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In-depth reviews

Fiat 500 review - Interior, design and technology

Retro-style in a small package and the 2015 facelift brought some much-needed tech

The Fiat 500 is a modern-day reboot of the original 500, which was launched in 1957 and captured the hearts and minds of the public.

The current version is much bigger than the original, but it's clearly a Fiat 500 with its charming curvy lines, upright stance and cute circular headlamps. The 500's dashboard is also painted the same colour as the exterior – a nice carry over from the original.

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The new 500 was launched in 2007 and remained largely unchanged styling-wise until summer 2015 when Fiat tweaked the looks inside and out. At the front, the refreshed 500 gets an extra chrome strip (reminiscent of the larger 500X crossover), new larger elliptical daytime-running lights and on top-spec Lounge models a flashy studded lower grille. To the rear, there are new ring-shaped light clusters with body-coloured centres.

On the latest 500 you’ll be able to spec an even wider choice of personalisation features. A selection of body wrappings, known as ‘second skin’, can be added to panels, the roof or even the entire car for a fee. Everything from chequers, to butterflies and even an army camouflage can be specified. That’s on top of the ever-growing and vibrant colour choices inside and out, which Fiat changes on an annual basis to keep things fresh.

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On the inside there's a more retro-styled steering wheel and for the first time a glovebox lid. More importantly, though, the interior now gets a five-inch 'Uconnect' infotainment screen. As there are standard Aux-in and USB slots, the 500 now lacks a CD player but the higher-spec Lounge model gets social media connectivity through the Uconnect system. 

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Read our review of the MINI hatchback

Fiat has also widened the options list – for instance you can now spec your 500 with a seven-inch full-TFT instrument cluster for around £250 and there’s also Fiat’s Mopar programme that offers more than 100 further options. 

One existing problem with the 500 that hasn’t been improved particularly is material quality. Some interior plastics are pleasing to the eye and touch, but there’s also some rather nasty door finishes and flimsier trim further down the dash. Fit-and-finish isn’t amazing in some areas, either.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Entry-level Pop models are broadly as before, receiving a simple FM Radio and USB connection with a dot-matrix screen. But step up and you’ll get Fiat’s Uconnect five-inch touchscreen mounted in the dash with Bluetooth added.

That brings smartphone integration and a DAB radio, too. £350 gets you the excellent TomTom integrated satnav with 3D mapping and traffic data.

The combination of buttons, dials and the touch interface means the system is easy enough to use and the satnav itself is clear, but the MINI’s set-up is a fair bit slicker thanks to addition of a rotary control by the handbrake. Another bonus of the 500’s 2015 facelift was the optional seven-inch TFT instrument screen in between the main dials, with features that add to the existing touchscreen.

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