Looking for a stylish and distinctive small car that’s also very affordable? The Fiat 500 starts at under 20-grand. It’s cute as a bug and people will smile as you drive by.
The Fiat 500 gets a few minor tweaks for 2018 including a new engine on most trims. It’s available in Pop, Lounge and Abarth trims. The Cabrio model with its power-folding soft top is available on each trim. Starting prices range from $16,245 to $20,495.
The Fiat 500 sits four passengers, supposedly, but the backseat is so tight that real humans won’t want to be back there for long. At least the back seat provides some space for your handbag and a few grocery bags.
The Pop and Lounge trims get a new 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The more performance-oriented Abarth trim gets a turbo four that generates 157 horses. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is available on all trims.
The Fiat 500 isn’t what you’d call sporty but there’s enough power for everyday driving situations. Where it shines is in the city. The 500’s diminutive size and tight turning radius makes it easy to scoot around in congested areas and squeeze in tight parking spots. The ride is a bit bumpy.
The Cabrio has a soft top that quickly goes down and up with a push of a button so you can enjoy fresh air driving in a matter of seconds. However, visibility to the rear is extremely limited when the top is up.
Fuel efficiency is below average for a subcompact. EPA ratings for my tester are 28 mpg city and 33 mpg highway with a combined rating of 30. I got 30 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is cute, cute, cute. I like to call it a dorm room on wheels. It’s super fashionable with lots of color and textures, but there are a lot of hard plastics and materials aren’t particularly high quality. However, you can sure be creative in designing the interior as nine different interior color combinations are available! My tester has a snazzy ivory, grey, orange and black interior.
Average-sized passengers will have enough leg- and headroom in the front seat. The back seat is another story. It’s so cramped that actual humans won’t want to be there for long.
Every Fiat 500 comes standard with remote keyless entry, rearview camera, air conditioning, heated mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-speaker Alpine audio system, two USB ports, Bluetooth and the Uconnect infotainment system with a five-inch touch screen.
Options include leather upholstery, heated front seats, sunroof (on non-Cabrio models), navigation, Beats premium audio system, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hot spot and rear parking sensors.
The Uconnect infotainment system is user-friendly and has a sensible menu layout. The system responds quickly to touch and voice commands. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available.
The Fiat 500 doesn’t have many safety features. As noted above, a rearview camera is the only standard feature, and rear parking sensors are an option.
The Cabrio has just 5.4 cubic feet of storage so this is not the car to take on your next Costco run. I drove the Cabrio to an overnight business conference and had room for a couple of small bags.
Super cute car
Stylish interior can be customized with nine different color combinations
User-friendly infotainment system
Petite size makes it great for city driving
Visibility extremely limited to the rear when top is up
Below average fuel efficiency for the class
Tiny back seat can’t really accommodate actual humans
Few safety features
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available
My tester starts at $17,740. The Popular Entertainment Package is $495 and adds auto-dimming rear view mirror with microphone and auto temp control air conditioning with filter. The Navigation and Satellite Package is $695 and adds GPS navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio with one-year subscription. Avorio (ivory) seats are $250. The Beats premium audio system is $695. Destination charge is $1,295 bringing the grand total to $1,295.
The Fiat 500 offers Italian flair and a stylish interior at an affordable price and its petite size makes it easy to drive in busy city traffic. However, cheap interior materials, the cramped back seat, little cargo space and so-so fuel efficiency for a subcompact will turn off some shoppers.