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2019 FIAT 500 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.4

With a decent amount of power from its base engine and good maneuverability around tight spaces, the 2019 Fiat 500 is a solid performer in the city. A sport-tuned Abarth model is also available, which provides more power and quicker acceleration. In general, the 500 doesn't feel as agile on curvy roads as some of its rivals.

  • "Fuel economy may have suffered, but the 500's move to turbo-only engines in 2018 corrected its prior issue with glacial acceleration. It has way more horsepower now, and it really makes a difference." -- Autotrader
  • The hesitation on initial acceleration gets frustrating; the car works better with the manual transmission." -- Edmunds (2018)
  • While not as sporty as a Mini Cooper, the base 500 is very nimble, with responsive steering and little body lean. The steering is well weighted but a little short on road feel, especially on-center." -- Consumer Reports

Acceleration and Power

The 500 comes standard with a 135-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. This small engine has a bit of turbo lag, but it offers sufficient power for city driving. The optional six-speed automatic transmission delivers quick shifts. However, enthusiasts will likely prefer the standard five-speed manual transmission.

Those looking for slightly quicker acceleration and additional potency should take a look at the Abarth model. It features a 160-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The base 500 gets 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission and 24/32 mpg city/highway with the automatic. These estimates are OK for the class.

  • There's considerable turbo lag from the turbocharged engine when leaving a stoplight, followed by a nice hit of power. The shifts from the six-speed automatic are quick." -- Edmunds (2018)
  • "With its newfound horsepower and lightweight body, the 2018 Fiat 500 is a much more enjoyable ride. The base 500 is no GTI (you can look to the 160-horsepower Abarth for that), but the 500 is now a competent road car capable of making short work of onramps, lane crossings and nervous passing maneuvers." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "The newly standard 135-hp turbo engine delivers a welcome punch compared to the discontinued base engine." -- Consumer Reports (2018)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The Fiat 500e electric vehicle is available in select markets, such as California and Oregon. It has an 84-mile all-electric range, and it gets 121 mpg-e in the city and 103 mpg-e on the highway. Charging takes about four hours with a 220-volt outlet. With a standard 110-volt outlet, it takes roughly 24 hours to charge.

For more information on MPGe, read our article, What Is MPGe?

Handling and Braking

The Fiat 500 feels at home in the city with its ability to easily maneuver into tight parking spaces and find its way through cramped streets. An Abarth model is also available, which has a more engaging ride thanks to performance enhancements like an upgraded suspension system. However, the 500’s steering offers little feedback from the road.

  • Of course, it remains nimble and easily handles 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. Its short wheelbase also equates to a choppy highway ride." -- Autotrader
  • "The 500's small size makes it ideal for city driving, and because it takes up no more than 140 inches, finding a parking space is child's play. The 500's steering is quick and precise and its new suspension provides less lean and bounce while still keeping the ride fairly comfortable." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • The Abarth's miniscule dimensions and relentless grip make it fun to drive, although its disappointingly vague steering lacks finesse and robs it of the go-kart feel and pinpoint accuracy of a Mini Cooper." -- Consumer Reports (2018)
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