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2018 FIAT 500 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.4

Though it isn't especially powerful, the 2018 Fiat 500’s base engine is more than strong enough to propel you through city streets. Handling is OK, but this Fiat is not as playful on winding roads as you might expect. The more powerful Abarth model gets you better acceleration and offers a more engaging experience.

  • "The sporty Abarth version of Fiat's microcar is anything but a wallflower. From its bold side stripes and red-trimmed seats to its raucous exhaust note -- one that barks, snarls, and whistles with every gearshift -- the Fiat 500 Abarth oozes with character and stands out from the crowd, both visually and audibly. Driving it is like having dinner with boisterous relatives: loud, entertaining, and memorable." -- Consumer Reports
  • "While the base 500 is painfully slow under heavy acceleration, the high-octane Abarth offers a zippier driving experience. Unfortunately, those seeking something in the middle might be disappointed because the peppy Turbo model has been discontinued for 2017." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Even the most basic Fiat 500 is brimming with European personality. All are fun to drive, with the high-performance Abarth being among the most engaging cars in its price class. We especially love that model's throaty exhaust." -- Consumer Guide (2014)

Acceleration and Power

For 2018, all Fiat 500 models come with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission – a six-speed automatic is available. In lower trims, the engine puts out 135 horsepower. The higher-trim Abarth model receives a notable power bump, producing 157 horsepower with the automatic transmission and 160 horsepower with the manual.

According to the EPA, all models get 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway when equipped with the manual transmission and 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with the automatic. Although the Fiat 500's new standard turbocharged engine is an improvement over the base engine in older models, it still lacks excitement and does not transform this Fiat into a fast car. The Abarth model is faster, however, and more fun to drive.

  • "The hesitation on initial acceleration gets frustrating; the car works better with the manual transmission." -- Edmunds
  • "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
  • "The newly standard 135-hp turbo engine delivers a welcome punch compared to the discontinued base engine." -- Consumer Reports

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The 2018 Fiat 500e is an electric vehicle only available in select markets. It gets 121 MPGe (mile-per-gallon equivalent) in the city and 103 MPGe on the highway, and it has an 84-mile range, according to the EPA. The 500e recharges in about 24 hours when its on-board charging module is connected to a standard 120-volt outlet. Using a Level 2 charging station reduces that time to around four hours. DC fast charging capability is not available.

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

Handling and Braking

The Fiat 500 drives best in the city. It handles nicely around turns, and its small size gives it an agility best suited for urban environments. However, this car is less impressive on winding roads because of its top-heavy feeling and limited grip. Additionally, a lack of steering feedback hinders driving performance, though the car does turn precisely. The top-of-the-line Abarth model comes with performance-oriented suspension, so it feels sportier to drive.

  • "Compared to its rivals, the Abarth is less sporty on a curvy road. It feels top-heavy, and the front tires frequently wash out and struggle to regain traction. It doesn't instill confidence like its competitors." -- Edmunds
  • "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
  • "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. A very small turning circle makes parking a breeze." -- Consumer Reports
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