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#24

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $16,445 - $26,195
Invoice: $16,034 - $25,196
MPG: 31 City / 40 Hwy
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FIAT 500 Performance

Reviewers say the 2014 Fiat 500’s small stature and crisp handling make zipping around town fun. However, they point out that the 500’s tall body makes it lean around curves. Several test drivers note that the base engine can feel strained at higher speeds. The manual transmission is easy to use and the automatic is very responsive, they say.

  • "What the 500 does well is deliver a comfortable ride, go-kart-like handling and a sense of style and fun absent in most small cars." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base engine is raspy, as you would expect from a small-displacement 4-cylinder, but it's not unrefined." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "Interstate trips are manageable, but you won’t want to make a regular habit of them." -- Cars.com (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The base 500 comes with a 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. The 500 Turbo has a turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 135 horsepower. The 500 Abarth has a turbocharged, 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. The base Fiat 500 gets an EPA-estimated 31/40 mpg city/highway with a manual transmission, which is good for the class. Equipped with an automatic transmission, it gets 27/34 mpg, which is low for a subcompact car.

Test drivers report that the 500’s base engine has adequate power on city streets, but can feel strained on the highway. Most prefer models equipped with turbocharged engines, which they say give acceleration a boost. The automatic transmission receives praise for its smoothness, though reviewers say the manual gearbox makes driving more engaging.

  • "The 500's 6-speed automatic is surprisingly efficient and responsive, but we still love the feel of the manual in this car. It just feels more European. Those seeking more power may want to split the difference between the base car and the tautly sprung Abarth model by opting for the 135-horsepower Turbo trim." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Standard 500 models can keep up with city traffic, but having only 101 horsepower on tap makes them feel overtaxed on the highway. The Abarth is stronger all around, though it really comes alive above 4,000 rpm. On all, the manual transmission is fun to shift. With the automatic, downshifts are surprisingly quick and upshifts are smooth." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "It may be one of the slowest cars on sale, but the base-engine Fiat 500 is willing and eager to pull its weight (especially with the easy-to-drive manual transmission), and produces more pleasing noises than other modestly powered subcompacts.” -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "Like the regular and Abarth versions, the 135-horsepower 500 Turbo takes off modestly. Once its turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder overcomes some initial turbo lag, however, acceleration feels lively and the car scoots along.” -- Cars.com (2013)

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers agree that the Fiat 500 darts around city streets with ease, and offers communicative steering and strong brakes. However, a few say that the 500’s handling is less refined when the road gets twisty, where its tall body can lean during cornering, and that the steering can feel vague.

  • “A car as tiny as the 500 is bound to feel nimble, of course, and sure enough this FIAT likes tight spaces, darting through the concrete jungle with sure-footed poise. Get it out on a real road, though, with real curves, and what you notice is the 500's high center of gravity and leaden steering." -- AutoTrader
  • "From the centered steering to the firm brakes to the smooth shift controls, everything about the 500 looks and feels of quality." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The steering is rather devoid of feel and numb on-center, but press the Sport button on the dash and the 500's steering firms up pleasingly." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "It's no handling champ, either. The linear brakes and engaging steering hint at agility, but the top-heavy 500 still tends toward body roll, and limited seat bolstering heightens the sensation.” -- Cars.com (2013)
  • "All 500s are fun to toss about. Steering feel is direct and communicative. Despite a somewhat tall design, body lean in fast turns is very well controlled." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
Review Last Updated: 5/12/14

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