Baby Cinquecento has style in spades - with the right engine is a fun drive too
- Stylish exterior and interior
- Vast accessories list
- Retro appeal
- Noisy at speed
- Lacking motorway comfort
- Small boot and rear seat
Since 2004 Fiat has been doing what it does best - producing small cars whose appeal is in their character and value. Following the success of the Panda and Punto, the Fiat 500 is another brilliant small car.
However, this one unashamedly appeals to the emotions and is a modern interpretation of a classic small Fiat from the past. Introduced in 2008 and substantially re-engineered in 2015, the 500 hatch echoes the design of the rear-engined original. Chief rivals are the MINI, DS 3 and Vauxhall Adam.
The Fiiat 500 is well-built to modern standards and has scored well in safety tests. Easy to drive and available with a host of customisation options, the little Fiat is a stylish small car with plenty of character.
Fiat 500 drips with retro cool
Much of the modern Fiat 500’s appeal lies in its retro looks that hark back to the 1950s original. Fiat has carefully updated these looks to retain the essence of the original while making the car bigger on the inside to give it a modicum of practicality.
Like the MINI that also borrows so much from its heritage, the Fiat 500 has an instant appeal for many buyers and they can build on this with a vast array of options.
These include everything from a set of alloy wheels to bold stripes for the bodywork, and Fiat introduced the Colour Therapy line in mid-2012 to offer some distinctly 1970s colour shades and trim variations.
Fiat 500 majors on city performance
The zippy handling and compact size of the Fiat 500 make it ideal as a city car, which is what its main function is. It’s also more of a 2+2 due to the restricted amount of rear legroom in the rear seats, though kids can fit in easily for the school run.
A small boot further underlines the 500’s city dwelling credentials. A button on the dash lightens the steering for city driving and to make parking in tricky spots easier.
However, on the motorway, the 500 feels a little out of its natural habitat as steeper inclines can require the driver to change down a gear on the motorway. There’s also some buffeting from trucks and larger cars felt in the compact Fiat. However, the small size does make the 500 a good car for country lanes, where its narrow dimensions let it slip through gaps more readily.
Constant updates keeps it on the pace
The Fiat 500 had a mild facelift for 2014 with new interior fabric, a new digital display behind the steering wheel and a more powerful 0.9 litre TwinAir petrol engine joining the range.
There was also a new top trim added called Cult which brought a host of new equipment and upgrades.
New engines and equipment added in 2015
The 2015 facelift was more substantial with tweaked Euro 6 engines, different styling, and a longer list of customisations.
A 3D effect grille and LED daytime running lights which echo the “0”s in the badge were added, plus ring-shaped tail lights with body-coloured centres.
From launch there will only be petrol engines available, a 1.2-litre and a pair of TwinAir two-cylinder engines. An economy-focussed version of the 1.2-litre will follow, plus a 1.3-litre diesel.
The Parkers Verdict
Don't think that just because the basic design dates back to 2008 that it's an old and unappealing car. The Fiat 500's recent revisions keep it on the pace, and do so without compromising its brilliant retro-modern styling.
There are good new-car deals available, and used examples are abundant. Don't worry too much about reliability – this one is Polish-made and has proven exceptionally dependable in the long term.
The Twin Air is great to drive, but won't deliver anywhere near its promised fuel consumption if you drive it with gusto. But for city-dwelling drivers, the 500 is hugely relevant, and a surprisingly capable 2+2 seater city car. Considering its reasonable price (as long as you don't compare it with the mechanically-similar Panda sister car), the 500 is a bargain. Still want that MINI?
To find out more read on for a more detailed look in our in-depth Fiat 500 review.
What owners say about this car
We bought our 1.2 S sport from new. Equipment levels are very god with bluetooth hands free etc as standard. Read owner review
Really easy to park and has a lot of equipment on it, its also surprisingly spacious with plenty of... Read owner review
It's tiny, easy to park, but has a deceptive amount of space inside. It's very comfortable indeed,... Read owner review