Fiat 500 Review
The Fiat 500 is a hugely popular small car. Here’s what you need to know before buying one, to gauge whether it's right for you
Strengths & weaknesses
The Fiat 500 hardly needs an introduction, even for people who know very little about cars. It’s one of the most popular small cars around, with a huge number on UK roads and its retro-modern looks have kept it in the sales charts since 2008.
It’s rather unusual for a car to be on sale for more than a decade, let alone 15 years, so Fiat clearly got something right when it launched the 500 back then. Of course, the car has been updated over the years to keep it relevant, but fundamentally it’s still quite similar.
Here we’re talking only about the petrol (and diesel) versions of the 500, rather than the new Electric model. If you are looking for a buying guide for that version, click here.
The Fiat 500 is available as a convertible in 500C form, though the convertible format is more like a big sunroof than a true convertible car. The 500 in general is aimed at people who want something with retro looks, a bit like the Mini or Volkswagen Beetle models, but a car that’s about the size of a city car such as the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up.
Although the car came out in 2008, you won’t find models older than eight years old on BuyaCar, so we’ll be looking here at the newer models. If you are considering an older version, you need to be more aware of potential issues, as mechanical parts wear out and need replacing more often - so just bear that in mind.
However, a more recent 500 is a great choice if you want a small car that’s cheap to run - even for young drivers - and is stylish and easy to drive. Read on to find out more about the 500 and to establish whether it’s right for you.
Should I get a Fiat 500?
✔ Stylish and affordable
✔ Easy to drive
✔ Cheap to run
✘ Cramped interior
✘ Not very practical
✘ Not the most up-to-date car
The Fiat 500’s biggest selling point is its looks, so if you really love the styling then you’ve got your answer over whether to get one or not. The positive news is that the 500 is a good car in several areas, including that it’s easy to drive, cheap to run and good value for money.
It’s not as good to drive as a Mini, or anywhere near as practical as a more conventional small car like the Ford Fiesta or even the smaller Volkswagen Up, though. Still, there are so many Fiat 500s for sale at any given time that you will certainly be able to find one that’s right for you. Take care with older models to find one that’s been well looked after, though, as frequent use around town can cause issues including kerbed alloys and scrapes on the bodywork.
- Models explained
- Trim levels
- Best Fiat 500 for...
- Boot space
- Should I buy used?
The Fiat 500 has been on sale since 2008, so there have been a huge number of different models. Most use small petrol engines, although there were some diesel models available as well. We’d avoid these as the 500 is best for driving in town, which doesn’t suit diesel power.
Early models were powered by a 1.3-litre diesel or 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol engines. Then in 2010, a turbocharged 0.9-litre 'TwinAir' model arrived, which is known for being much less efficient than its claimed fuel economy suggests - yet it’s also a fantastically fun engine to use, so it’s still popular.
In 2016 the Fiat 500 was updated - we call cars after this date ‘facelifted’ models. These got a slightly different look with new lights and bumpers, but aren't too different. In 2020 there was a mild hybrid model added to the range, which uses a tiny electric motor to improve efficiency (though this doesn’t drive the wheels at all, unlike in a proper hybrid such as the Toyota Yaris).
In 2021 a new electric-only version of the Fiat 500 was launched, which is sold alongside the previous version, so the latest 500 models don’t have a conventional engine at all.
A convertible version called the Fiat 500C is also available. It uses a large fabric sunroof rather than being a proper convertible car with a roof that folds back completely. It’s a nice compromise, though, as it’s fun to open the roof in summer but the car still drives like any other 500 the rest of the time. The only trade-off is a higher price and slightly more wind noise inside.
