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In-depth reviews

Fiat 500 hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The Fiat 500 feels most at home in the city, with the TwinAir engine our pick of the range, but the MINI is more fun to drive

Carbuyer Rating

3.3 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.9 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

The Fiat 500 is designed to be a stylish city car and it really excels around town. Its compact dimensions and large front windows mean it’s easy to see where you’re going and place the car where you want it, and the 500 can nip through gaps that would leave other cars – even superminis – sat waiting.

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One neat feature is Fiat’s City Steering mode, fitted to every new 500. You simply press a button on the dashboard to give the steering extra power assistance, which makes it easy to twirl around with hardly any effort. This makes parking a breeze and Fiat offers rear parking sensors (optional on the Pop model) to help with reversing, too. It’s worth noting that, as a result of its small rear windows and large C-pillars, rearwards visibility isn’t nearly as good as the view out the front.

The suspension is a bit on the firm side, but it’s acceptable around town and only rough roads cause the car to disturb those inside. In corners, there’s plenty of grip from the relatively skinny tyres, however, the 500 isn’t the most exciting city car to drive. It’s safe, easy and predictable, but the steering doesn’t have much feedback and there’s plenty of body lean in corners.

Unfortunately, the gearshift could be a bit better – it’s not as smooth as that of a Mazda2 or MINI, and while it’s easy enough to find the right gear, selecting reverse can be a bit tricky.

Fiat 500 petrol engines

The old 1.2-litre engine didn't make the 500 especially fun to drive, and it's rather sluggish to accelerate from 0-62mph. It was cheap to buy, though, and a used one should be cheap to run – despite the average-looking official fuel-economy figures.

With 69bhp, the remaining 1.0-litre petrol engine found in the Mild Hybrid gets the 500 from 0-62mph in 13.8 seconds. It needs plenty of revs, but feels a bit less strained than the 1.2-litre, even if it isn't especially refined. It's at its best in town, but can struggle on faster roads.

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Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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