Likes: Decent fuel economy, fun to drive around town, stylish inside out, small size means parking is a breeze.
Dislikes: The ride is jittery and handling isn't up to par with the Mini Cooper, limited boot space and no turbo engine yet available.
Urban city cars are becoming more and more trendy. There's the Smart Fortwo, Mini Cooper and now the Fiat 500. A retro throwback of the original 500. It's small, dinky and cheeky looking. But is that enough to win over hipsters and fashionettes?
Performance: There's only one engine available for the 500 and that's a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 100hp. It may not seem like a lot, but the 500 is small. So there's plenty of pep around town. On the highway you may struggle to get up to speed, and the automatic gearbox hesitates off line. Making power delivery not as smooth as you'd expect.
Ride & handling: The 500 is a doddle to drive. It's nimble and quite fun to toss around in urban areas. The steering is light, and makes parking a breeze. Outside of the city limits, the 500 doesn't feel as composed as a Mini. Handling isn't as sharp, and the ride feels jittery.
Refinement: Living with the 500 won't be too tiresome. Although wind and road noise is evident when you pick up speed. However, it never gets to an irritating level. The engine is smooth and the transmission once up to speed works seamlessly with the engine.
Behind the wheel: There's no reach adjustments for the steering wheel, but there is height adjustments to help you get comfortable. The simple design of the dash means its easy to use than a knife and fork, and there's all the style you could ever ask for. Look down, and some of the retro appeal goes away. Some of the plastics look cheap, and cost cutting. But you can customize the interior color and styling combinations to suit you.
Space & Practicality: The 500 is smaller than the Mini and it has a bigger boot, but the Mini can fit four more comfortably than the 500. Those in the front seat will be comfortable. There's plenty of head and legroom for front passengers, while the rear seats are best left for kids.
Equipment: Entry-level 500s get air-con, cd-player and electric mirrors. You'll have to step up to the sport trim to get alloy wheels and sports suspension. Top of the range offers glass roof, leather wrapped steering wheel and handsfree Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile device.
Buying & Owning: The 500 seems well priced among its rival the Mini Cooper. Even though the turbo form isn't available yet, you can still get a nice 500 for a decent price. Fuel economy is good, so your running costs will be low. Discounts are hard to come-by due to limited supply. Resale value will be high, as the demand for the 500 has exceeded Fiat's expectations.
Quality & Reliability: The plastics used in the cabin feel upscale. They feel sturdy, and match the retro look. Fiat doesn't enjoy the best reliability record, and the 500 has been rated a mere average by JD Power Customer satisfaction survey. With many complaints of the Blue&Me hands-free system and windscreen wipers malfunctioning.
Safety & Security: The 500 comes with front, side, curtain airbags as well as knee airbags. Traction control, anti-lock-brakes all come standard across the range. Deadlocks and alarm system come standard as well to keep theft at bay.
The 500 is trendy and stylish. It's small size makes it a doddle to drive around urban areas. Venture outside of the city limits and the 500 struggles to stay composed. The Mini is a better car all round. It's stylish, fun to drive and a hoot to kick into corners thanks to the BMW tuned suspension. Unlike the Mini, the 500 is cheaper to buy and offers more boot space in a tiny package. If your driving evolves mostly around the city the 500 is for you. Anything more, we'd say stick with the Mini.