The Fiat 500 is a small, two-door city car that has become an icon of Italian automotive design and manufacturing. First introduced in 1957, the original Fiat 500 was designed by Dante Giacosa and affectionately nicknamed “Topolino”, meaning “little mouse” in Italian. It was a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle with a 2-cylinder air-cooled engine. Measuring just over 10 feet long and weighing under 1,100 pounds, the 500 was intended as an affordable and practical car for motorizing Italy after World War II.
The petite dimensions, cheerful rounded styling, and lively performance made the 500 an instant success. Over 4 million were produced during its 18-year production run. The 500 gained a reputation for innovation and spawned variants like the Fiat 500 Giardiniera station wagon and the rear-engined Fiat 600, which shared the Topolino’s chassis and drivetrain. The original 500 remains one of the smallest cars ever put into mass production.
The 500 was reborn in 2007 when Fiat introduced the new-generation 500 city car, sold in Europe and North America. Retaining the spirit and iconic shape of the original, the modern 500 proved a successful revival of the model. With its retro styling and focus on practicality and efficiency, the contemporary 500 echoes its famous predecessor while offering updated features and details. Over 2 million of the modern 500 have been sold worldwide as of early 2015.
The classic Fiat 500 was first released in 1957 and was iconically a two-door rear-engine utility hatchback. When Fiat relaunched the 500 in 2007, it was designed as a front-engine front-wheel drive two-door hatchback. In 2009, Fiat introduced a convertible model called the 500c with a power-folding cloth roof Fiat 500.
The 500 hatchback has a traditional rigid roof, while the 500c features a retractable cloth roof that folds back to create a cabriolet/convertible style. The 500c uses a fabric folding roof reminiscent of the original 1957 500 and features large side glass with minimal structural elements between the front and back side windows. This gives the 500c an open-air feeling and allows for full rear passenger visibility FIAT 500 Models, Generations & Redesigns.
Overall, the Fiat 500 is offered in both traditional hatchback and open-top convertible body styles. The hatchback provides a more enclosed driving experience, while the 500c convertible allows for open-air driving when desired.
The Fiat 500 has gone through several generational changes since its original launch in 1957.
The first generation 500 was produced from 1957 to 1975. This rear-engine, rear-wheel drive city car came in hatchback and convertible models. It was an icon of Italian automotive design and affordable mobility in the postwar economic boom.
After a long hiatus, the Fiat 500 was reintroduced in 2007 for a second generation. This front-engine, front-wheel drive hatchback shared the retro styling of the original. It was offered with engines ranging from 1.2L to 1.4L and a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Key features included quality interiors and technologies like Bluetooth and satellite navigation (Source).
The third generation 500 debuted in 2015 with updated exterior styling and more engine options, including a 1.2L turbocharged unit. Interior quality was improved and new features like parking assist were added. This generation also introduced the 500X crossover variant.
The latest fourth generation 500 launched in 2020 as an all-electric model. With ranges up to 199 miles, the 500e is Fiat’s first full battery electric vehicle. It retains the retro styling but has a thoroughly modern electric powertrain and high-tech interfaces (Source).
The Fiat 500 hatchback has been offered with a variety of engine options over the years. The earliest models were equipped with a tiny 479 cc two-cylinder engine producing just 13 horsepower (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_500).
Modern Fiat 500 models are available with the following engine choices:
- 1.2L 4-cylinder producing 69 hp
- 1.4L 4-cylinder producing 101 hp
- 0.9L 2-cylinder turbocharged producing 135 hp (Abarth model)
- 1.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged producing 135 hp (Abarth model)
The base 1.2L engine is naturally aspirated while the more powerful 1.4L and Abarth engines utilize turbocharging. Fuel economy ranges from 31 mpg city/40 mpg highway for the base 1.2L engine up to 34 mpg city/40 mpg highway for the turbocharged 1.4L motor.
The Fiat 500 comes with the option of either a manual or automatic transmission depending on the model and year.
