Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you've already checked out Fiat's website, you might have noticed the word 'hybrid' being used to describe the 500's entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine. This is somewhat misleading. You see, you can’t plug it in, and it can’t travel on electric power alone. It just has a tiny electric motor and a minuscule battery to help the petrol engine out in certain situations. For example, if you engage the clutch while coasting to a halt, the stop/start function will cut in before you reach a standstill – improving fuel economy in the process.
What it doesn’t do, though, is make the 500's 69bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine any more zippy. Sure, there’s enough thrust to make progress in hectic city traffic, but if you need a meaningful burst of pace, you won't get it. This is not a car that sits particularly comfortably in fast flowing motorway traffic. If you want something with a bit more urge for open road driving, look at the Kia Picanto 1.25.
Take the 500 along a typical uneven backstreet and you’ll often find yourself doing an involuntary impression of a nodding dog. The Fiat’s suspension also struggles to cope with potholes and larger intrusions, which occasionally send a shudder through the car's body.
As for the 500’s rivals, the Kia Picanto jostles you around a little less on scraggy town roads, but it’s still rather unsettled on the motorway. Really, if you want a city car with a nice supple ride, you’ll want to take a look at the Hyundai i10 – it’s easily the most relaxing car in the city car class.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the 500 is most at home when picking its way through crowded urban streets. This is thanks to its small dimensions and light steering, which can be made even lighter by pressing a ‘city’ button on the dashboard.