Parkers overall rating: 3.6 out of 5 3.6
  • 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.

Fiat 500 Petrol engines

There’s a choice of two here – a naturally aspirated (which means it doesn’t use a turbocharger) hybrid unit and a 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir turbo.

Mild hybrid petrol

Introduced in 2020 in an effort to help minimise CO2 and fuel costs for its customers, the hybrid 500 uses a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine boosted with electrical assistance.

Power weighs in at 70hp and 92Nm of torque, meaning a 13.8 second 0-62mph time with a willing amount of get up and go from a standstill, which is a great asset in town. It sounds good too – full of purpose and character.

The hybrid tech takes the form of a motor than can use energy lost in deceleration or braking, store it in a battery under the front seats, and then reuse it again to bolster the petrol engine’s performance or allow it to switch off and coast to save fuel.

Red Fiat 500 driving front 2020

In order to do the latter you have to put the six-speed manual gearbox in neutral when an “N” light is illuminated on the digital screen behind the wheel. This feels a bit odd in practise but does work quite well in traffic.

Altogether the hybrid system is very well integrated and doesn’t make itself known very often, just works away in the background, (in theory) saving you fuel and money.

TwinAir Petrol

The 85hp TwinAir feels (and sounds) much more eager to pick up the pace than the 1.0-litre unit, with a 0-62mph time of 11.0 seconds and a top speed of 106mph.

The extra noise and vibration from the TwinAir engine combine to a create 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

The base spec 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine died off when the hybrid came along. It produced 69hp and 102Nm of torque, used a five-speed manual or Dualogic automated manual transmission.

It took 12.9 seconds to go from 0-62mph in both forms, and went on to 99mph. Although not overly strong, the 1.2-litre petrol engine was perky enough at low speeds, but needed stretching to 5,500rpm in order to hit its peak power. Not one for boy racers then, but it’s perfectly usable around town.

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 Twinair petrols, and would go on to reach 103mph.

Red Fiat 500 driving rear 2020

Reintroduced in 2016 with 95hp, the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel straddled the petrols in terms of power, but with 200Nm of torque it had the most get-up-and-go for overtaking. As such, it was best for those who found themselves out of town on the motorway more regularly.

Taking 10.7-seconds to go from 0-62mph time, and cracking onto a 112mph top speed, progress could still feel slightly leisurely, plus diesel clatter made its way into the interior. With sales of diesel cars dropping-off rapidly, Fiat discontinued the 500 MultiJet again in 2018.

The 875cc TwinAir was previously available with 105hp and a six-speed manual, yet this was discontinued in 2018. Good for 0-62mph in 10.0 seconds flat, it had a top speed of 117mph.

Handling

  • Nippy and easy to steer 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 driven swiftly around town. Most models cope well with imperfections in the road, but those with larger wheels can become unsettled over less-than-smooth surfaces.

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.