Fiat 500 daytime running lights

Stylish yet functional - here is all you need to know about the daytime running lights featured on the Fiat 500

James Wilson
Aug 30, 2021

When shopping for a stylish small car, the Fiat 500 has long been a top choice. The large circular headlights and matching daytime running lights give the front of the car a cute appearance. Speaking of headlights, as the 500 is at its best being an urban runabout, Fiat offers lighting suited to this environment - we’ll dig a little deeper into what this means further down.

It is surprisingly easy to find a Fiat 500 with daytime running lights, as they have been standard equipment on all models since the small Italian car was launched in 2008. This means that going for an older 500 can be an affordable way to get a car with daytime running lights as these have only been mandatory on cars sold in the European Union since 2011.

The aim of making this type of light mandatory was to increase road safety, because the fact that daytime running lights are on all the time should make it easier for a car to be spotted by other road users. If having these types of lights is important to you, it's worth keeping an eye out for 'DRLs' in car descriptions. This is simply an abbreviation for daytime running lights.

Below we take a closer look at the Fiat 500’s daytime running lights along with its other useful lighting features, such as automatic headlights. Keep reading to decide whether the Fiat 500 is the right car for you.

Fiat 500 daytime running lights

During the 13 years the Fiat 500 has been in production there have been two redesigns for the front lights. The first came in 2016, when Fiat updated much of the 500 to help keep it competitive against newer rivals such as the Volkswagen Up and Mini Hatchback.

Cars made before this come with circular daytime running lights that use more traditional halogen bulbs, which are relatively inexpensive and simple to replace. That said, on the 500 they are a bit of a faff to get to, so it could be easier to take the car to a garage if a bulb goes, depending on how confident you are feeling. Watching a ‘how to’ video on YouTube should help you make up your mind.

The changes in 2016 were subtle but the DRLs became more elliptical in shape and switched to LED bulbs. The end result was a more modern front to the car. LEDs are used as they use very little energy and they can shine brighter than more traditional bulbs. The downsides to LED bulbs are that they can be more difficult and more costly to replace. Saying that, much like household LED lights, they are often claimed to be able to last an incredibly long time.

The second lighting changes arrived when Fiat launched a new electric 500 towards the end of 2020. In 2021 Fiat sells both the new electric model and the older petrol-powered version - to help differentiate the two, many refer to the battery-powered 500 as the ‘500e’. The lighting changes are much more obvious, with the headlights being broken into two separate sections (one part is on the bonnet and the other forms part of the front bumper).

The daytime running lights remained elliptical in shape but the centre of them was filled with bodywork - they look a bit like a squashed Polo mint. Although petrol-powered 500s are clearly related to the electric 500s in terms of styling, there is little else they share.

All Fiat 500s are slightly unusual in that their daytime running lights are completely separate from their main headlights - they sit just under the main headlamp. Cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Mini all have their DRLs built into the main headlight.

Issues with Fiat 500 daytime running lights

One of the biggest problems with daytime running lights (on any car, not just on the Fiat 500) is that drivers may think they have their main lights on when it gets dark, which means that the driver may fail to switch on the lights - reducing their view of the road ahead and making the car much harder to see from behind. As DRLs are only fitted at the front of a car, that can result in someone driving along in the dark with no rear lights on.

This is easily done, as most modern dashboards are lit up regardless of whether the headlights are on or not, so a driver will have no issue seeing driving information such as speed in the dark - even if the headlights aren't on. It's good to be aware of this, if you do purchase a car with DRLs.

One way to overcome this potential hazard is to have a car with automatic lights, so that the vehicle will automatically switch on the main headlights when it is dark enough. This feature is optional on higher-spec petrol-powered versions of the 500 (such as Lounge spec) and standard on electric 500 models. Be aware that even in cars with automatic headlights, you are likely to need to keep the headlight switch in the 'auto' position for this function to be enabled.

Fiat 500 other light features

As mentioned previously, the Fiat 500 is primarily aimed at those who do most of their driving in urban environments. This means there will likely be plenty of light from street lamps, buildings and other cars for most of the night driving a typical 500 will do.

As a result, if you expect to do most of your driving in town, there's little point in splashing out on super high-tech headlights that can dim certain parts of the headlight to offer the best illumination without dazzling drivers ahead, as there would be minimal benefit. Plus, the 500 isn't available with this type of kit. Fiat isn’t alone in this school of thought with its city car as most small cars that are designed for town use do without flashy light technology.

On electric 500 models, Fiat does offer the option of automatic high and low beam lights. These use at least one camera/sensor to detect when there is a car ahead and will automatically switch between the main beam (the brightest a car’s lights will go) and dipped beam settings.

On petrol-powered Fiat 500s, there has been the option of bi-xenon headlights. At the time of writing they are only available as part of the ‘visibility pack’ which is an optional extra (that costs £550) on Dolcevita, Dolcevita Plus and Sport trims. Previously, Fiat has offered the bi-xenon lights as a stand-alone optional extra, too.

The main benefit of bi-xenon lights is that they tend to be brighter than the more traditional halogen lights. Some think the bluey-white colour they produce is more appealing as well. They are not without fault, though, as much like LEDs they can be more expensive and harder to replace than halogen bulbs. That said they should last longer than halogen bulbs (but not as long as LEDs).


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