Fiat 500 Hybrid review - Engines, performance and drive

Easy to drive and fun in the right conditions, but lacks the refinement or dynamic ability of the best city cars

The Fiat 500 is very simple to drive, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. The 500’s steering is light while the handling is nimble and fun around town. The ride is softer than the MINI, which means there is quite a bit of body roll in the corners. Since the 2015 facelift it’s become a lot less bouncy and rides with a bit more composure, but there’s limited feel from the steering still and it can’t match the ride comfort levels of a VW up!.

Don't go for the sunroof if you are a taller driver, as it impinges on headroom and the driving position is quite high. Combined with a slightly awkward clutch and notchy, imprecise gearbox, this means that the 500 is not as easy to get along with as a MINI. You’ll find its charms wear a little thin on fast road driving, but considering its town-dwelling focus, it’s adequate enough.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The engine that really brought the Fiat 500’s fun personality to the fore was the old two-cylinder turbo 875cc TwinAir unit, rumbling away under the bonnet with a characterful thrum. However the latest powertrain majors on efficiency rather than thrills. 

The 500 Mild Hybrid is powered by a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that doesn’t follow the modern trend for turbocharging, creating an unusual combination of naturally aspirated power and electrified assistance.

Fiat claims a top speed of 104mph and a 0-62mph time of 13.8 seconds, but while those figures are hardly electrifying the 500 Mild Hybrid never encourages drivers to explore the outer realms of the limited performance envelope. On the move, the 69bhp three-pot requires plenty of revs to deliver its best and although it doesn’t feel quite as laboured as the old 1.2-litre petrol engine, the new motor is not what you’d call refined. Indeed outside the city limits, you need to thrash it quite hard to maintain speed, which soon becomes tiring. 

The hybrid tech is so mild as to be barely discernible in everyday driving, and there’s no facility to run on electricity alone, even for very short distances or in traffic jams.

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