Earlier models of the Fiat 500 up until 2015 came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic transmission by Aisin was available as an option. The manual transmission provided a more engaging driving experience while the automatic provided easier driving.
In 2016, Fiat introduced a 6-speed manual transmission as well as an upgraded Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The 6-speed manual offered smoother gear changes while the automatic continued to provide relaxed driving.
Currently, most Fiat 500 models come standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. The automatic option is still available on most models as well. Buyers who want a sportier drive tend to prefer the manual, while buyers looking for daily commuting ease opt for the automatic.
Overall, Fiat provides both transmission options to suit different driving preferences. The manual caters to those wanting a lively drive, while the automatic appeals to those valuing convenience.
The Fiat 500 offers standard and optional safety tech to help keep drivers and passengers protected on the road.
Standard safety features include seven airbags including driver knee airbag, ABS brakes, stability control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system, and rear parking sensors according to IIHS.
Available advanced safety options include blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, front and rear parking sensors, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking. Upgrading to upper trim packages unlocks access to more of these driver assistance features.
Infotainment and Technology
The Fiat 500 offers a range of entertainment features and technology, including a Uconnect infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen display and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. According to Fiat, the Uconnect system allows for seamless interaction through advanced voice recognition capability, an intuitive interface and easy-to-reach controls (https://www.fiatusa.com/500x/technology.html).
Higher trims come with GPS navigation capability, Bluetooth hands-free calling and wireless audio streaming, satellite radio, HD Radio, AM/FM radio capabilities. There’s also an optional BeatsAudio sound system available with 6 premium speakers and a subwoofer.
The Fiat 500 offers peppy performance from its small 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. According to Car and Driver, the base 500 gets a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine making 101 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque, enabling a 0-60 mph time of 9.6 seconds. The Abarth performance model steps it up significantly with a 160-hp turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder allowing a much quicker 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds.
In terms of handling, the 500 provides nimble maneuverability inherent in a small city car. Its tight 34.6-foot turning circle makes navigating congested urban areas easy. The suspension and steering are tuned for responsiveness rather than comfort. Upgraded brakes on higher trim levels improve stopping power.
Fuel economy is a strength of the tiny 500. According to U.S. News & World Report, it achieves 28 mpg city/33 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 27/34 mpg with the automatic. The high-performance Abarth model is rated at 28/34 mpg.
The 2021 FIAT 500 has a base Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $16,710 for the Pop model, according to FIAT® 500 Hatchback | FIAT® USA Official Site. The higher trim levels increase in price, with the Lounge model starting at $20,295, the Sport model at $22,265, and the range-topping 500C Abarth model at $23,915. MSRPs are exclusive of a $1,495 destination charge.
Here’s a full breakdown of MSRP pricing for the 2021 FIAT 500 trims:
- Pop – $16,710
- Lounge – $20,295
- Sport – $22,265
- Abarth – $23,915
For 2018 models, FIAT 500 prices originally ranged from $16,245 for the base Pop model up to $22,245 for the Abarth, according to 2019 FIAT 500 Price, Value, Ratings & Reviews | Kelley Blue Book.
The Fiat 500 has several key competitors in the small city car segment. Some of the main models it competes against include:
- Volkswagen Beetle – Similar retro styling and dimensions but the Beetle has a more powerful engine option. The Fiat 500 edges out the Beetle for better fuel economy and a lower starting price.
- Mini Cooper – Known for its sporty driving dynamics and customization options. The Mini Cooper is more expensive but offers a more powerful engine and luxury interior options.
- Ford Fiesta – A practical subcompact with a lower starting price but less style. The Fiat 500 beats the Fiesta for its chic Italian styling.
- Chevrolet Spark – A budget minicar with a very low starting price. The Spark can’t match the 500’s performance or styling.
Overall, the Fiat 500 competes well among small cars thanks to its eye-catching retro design, fuel efficiency, and nimble handling. Key strengths against rivals include its standout styling, premium interior options, and smooth powertrain.