Abarth 595/695 and Abarth 595C/695C
We won’t cover the Abarth version of the 500 in this buying guide as it’s considered to be a separate model from a different brand - Fiat's sporty sub-brand. It’s a fast and fun model aimed at people who want something more enjoyable to drive. It uses a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and is more expensive than the normal 500 but is still quite good value for money.
|From £5,995: There are so many trim levels for the Fiat 500 that we can’t list them all here. The entry-level Pop comes with electric windows, remote central locking and steel wheels.
|From £6,995: The Lounge model comes with air-conditioning, a sunroof and split-folding rear seats.
|From £9,800: The Sport model isn’t any sportier to drive than other versions but it does have Bluetooth, air-conditioning and alloy wheels.
|Limited stock: Later 500s were available in either Star or Rockstar trims. There wasn’t much difference between them - as standard they got 16-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and some visual differences.
|Limited stock: This is a key trim level to be aware of in the newer models, as it’s the one that comes with Fiat’s Uconnect touchscreen media system. It’s also got LED running lights.
|Dolcevita, Dolcevita Plus, Hey Google, 500 by Diesel, 500 by Gucci, GQ edition, Colour Therapy, Collezione, Mirror, 60th, Start & Stop, Riva, Anniversario, 500 for Ferrari, Pink, Blackjack, Street, Cult, Ron Arad Edition, Vintage ’57, 500 S and many more.
There are loads of engines in the Fiat 500 range, simply because it’s been on sale for so long. Luckily all of them are small and cheap to run, so even if you can’t find one with the perfect motor for you, you can’t go too far wrong.
The 1.3-litre diesel probably makes the least sense, as while it’s really efficient on long trips, most people drive Fiat 500s for short trips only, which isn't suited for diesel engines. The early 1.2-litre petrol is also one to avoid as it’s a bit noisy and not very powerful.
The 0.9-litre TwinAir is a fantastic engine for driving, but it’s the least efficient - despite high claimed figures over 60mpg, you’ll likely only manage around 40mpg in reality unless you drive very sedately.
The 1.4-litre petrol is a great engine, as it’s smooth and has plenty of performance, so this would be our pick in older models.
The later 1.0-litre petrol engine is the best of all, however, so if you are buying a 500 that’s a bit younger, choose this engine. It has about 70hp so it’s a bit slow, but it’s really cheap to run.
It can seem really daunting looking at the huge number of trim levels and engines available in the Fiat 500 (see above), but in reality each version is really similar. What you should really do is work out what equipment you really want and pick a model that has it fitted. Likewise, pick an engine that works for you and search for models that use it.
There are so many Fiat 500s for sale that you should be able to find one that has the engine and equipment that you want. Here we’ve picked out some of the best versions of the 500 for a range of situations.
|Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Lounge: An older early-2010s model in Lounge spec with the 0.9-litre TwinAir engine is a great choice for value for money. It’s well-equipped for its era, although you’ll miss out on more modern features like smartphone connectivity.
|Fiat 500 1.0 MHEV Dolcevita: If you are looking for a family car, the 500 is not ideal, but if you want a newer and more up-to-date model then the Dolcevita trim is a good one to go for, plus the 1.0-litre engine in newer models is efficient and cheap to insure.
|Fiat 500 TwinAir 105hp: There are two versions of the Fiat 500 TwinAir - one has 85hp and the other has 105hp, with the 105hp version being the quickest. 0-60mph takes about 10 seconds, so it’s not that sporty- you’ll want an Abarth model if you are after a fast car.
|Fiat 500 1.3 MultiJet Pop: The Pop trim level is pretty basic, so we’d go for a higher specification than this, plus the diesel engine is best suited to long trips - something the 500 isn’t ideal for. The caveat here is that since few buyers want a car in this spec, it’s available very cheaply.
BuyaCar prices Limited stock
There aren’t many cars that can really compete with the Fiat 500. It has a unique combination of small size, retro looks and low price - even though the Mini Hatchback is a small, stylish car, it’s more expensive like-for-like than the Fiat. You might still consider them to be close rivals, though.
Other options include the DS 3 and Vauxhall Adam, which were launched in a bid to take on the 500 but never really succeeded sales-wise, although they are good value now as used cars. The Fiat is a tiny city car and if you want something that’s a bit more pragmatic and practical, then a Volkswagen Up, Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii, Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10 or Peugeot 108 might be worth considering.
The Fiat 500C rivals the DS 3 Cabrio and some versions of the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo. There’s also the Mini Convertible, which is a proper convertible and not just a hatchback with a big sunroof like the others mentioned.
