When it decided to reinvent the iconic 500 model in 2007, Fiat hit gold. The Italian maker has always been famous for making great small cars, and with the New 500, it took a leaf out of MINI’s book by taking the original concept - a small car that had mobilised millions - and revisited it in an entirely modern context.
The 500’s styling is simply perfect - it echoes the lines of the classic 500 faithfully but in a larger, safer and ultimately thoroughly modern package.
It’s a car that has proven massively popular with buyers of all ages, thanks to its timeless styling and model range that suits everyone.
The fact that it’s also reliable and a polished performer in all respects is simply a bonus. There are a lot of reasons to love the Fiat 500…
The 500 does what it says on the tin, insofar as it replicates everything that the iconic classic 500 was famous for. It’s small, it’s curvy and it’s adorable, but like the Mini that it has so much in common with, the 500’s cute looks are coincidental rather than deliberate - or at least they were when the original classic 500 debuted.
Today’s 500 has style at the very epicentre of its appeal. It sells itself on its adorability, even if that means compromise in other areas. After all, if it was more practical, it’d be far less cute, right?
Although it has been around for over a decade, Fiat has sensibly not messed around with the 500’s styling. There have been a few model year changes over its lifecycle, but all 500s look essentially the same.
There are two body styles (if you discount the family-oriented 500X and 500L, which are essentially different cars) - a two-door hatchback and a two-door convertible which shares the hatchback’s overall profile, but with a roll-back roof and separate boot.
Retro is very much the theme here, with a body-coloured dashboard, not hampered by plastics or superfluous switchgear.
The main instruments are housed in an ivory-coloured binnacle ahead of the driver, with matching ivory column stalks.
In the centre of the dash the retro theme is interrupted by a thoroughly modern touch screen, which incorporates an advanced infotainment system, which on more upmarket models is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The driving position isn’t perfect - short legs and long arms help, but the seats are comfortable in the front, and the lanky ivory-coloured gear lever is designed as much for ergonomics as it is for retro pastiche. It’s actually really well positioned relative to the driver’s seat, though the handbrake is a bit of a stretch away to fully release.
Rear legroom is as you’d expect from a city car, especially one that puts form over function. In other words, it’s a bit cramped, as, indeed, is the boot. But for most buyers the 500 is a ‘personal car’, in which the rear seats are more commonly used for shopping than they are for passengers. If you need them for ferrying people, they’re there - but it’s a bit of a squeeze!
Driving and practicality
The 500 is fairly conventional underneath, with a MacPherson strut front end and torsion beam rear, but despite its simple layout, it’s still an absolute hoot to drive.
Fiat has always been a master at creating small cars, and the 500 is absolutely no exception to this - it’s nippy, handles brilliantly and is never more at home then when being thrown about in frantic city traffic.
By far the most entertaining model for city life (which is where most 500s live) is the two-cylinder TwinAir engine, with its distinctive rasp and free-revving nature, though if you frequently venture beyond the city limits, then a four-cylinder petrol or diesel is probably a better option - not as characterful, admittedly, but the TwinAir does sound a bit ‘busy’ at full pelt…
There’s no shame in saying that the Fiat 500 is a style icon first and a supermini second. If you need a car with decent passenger space and high levels of practicality, there are others available at the same price.
But none of those has the cheeky character or all-round desirability that the 500 has. Young singletons, in particular, love the 500 - it’s a great car for zipping to work and back in, while managing to look cool. It’s as much a part of your wardrobe as it is a car…Search FIAT 500