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FIAT 500 Performance

Reviewers agree that the base 2015 Fiat 500 could use more power, but they appreciate the quick acceleration that 500 Abarth and Turbo models provide. The Fiat 500 also pleases critics with its easy maneuverability, though some say that its tall stance results in uninspiring handling on twisty roads.

  • "The base-level 500 may look like a barrel of laughs, but it drives mostly like the tall economy car that it is." -- AutoTrader 
  • "The 500's steering is precise, the brakes are strong and the manual transmission is so good, it might actually spark a movement back to the days when everyone knew how to stir their own gears." -- 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)

Acceleration and Power

The base Fiat 500 comes with a 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, while 500 Turbo and Abarth models feature turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engines that produce 135 and 160 horsepower, respectively. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional on all models. The base Fiat 500 gets an EPA-estimated 31/40 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class.

While some critics say that the base 500 has enough power for urban commutes, most agree that its engine doesn’t provide enough power for driving on the highway. Still, a few reviewers point out that the standard manual transmission gives the 500 a fun driving experience. Auto writers report that the 500 Turbo isn’t particularly quick from a stop, but it offers sprightly acceleration after some initial turbo lag. The 500 Abarth also earns praise for its ample power, particularly at higher revs.

  • "With just 101 hp, the standard 500's actual acceleration is undeniably on the slow side. But if it's equipped with the manual transmission, the car involves you so much in the effort that it doesn't feel all that tepid." -- Edmunds 
  • "Things change, however, when you're talking about the 500 Turbo or the Abarth. Finally offered with an automatic to give them mass appeal, these models boast excellent midrange power and quickly dial things up in fun and enjoyment." -- AutoTrader
  • "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)
  • "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." -- Consumer Guide (2013)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers praise the 2015 500’s easy maneuverability in the city, as well as its comfortable ride. While a few critics also appreciate the 500’s nimble handling, most say that its high center of gravity and slow steering make for lackluster handling on curvy roads.

  • "A car as tiny as the 500 is bound to feel nimble, of course, and this FIAT likes tight spaces, darting through the concrete jungle with sure-footed poise. Get it out on a real road with real curves, though, and what you notice is the 500's high center of gravity and leaden steering." -- AutoTrader 
  • "Don't worry about the ride quality either. As we noted in our 500 Abarth rating, the ride is still pretty comfortable whether driving over rutted city streets or cruising on the highway." -- Edmunds 
  • "While top speed and rapid acceleration aren't the 500's strong suit, the 500 can scoot about with relative ease and its go-kart like handling make even the shortest drives feel like a sporty adventure." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "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)
Review Last Updated: 8/28/15

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