Fiat 500 practicality: dimensions and boot space
The Fiat 500 is only 3.5m long, 1.6m wide and 1.5m tall, so it’s shorter and thinner than the Mini, but a little taller. The normal Mini Hatchback is 3.8m long, 1.7m wide and 1.4m tall. However, the Fiat is actually worse for taller drivers, as the seats are set very high and are more accommodating for short drivers. The Mini is excellent for tall drivers because of the low driving position.
Neither model is good for rear-seat passengers. The rear seats are more useful as storage space than for carrying adults, as there’s hardly any legroom at all and particularly in the 500C, headroom is poor as well. The 500 is three-door only so hopping into the back isn’t the easiest even for kids - a Volkswagen Up is a much better choice for families.
|Length 3,546mm - 3,571mm
|Weight 840kg - 980kg
The Fiat 500 has a 185-litre boot, which is 26 litres smaller than the luggage space in the Mini and 65 litres smaller than the Volkswagen Up’s boot. If you fold down the rear seats - not all trim levels come with split-folding rear seats, so most have a single seat-back that drops down - then there’s a total of 550 litres, which is okay but not spectacular.
It’s clear that the 500 wasn’t designed with practicality in mind, but if you’re just commuting and not really using the boot for more than the weekly food shop or some small bags for a weekend away, it’s totally fine. The 500C model has the same amount of boot space but a much smaller opening that makes it even less practical.
|Seats up 185 litres
|Seats down 550 litres
The Fiat 500 has been on sale for so long now that we have a pretty good idea of how reliable it is. Although it has a slightly up-and-down record in Driver Power customer satisfaction surveys, peaking at 45th place and dipping out of the top 150 cars altogether in 2016, the Fiat does have a reputation for being generally reliable.
Even if you do have an issue - common problems include brittle interior trim and marked or scratched paint - it’s a rather simple car to work on and that means it’s inexpensive to maintain. There are lots of 500s for sale, so as long as you buy one that has been serviced according to the recommended schedule and looked after well by previous owners, it should be dependable.
The Fiat 500 comes with a warranty of three years or 60,000 miles, which is pretty normal and lots of other models come with exactly the same warranty cover from new. The fact that most 500s are older than this means that any warranty on a used model will have to be an aftermarket one, although there are still some newer 500s covered by a manufacturer warranty.
Roadside assistance is included, plus some owners may have purchased an extended warranty from Fiat that would add an extra one or two years to the cover provided.
The Fiat 500 is a great used car and if you love how it looks, there are plenty of reasons to justify buying one. It’s good value, for a start - older models are really cheap to buy and are just as good to drive as newer versions. Equipment is decent too, although to get the most bang for your buck you should choose a slightly newer model - the older 500s feel quite sparse by modern standards.
The 500 is easy to drive, relatively comfortable, looks great and is cheap to run. The small petrol engines are ideal for young drivers as they should be affordable to insure, plus they’re efficient too.
There are a few reasons to look elsewhere, though. The 500 isn’t very practical and something like a Volkswagen Up is better for family life, for example. A Mini is much more fun to drive and more comfortable as well, while a Ford Fiesta is better value for money, more practical and more fun - it’s a great all-rounder. Yet there’s nothing that’s able to match the 500 for style.
A good all-round trim and engine combination is the Fiat 500 TwinAir in Lounge spec. The 0.9-litre engine is good to drive and punchy as long as you work it reasonably hard, plus the Lounge trim comes with everything you really need at a good price.
The Fiat 500C is a nice choice for summer, and with the 1.4-litre petrol engine it makes a great cruiser. It’s a bit expensive but if you want a convertible that has some of the same practicality and efficiency as a hatchback, then it could be worth a look.
The Fiat 500 in 1.0 MHEV form is an excellent choice if you have a higher budget that can stretch to a more modern version. This engine isn’t the most powerful, but its mild hybrid system, which includes a tiny electric motor, means that it’s really efficient and cheap to run.
*Representative PCP finance - 2018 Ford Fiesta 1.0 ST-Line Hatchback:
|PCP representative example
|APR rates available
|Cash price £12,000
|Value of loan
|Fixed monthly payment £218.12
|Annual mileage of 8,000pa
|Total cost of credit £2,755.55
|Term 48 months
|Optional final payment £4,285.79
|Loan value £12,000
|Total amount payable £14,755.55
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.