- 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 1.2-litre naturally aspirated (which means it doesn’t use a turbocharger) unit and a 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir turbo. The former is the cheaper option, producing 69hp and 102Nm of torque, and uses a five-speed manual or – now discontinued – Dualogic automated manual transmission.
It takes 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.
Immediately, it feels (and sounds) much more eager to pick up the pace than the 1.2, but with a 0-62mph time of 11.0 seconds, it’s not actually that much faster, but it will go on to reach 106mph. The Dualogic transmission was also formerly available with the 85hp engine.
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
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 Twinair 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 prominently as with the TwinAir. 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.
How does the Fiat 500 drive?
- 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 – including the Sport – 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.