- Two petrol engines to choose from
- Diesel discontinued in 2018
- All need working hard to make progress
The 500 engine range has varied since it was launched in 2008, with updates made along the way to keep them economical, efficient and up-to-date.
There’s a choice of two here – a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated (which means it doesn’t use a turbocharger) unit and a 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir turbo with a choice of power outputs.
The former is the cheaper option, producing 69hp and 102Nm of torque, and uses a five-speed manual or Dualogic automated manual transmission.
It takes a leisurely 12.9 seconds to go from 0-62mph in both forms, and will reach a 99mph top speed. Although not overly strong, the 1.2-litre petrol engine is perky enough at low speeds, and needs stretching to 5,500rpm in order to hit its peak power. Not one for boy racers then, but it’s perfectly usable around town.
There’s also an Eco version of this engine with higher fuel economy claims but the same performance figures, which you can read more about in the Running Costs section of this review.
Providing peppier performance is the 875cc TwinAir, available in two power outputs. There’s an 85hp version with a five-speed manual and a more powerful 105hp (discontinued in 2018) that uses a six-speed manual gearbox. Both offer 145Nm of torque.
Immediately, it feels (and sounds) much more eager to pick up the pace than the 1.2, but with a 0-62mph time of 11 seconds for the 85hp version, it’s not actually that much faster, but it will go on to reach 107mph. The Dualogic transmission is also available with the 85hp engine.
Go for the 105hp TwinAir and the 0-62mph time drops to 10.0 seconds flat, and will reach 117mph when limits allow.
The extra noise and vibration from the TwinAir engine combine to a greater sense of speed, but in reality you do still have to work it hard to make progress. Just learn where the rev limiter is, because it’s very easy to hit if you’re accelerating hard. Also note that many owners report having serious problems hitting the Twinair's claimed average mpg figures.
Engines no longer available
Introduced at launch and sitting above the 69hp 1.2 was a 1.4-litre petrol with 100hp and 132Nm.
It was able to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 10.5 seconds, and would reach a top speed of 113mph, however it was removed from the line-up as the more efficient TwinAir became available.
There was a diesel engine available at launch, too, a 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel producing 75hp and 145Nm. This took a slightly more ponderous 12.5 seconds to get to 62mph compared with the petrols, and would go on to reach 103mph.
Reintroduced in 2016 with 95hp, the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel straddles the petrols in terms of power, but its 200Nm of torque means it’s got the most get-up-and-go for overtaking. As such, it’ll be best for those who find themselves out of town on the motorway more regularly.
It’s also one of the quickest of the lot, with a 10.7-second 0-62mph time and 112mph top speed, but progress can still feel slightly leisurely, plus diesel clatter makes its way into the interior. Although not as noticeably as with the TwinAir. With sales of diesel cars dropping-off rapidly, Fiat discontinued the 500 MultiJet again in 2018.
Abarth models provide more performance
There’s no real performance version of the regular 500, but that’s taken care of by the Abarth 595 which is an exciting and enjoyable pocket rocket. See what we think of it here..
- Nippy and easy to drive around town
- Nimble on twisty roads, but not sporty
- Little feel through the steering wheel
On the road, the 500 isn’t as pin-sharp to drive as the MINI Hatch, but it’s certainly nimble and agile enough to be hustled around town.
Most models cope well with imperfections in the road, but those with larger wheels – including the sportier 500S – can become unsettled over less-than-smooth surfaces. The car’s short wheelbase exacerbates this in some cases, too.
In corners the 500 has fine traction and body roll is well-contained. Its small size and agile nature help the driver to feel in control when driving on a twisty road, but the steering lets the side down somewhat.
For starters, the steering wheel itself feels unnecessarily large for such a small car, and there’s very little communication coming through it as to what’s going on where the tyres meet the road.
There’s a button on the dashboard to lighten the steering for manoeuvres in town, making it a doddle to twirl the wheel with just one finger when parking, but this disables itself at higher speeds.
On others, there’s a sport button to sharpen up the throttle response, which certainly helps on TwinAir models when accelerating, for example on sliproads onto the motorway. It also makes the steering feel heavier, but again this feels artificial.