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2016 FIAT 500 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 FIAT 500 was new.


Performance: 6.9

Critics agree that the base Fiat 500 provides a satisfying performance around town but has poor acceleration and handling on highways and winding roads. They like its fun-to-use five speed manual transmission and say the more-powerful engine options provide better acceleration. Fuel economy is good for the class.

  • "The base-level 500 may look like a barrel of laughs, but it drives mostly like the tall economy car that it is." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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 come with 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 available with all models. According to the EPA, the Fiat 500 gets up to 31/40 mpg city/highway, which is in the top half of the class.

While they think the Fiat 500 has decent acceleration for driving around town, critics are unimpressed with the base engine's lackluster power for highway driving. Still, they like the 500's five-speed manual transmission, noting that its light clutch action makes the car fun to drive. Although the 500 Turbo delivers strong acceleration, reviewers caution that it isn't very quick off the line and say there's some initial turbo lag. The 500 Abarth earns praise for its considerable power at higher revs.

  • "The base engine's acceleration is undeniably lackluster. The manual shifter is pleasant to operate and the clutch action is light and linear, so shifting gears isn't a chore, but the reality is that this engine makes the 500 one of the slowest cars on the market." -- 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 (2015)
  • "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)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The 2016 Fiat 500e is available in select markets. It comes with an electric motor that makes 111 horsepower. The EPA estimates that the 500e has an 84-mile range and gets 121/103 mpg-equivalent (mpg-e) city/highway. Learn more about mpg-e here. The 500e's range and mpg-e rating are both good for the class. Fiat says the 500e charges fully in less than 24 hours with a standard 120-volt household outlet and less than four hours with a 240-volt charger, which is available at most public charging stations and can be installed in your home.

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that around the city, the 2016 Fiat 500's handling is nimble. On winding roads, however, the 500's high center of gravity produces lots of body roll. Most auto writers also find its steering to be heavy. Front-wheel drive is standard.

  • "Any 500 is good fun on a quick errand, thanks to the car's diminutive dimensions and inherently nimble feel, though enthusiasts won't like the somewhat top-heavy feel and significant body roll at the limit." -- Edmunds
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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)

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