Review: Fiat 500 (2008)

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Rating:

Funky looks and desirable image. Faithful to original. Easy to drive in town. TwinAir and Multijet emit less than 100g/km. Suspension improved from 2010.

Not as good to drive or as practical as a Volkswagen Up or Hyundai i10. 1.2-litre petrol engine sluggish but economical. Dualogic best avoided.

Fiat 500 (2008): At A Glance

A huge success for Fiat, the 500 is certainly cute, plus it’s available with a huge range of customisation options, right down to coloured keyfobs. Unfortunately, it’s not the most practical small car, with a cramped cabin and a small boot but, if you’ve fallen for the cute looks, you’ll forgive a few flaws.

The engine range consists of a 1.2-litre petrol, a 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol or a 1.3-litre diesel. Of these the TwinAir suits the 500 best – it’s responsive and eager, although meeting official economy figures in real world driving is tricky. Earlier cars were also offered with a 1.4-litre petrol, but this was discontinued in 2011.

On the road the 500 is unremarkable to drive. The steering is light but reasonably accurate, while the compact dimensions make urban driving tremendously easy. However, on a twisting road or on the motorway the 500 never feels settled and there is noticeable body roll when cornering.

Inside, the cabin has the same retro look as the exterior, with a painted dashboard panel and big, circular speedometer. Unfortunately, while it looks good it’s not very practical. The front seats are cramped for taller occupants and the back row is too small to be of any real use. The boot isn’t very big either, at just 185 litres.

Fiat has constantly tweaked the 500 since its original launch in 2007, with the most significant changes in 2015. Externally the updated car has different headlights, tail lights and running lights, while the interior benefits from a new, user-friendly touchscreen infotainment system and a new dashboard layout. 

If you’re looking for a sensible, practical town car, the Hyunndai i10 or Volkswagen Up are better choices since they are more spacious, better-equipped and more competent on the open road. But if you’re style-conscious then there is no small car to match the Fiat 500 for image or personalisation. 

FIAT 500 2015 Facelift Road Test

Looking for a Fiat 500 (2008 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

What does a Fiat 500 (2008) cost?

List Price from £12,360
Buy new from £10,044
Contract hire from £106.86 per month

Fiat 500 (2008): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 3546–3571 mm
Width 1627–1893 mm
Height 1488 mm
Wheelbase 2300 mm

Full specifications

The Fiat 500’s cute, retro styling continues inside the cabin, with a painted dashboard covering and a big round speedometer. It looks the part, but sadly it isn’t very practical. The front seats provide a decent level of headroom but long-legged occupants will struggle for comfort, while the back row of seats is barely big enough for kids, let alone adults.

Storage in the cabin is limited, with a small and awkward glovebox and narrow door pockets, though the high-mounted gear lever does free up space for some little compartments between the front seats. The boot has a capacity of 185 litres, which isn’t great, but shopping or small suitcases will fit without too much difficulty. Folding the rear seats frees up 474 litres, but the load area isn't well-shaped for bulky items like flat packs. 

Practicality might be limited, but customisation options certainly aren’t. There is a huge variety of colours, sticker packs, wheel designs, upholstery fabrics and colours. There’s so much variety that there is a Fiat 500 design to suit almost every taste imaginable - buyers can even pick the design of the key casing.

Earlier examples of the 500 are showing their age when it comes to technology, with basic-looking instruments and a simple, poor-quality audio system. Cars from 2015 are much more up to date and are offered with a digital instrument display, along with a user-friendly touchscreen system with navigation – but you need to choose a high trim level or tick options boxes to get them.

Standard Equipment:

Pop comes with LED running lights, 14-inch steel wheels, audio system with AUX and USB inputs, electric front windows and steering wheel mounted audio controls.  

Pop Star adds air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels and 50/50 split folding rear seats.

Lounge adds a glass roof, leather steering wheel, 5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connection, height adjustment for driver’s seat, fog lights and rear parking sensors.

Child seats that fit a Fiat 500 (2008)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Fiat 500 (2008) like to drive?

The Fiat 500 is available with a 1.2-litre petrol with 69PS, a 1.3-litre diesel with 95PS and a 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol with either 85PS or 105PS. The basic 1.2-litre petrol is fine around town, but it is an old engine that needs to be worked hard. Official economy is 60.1mpg and emissions are 110g/km. Additionally, a 1.4-litre petrol was offered until 2011. 

The 0.9 TwinAir is more responsive thanks to its turbocharger, plus it produces less than 100g/km of CO2 – but in real world driving it tends to fall quite a long way short of its official fuel economy figure. Even so, it’s a fizzy, characterful engine that works well in the 500, whether in 85PS or 105PS form.

For those who cover longer distances or who spend a lot of time on faster roads, the well-proven 1.3-litre diesel is a good choice. It’s the most frugal variant Fiat offers, with official economy of 83.1mpg and emissions of 89g/km, plus it’s reasonably responsive and torquey, if a little coarse.

Those who want an automatic transmission are limited to the 0.9 and 1.2-litre petrol engines, paired to Dualogic transmissions. Unless you really need an automatic we’d recommend avoiding this gearbox though – it can be jerky when pulling away or when changing up or down through the gears.

Around town the Fiat 500 is very easy to drive. The controls are effortlessly light, while the compact size of the 500 makes three-point turns, multi-storey car parks and narrow streets easy. Sadly, the 500 isn’t quite so good out of town. The suspension never really feels fully settled, particularly on uneven roads, while refinement could be better at motorway speeds.

Through corners the 500 isn’t the best small car to drive. The steering is vague and the suspension doesn’t provide particularly good body control at high speeds. Having said that, while it might not be as good as cars like the Volkswagen Up or Hyundai i10 it’s not dreadful. If you tend to drive in town and occasionally need to make a longer trip it’s fine.

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Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
0.9 TwinAir 105 67 mpg 10.0 s 99 g/km
0.9 TwinAir 85 60–74 mpg 11.0 s 90–106 g/km
0.9 TwinAir 85 Dualogic 71–74 mpg 11.0 s 88–92 g/km
1.2 49–66 mpg 12.9–13.0 s 99–122 g/km
1.2 Automatic 61 mpg 13.0 s 108 g/km
1.2 Dualogic 54–63 mpg 12.9–13.0 s 105–122 g/km
1.3 MultiJet 75 67 mpg 12.5 s 110 g/km
1.3 MultiJet 95 72–83 mpg 10.7 s 89–104 g/km
1.4 49 mpg 10.5 s 135 g/km
1.4 Dualogic 50 mpg 10.5 s 130 g/km

Real MPG average for a Fiat 500 (2008)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

76%

Real MPG

34–74 mpg

MPGs submitted

599

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Fiat 500 (2008)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Can we reject a car if it's dripping oil?

My daughter purchased a 17-plate Fiat 500 five months ago. It started dripping oil yesterday. When checking the oil level, she found white foam. She's a key worker and needs transport. Can she reject the car? It was a cash purchase.
If there is something fundementally wrong with the car then your daughter can reject it within the first six months. For her consumer rights, see:https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/how-to-reject-a-car-your-consumer-rights
Answered by Dan Powell
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