage spaces below the seats, too. The back seats are a bit small for two adults, but up front there’s plenty of room, even though there's a limited range of height adjustment on the steering wheel.

Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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