Fiat 500 Hybrid Review | AA Cars

Summary

Fiat was slow to embrace electrification, but with new mild-hybrid versions of the 500 and Panda arriving in 2020, the firm is changing. Ahead of a new electric 500 joining the range later this year, we try the new hybrid version to see if it could be the new city car of choice. 

Pros 

  • Cool styling
  • More efficient than before
  • Good value 

Cons 

  • Hybrid system isn’t all that effective
  • Not very refined
  • Poor interior quality

Introduction

When manufacturers reinvent their past icons, it can have mixed results. Mini’s cars have proven to be a roaring success – but VW wasn’t quite as fortunate with its Beetle. 

However, the popularity of the Fiat 500 can’t be disputed. It was reborn in 2007 and 13 years later, it still continues to be a sales hit – and while a number of special editions have been released in that time, the changes to the car itself have been minimal.

It’s the cool styling that’s undoubtedly made the 500 the hit it is today, and now Fiat has debuted its first electrified model to be sold in the UK – the 500 Hybrid. 

Latest model

Although an electric 500e was sold over in America, this is the first time UK buyers have been offered a 500 that wasn’t petrol or diesel. 

It’s key to note that this updated 500 isn’t a full hybrid, but a ‘mild-hybrid’. We’ll get onto how the system works later, but essentially it adds electrification to bring a slight performance and efficiency boost to a new 1.0-litre petrol engine, which replaces the previous 1.2-litre. 

In true Fiat style, there is also a new special ‘Launch Edition’ model. This sits at the top of the range – coming in a cool Dew Green colour with a matching dashboard and seats made from recycled plastics. 

Driving feel 

Ease of driving is fundamental for a city car and the Fiat 500 doesn’t disappoint. With light steering – which can be lighter still when you press the ‘City’ button – the 500 is an absolute doddle to use around town and it’s exceptionally easy to park as well.  

Away from town, though, the 500’s flaws start to show. It’s rather slow to get up to speed, and refinement concerns start to become apparent. That said, it’s pretty comfortable both around town and on the open road. 

Looks and image

Look at the Fiat 500 today, and you certainly wouldn’t think the design was now 13 years old. There have been slight updates and revisions here and there, but its styling has hardly altered, and it still manages to look as fresh as it did back then.

It’s one of the most recognisable cars on Britain’s roads, and owners can take things a step further with a whole host of personalisation options to make the 500 their own.

Despite this, the interior can’t quite compete at the same level as the exterior. The layout looks a bit dated, while the quality falls short of rivals. That said, with a colour-coded dashboard available, the cabin can be just as bold as the exterior.

Space 

The Fiat 500 is rarely the first choice for someone looking for practicality. That said, there’s more space on offer than you might expect. 

It can seat four adults, and while the three-door bodystyle means it’s not especially easy to get into the back, there’s a decent amount of room once you’re in. Unlike rivals, there’s no middle seat in the back – meaning you can’t seat five, even if you wanted to.

Finally, the boot isn’t the largest – but with 185 litres of room on offer, it’s enough for a couple of small suitcases or a shopping trip.  

Engines and running costs 

You’ll find a new engine in the 500 Hybrid – a 1.0-litre petrol unit, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. This combines the petrol motor with a belt-starter generator and a small battery, which allows for energy to be stored in the battery (this is later harnessed when braking). The 500 also has a coasting function that can turn the engine off at slow speeds by taking the car out of gear – something we’re not quite convinced about, as it doesn’t feel especially safe, and seems an afterthought.

While the system marginally improves performance, it still feels slow – the 500 produces a modest 69bhp and 92Nm of torque – allowing for a 0-60mph time of 13.8 seconds and a top speed of 104mph. 

More importantly, though, the hybrid is up to 20 per cent more efficient than its predecessor – returning a claimed 53.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 119g/km.

Powertrains

  • 1.0-litre petrol engine mild-hybrid (69bhp)

Rivals

  • Kia Picanto – from £10,220
  • Fiat Panda – from £10,340
  • Toyota Aygo – from £11,720
  • Citroen C1 – from £12,660
  • Volkswagen Up! – from £12,705
  • Hyundai i10 – from £12,820
  • Peugeot 108 – from £12,980
  • Suzuki Ignis – from £13,429
  • Mini Hatch – from £16,200
  • Skoda Citigo-e iV (EV) – from £17,455

Trim levels

Six trim levels are available on the Fiat 500. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.  

Pop – from £12,770

  • 14-inch steel wheels
  • Air conditioning 
  • Speed limiter
  • DAB radio
  • LED daytime running lights 

Lounge – from £14,500 (in addition to Pop)

  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Fixed glass roof
  • Chrome styling kit
  • Leather steering wheel

Sport – from £14,670 (in addition to Pop)

  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 15-inch alloy wheels
  • Cruise control
  • Satin grey door mirrors
  • Rear spoiler 

Star – from £16,000 (In addition to Lounge)

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Seven-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Climate control
  • Electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors

Rockstar – from £16,170 (in addition to Sport)

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Seven-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Climate control
  • Electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Dark tinted rear windows 

Launch Edition – from £16,900 (In addition to Star)

  • Satellite navigation
  • Uconnect live services
  • Launch Edition styling kit (Dew Green, additional hybrid badging)
  • Automatic lights and wipers

Search here for used Fiat 500s, with prices starting from as little as £2,250.

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