Fiat 500 1.2 Pop Star
List price when new £11,765
Price today £7500*
Available from 2008-present
The 500 has always been the stylish choice, but does this facelifted version do enough to fend off younger rivals?
Skoda Citigo 1.0 60 Monte Carlo
List price when new £10,670
Price today £6500*
Available from 2012-present
The Skoda Citigo is cheaper and more practical than the 500, but we'll find out if it is a better city car
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
City car buyers have taken to the Fiat 500 in a big way, thanks to its tiny dimensions, retro styling and willing engines. In fact, since its rebirth, more than two million have been sold worldwide. But, icons cannot rest on their laurels, so that's why the 500 received a facelift in 2015 that tweaked the styling, upgraded the interior and introduced a better infotainment system.
However, the competition hasn’t been sitting on their hands either and there's a whole host of newer challengers available that aim to fix some of the practicality issues of the 500. The biggest rival to this Italian city car comes from the Volkswagen group, and specifically the Skoda Citigo. It’s based on the same platform that underpins the VW Up and Seat Mii, but the Citigo is the sensible, good-value option among the trio. While it may not have the cute looks of the 500, it is still a smart-looking city car, has a roomier interior and provides a remarkable amount of head and leg room for a car with such a tiny footprint.
The question is: would you be better off going for the eye-catching 500 or the more prudent choice of the Citigo?
What are they like to drive?
These two pocket-sized cars zip along quite happily in town, but it’s the 500 that has a bit more punch. It’s slightly quicker away from a set of lights and more responsive when you put your foot down. Both cars feel a bit wheezy on motorways and need to be revved hard to get them up to speed. However, they’ll both hold a 70mph cruise happily.
In terms of refinement, they are quite different. The Citigo’s three-cylinder engine is more vocal, especially at lower speeds, but the sound it makes isn’t unpleasant. By contrast, the 500’s engine is quieter and smoother around town, but becomes a bit raucous when you push it beyond 4000rpm.
City cars such as these should feel light and easy to drive in town, and both of these do. The 500’s City Steering mode makes its steering so light when parking that you can twirl it with one finger. That said, while the steering in the Citigo needs a little more effort, it is much better at speed because it makes you feel more connected with what the front wheels are doing.
The Citigo is also the more composed through bends. The body leans less than the 500’s and it needs less intervention from its stability systems when things do go wrong. That said, both cars grip strongly.
These two also do an impressive job of softening the blow from large speed bumps. However, if the road surface is even slightly rippled, the 500, particularly at speed, jiggles about constantly; this gets tiring after a while. Meanwhile, the Citigo maintains a remarkably comfortable ride that many family cars would struggle to emulate.
Both cars have a five-speed manual gearbox and the absence of a tall sixth gear means you can hear the distant drone of their engines at high speeds. Wind noise is also an issue for both, while the Citigo emits more road noise.
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