2016 Fiat 500 Hatchback Review

Carzone drives the new diesel-powered Fiat 500 Sport on Irish roads.

Review

What is it?

Fiat has traditionally been good at building small cars with big character, and the latest 500 is the perfect example. Taking styling cues from the iconic 500 of the 1950s, the new model has been future-proofed with a revised range of engines, styling tweaks and an improved level of smartphone-integration to meet the demands of the modern buyer. Competition is fierce in this segment however with cars like the Mini Hatch and Volkswagen Up rising in popularity. Can the 500 emulate the success of its predecessor in 2017? Carzone spent a week of driving it on Irish roads to find out.

What is it like?

The 500 underwent subtle changes in 2015 with new bumper mouldings and daytime running lights, but it retains the same charm that younger drivers know and love. Fiat offers an endless amount of customisation options for the 500 with a host of different graphics packs, trim levels and accessories to choose from, which is great for those who like to personalise. We drove a ‘Sport’ specification model with a camouflage-style wrap on the roof, and this certainly drew lots of attention.  

Stepping into the driver’s seat, the 500 feels larger than you might expect with a high positioned gear stick and retro-styled dashboard. The seats are supportive and comfortable, while there’s plenty of storage space throughout the cabin including four cup holders. Technology fans will love the seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system which sits in the middle of the dashboard and connects seamlessly to smartphones, as well as presenting other data on fuel economy, radio station songs and information and  more. Tall passengers will find it difficult to get comfortable in the rear seats as headroom is limited, so the 500 is an ideal choice for two adults. Boot space is small at 185 litres but the rear seats are 50/50 split folding which is good when extra space is needed for carrying larger loads.

In Ireland, the 500 is available with two different engines, a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine and a new 95hp 1.3-litre diesel engine, both mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. We drove the latter and were impressed with just how economical and fun it is to drive. Annual road tax for the 1.3-litre diesel is just €180 and we consistently achieved four litres per 100 kilometres of fuel economy with a mixture of motorway and city-based driving. As the 500 is small and light, it feels quite powerful with enough torque to accelerate quickly from a standstill, with 0-100km/h possible in just over 10 seconds.

Handling is nimble as you’d expect, which makes the 500 ideal for nipping through traffic and parking in tight spaces. The steering lock could be better for such a small car however, and it isn’t quite as engaging to drive as the Mini. There are four different specifications to choose from and prices for the base ‘Pop’ version are competitive starting from €13,600. Features such as electric windows, a tyre pressure monitoring system, four airbags and USB/aux connectivity are standard across the range, while our range-topping ‘Sport’ model gains features such as the touch screen system pictured, alloy wheels and a sports styling kit with upgraded seats inside.

Carzone verdict: 3.5/5

The latest iteration of the 500 is undoubtedly the best yet, with its cheeky exterior looks and improved running costs. There are some shortcomings when it comes to space in the rear and ride quality, but that’s to be expected with cars in this class. We weren’t sure if a diesel engine would suit the 500, but after our test, we’d highly recommend it if you can afford the extra investment. If you like the look of the Fiat 500 and do most of your driving in an urban setting, it’s a great option and it certainly stands out from the crowd.

Test Car Details:

Model driven: Fiat 500 Sport

Prices from: €17,800

Price as tested: €19,375

Annual Road Tax: €180

Engine: 1248cc four-cylinder diesel

Power/Torque: 95bhp, 200Nm

Top Speed: 180 km/h

0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds

Transmission: Five Speed Manual

Body style: 3-Door Hatchback

Boot Space: 185 litres

Euro NCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars