The Fiat 500 has a long-standing history that stretches back to the 1930s. Once known as the Topolino, the city car has seen several iterations, which has cemented the vehicle’s design as an Italian classic.
Despite the ongoing success of its stylish A-segment car, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has a new challenge on its hands – the manufacturer has been put under a lot of scrutiny by global organisations and governments to develop more eco-friendly vehicles. Step forward the Fiat 500 Hybrid, a small-sized Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) that shares all the DNA strands of its pure gasoline sibling.
If you’d prefer to watch a review of the Fiat 500 Hybrid, head on over to our YouTube channel.
Fiat 500 Hybrid price & competition
The Fiat 500 Hybrid is available in a multitude of trim levels, they follow the same naming structure as the non-electrified models. At the time of writing, the cheapest Fiat 500 is the 1.0-litre ‘Pop’ Hybrid that starts from £13,020; it’s £630 cheaper than the 1.2-litre Dualogic pure gasoline variant.
The prices of the trim levels are as follows – in brackets is the price of the non-hybrid equivalent:
- Pop: £13,020 (£13,650)
- Lounge: £14,750 (£15,380)
- Sport: £14,920 (£15,550)
- Star: £16,250 (£16,880)
- Rockstar: £16,420 (£17,050)
- Launch Edition: £17,150
All the mild-hybrid models come with the same 52 kW (70hp), 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, while all non-MHEV models house a 1.2-litre 51 kW (69hp) four-cylinder petrol engine, instead. The latter, on average, emits between 10-20g/km of more CO2 into the air in comparison to the equivalent MHEV.
As standard, the ‘Pop’ comes with 14″ steel wheel covers, electronically adjustable mirrors, DAB radio with USB, and LED daytime running lights.
The ‘Lounge’ adds a 7″ HD touchscreen infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay suppoprt, cruise control, fixed sunroof, rear parking sensors fog lights, 15″ alloys, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Move up to the ‘Star’, and you’ll get a 7″ TFT instrument cluster, a chrome kit that stems around the vehicle, 16″ alloys, automatic climate controls, and 3D Navigation maps on the infotainment system.
The ‘Sport’ trim has a sporty spoiler, side skirts and chrome exhaust fitted as standard at the expense of the fixed sunroof, 7″ TFT instrument cluster, automatic climate controls and 16″ alloys – opting for 15″ alloys, instead.
The ‘Rockstar’ is an amalgamation of all of the above and adds dark tinted rear windows and a chrome kickplate. The ‘Launch Edition’ is somewhat similar.
When it comes to its competitors, there are plenty of MHEVs and hybrid vehicles on the market. Focusing only on all-electric cars, you have the following city-based vehicles to consider: the roomy Renault Zoe starts from £26,995, the Nissan Leaf starts from £26,845; the tech-focused Honda e at £26,660; the equally stylish Mini Electric at £24,900; the bite-sized Volkswagen e-up! starts from £20,555 with its near-identical sibling, the Seat Mii Electric, coming in at £19,800; and the cheapest and most compact EV on the market, the Smart fortwo coupé, will set you back £17,550.
Fiat 500 Hybrid exterior review
Despite facing fierce competition from its rivals, the Fiat 500 remains one of the most iconic city cars in the world. Of course, this matter is subjective, but we feel it’s a staple of Italian design – from its circular headlights and soft edges around the bumper to its sporty side profile and cute rear boot, the Fiat 500 Hybrid is certainly easy on the eyes.
It’s also available in numerous colours; in metallic – a £550 option: Avantgarde Bordeaux, Crossover Black, Electroclash Grey, Groove Metal Grey and the pictured, Epic Blue. In pastel – a £350 option: Bossa Nova White, Glam Coral, Pasodoble Red, Smooth Mint, Tech House Grey. Finally, in a special tricoat paint, there’s Urban White as a £750 option, too.
It is worth knowing, however, that the Fiat 500 Hybrid isn’t available as a five-door hatch (such as the Fiat 500L Cross) and remains as a three-door vehicle, only; therefore, it isn’t as well-suited as the Renault Zoe for practicality.
Read next: Mini Electric review: Style over substance?
Fiat 500 Hybrid interior review
Much like the exterior, the interior feels as if it’s been blessed by an Italian designer. From the embossed ‘500’ badge on the dashboard, to the chrome finish that stems all around the cabin. Even the seats have a part to play, where they look like they’ve been cut out from a fashion shoot – very à la mode.
In terms of practicality, the car is extremely easy to use: there are buttons lined at the centre of the dashboard and media controls found on the steering wheel. You will also notice a gear stick – the hybrid mode is, at the time of writing, available only in a manual transmission. It’s a shame not to see an automatic option for aspiring buyers, as there are some individuals that won’t want to faff around with the clutch pedal.
As for technology, there’s a 7″ HD touchscreen poised at the top of the dashboard – at least on the Lounge model on review. Through the infotainment system, one can tailor a few of the vehicle’s settings and access media. Here, the car supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, making it even easier to navigate and integrate one’s music library.
In terms of audio, the Fiat 500 Hybrid has a six-speaker audio system. If you’d like to hear how it performs, head on over to our YouTube channel for the dedicated audio review of the stock system.
Elsewhere, physical dials are used to represent the rev counter and speedometer, which are located in the instrument cluster. You can opt for a digital TFT display as a £275 option or find it as standard in the ‘Star’ trim or above. Interacting with the small LCD display on the non-digitalised instrument cluster can be achieved via the levers located behind the steering wheel.
Fiat 500 Hybrid storage review
When it comes to storage within the cabin, it’s unsurprisingly limited. The small-sized car has limited capacity. Two cupholders, which reside next to a 12V cigarette lighter and two USB sockets can be found under the gear knob. Here, you’ll also find a small compartment for a smartphone and a physical handbrake. Further down the centre console, there are two additional cupholder spaces. There are small compartments on both the front doors too, but these won’t fit anything larger than a wallet or a slim-line purse.
As for the boot, it’s extremely limited. There’s only 185 litres of space at your disposal and with the seats down this figure increases to 550 litres. Making it too compact to transport larger goods or a mountain bike.
By comparison, almost all of its all-electric rivals offer more space: Nissan Leaf (435/1,176 litres); Renault Zoe (338/1,225 litres); VW e-up! (251/951 litres); Seat Mii Electric (251/923 litres); Mini Electric (211/731); Honda e (171/571 litres); Smart fortwo coupé (260/350 litres).
Fiat 500 Hybrid comfort review
The limited amount of cabin space does have a negative impact on comfort. At the back, 6-foot (182cm) individuals won’t have enough headroom or legroom. At the front, this is a non-issue with adjustable seats, however, taller sized individuals will find themselves in great discomfort if they’re doing long journeys.
Due to the front seats’ design, they only push the rear portion of the seat downwards, rather than the entire frame; this results in leg and knee pain after a two-hour drive. Frankly, it’s a poor experience.
On the plus side, the seats are comfy for short commutes and keep you planted when driving around country roads at speed. Cabin noise is present, as the front-mounted engine sits quite close to front occupants, and road noise creeps in from the tyres.
Fiat 500 Hybrid performance review
Speaking of which, the Fiat 500 Hybrid is fun to drive around the city. Its nimble design makes it a breeze to weave in and out of traffic. It’s also got a tight turning circle, making for easy manoeuvres.
In terms of raw performance, the accelerator pedal is unsurprisingly responsive for a vehicle that houses a manual transmission. Shiting gears is simple enough with the use of the clutch pedal and the six-speed gearbox is quick to respond to input.
Fiat claims the 1.0-litre three-cylinder 500 Hybrid will get to 62mph from a standstill in 13.8s, 0.9s slower than the 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine. Depending on how fast you can shift, we recorded a 0-60mph time of 12.17s using Racelogic’s Vbox Sport on a wet private road. Top speed on the Hybrid is limited to 104 mph, a slither more than the pure gasoline variant.
As the petrol engine isn’t assisted by an electric motor, you get a measly 90 Nm of torque at 6000 rpm. By comparison, the Seat Mii Electric has 212 Nm of readily available torque; making for a quicker getaway at the lights.
But, that’s not the biggest drawback of the Fiat 500 Hybrid, it’s the vehicle’s eco-credentials. Fiat’s use of ‘Hybrid’ shouldn’t be misconstrued with Plug-in Hybrids, such as the BMW 330e M Sport Touring that can achieve up to 37 miles on pure electric power or even mild hybrid vehicles that house a large battery pack.
The small-sized Italian car relies solely on an 11Ah battery pack, which means it chops through its cells extremely quickly. As a result, there’s no way of driving the vehicle in an all-electric mode; there’s no EV range and energy is recouped back into the battery when the car is coasting. Indeed, to recoup energy Fiat recommends popping the car into Neutral when you’re coming to a stop. Not what we’d recommend from a safety point of view, as you’ve got less control of the vehicle when it’s disengaged.
Worse still, in our tests, the Fiat 500 Hybrid recouped less than 0.80 kWh of energy back into the battery pack after a 70-mile drive in mixed road conditions. That’s poor, but yet unsurprising given the sheer nature of the vehicle’s regenerative method.
In terms of fuel efficiency, our tests yielded 48 miles per gallon (MPG) under mixed driving conditions. Given the size of the vehicle and its engine capacity, this figure isn’t overly surprising.
As for safety, aside from the coasting method that is suggested, the vehicle has rear parking sensors in the ‘Lounge’ trim or above, which make it easier to reverse into a space. Unfortunately, a rear camera isn’t an option. There’s cruise control that can be deployed via a flick of a lever, although, it’s not dynamic so you’ll have to pay attention to road signs. In terms of crash testing, the 2017 petrol model tested by Euro NCAP scored 3/5 stars – we suspect the 500 Hybrid would fare a similar result.
TotallyEV’s verdict on the Fiat 500 Hybrid
On the whole, the Fiat 500 Hybrid, is in many ways, a check box for the FCA Group. It lowers CO2 emissions by a mere 10-20g/km and thus constitutes to greener credentials for the manufacturer. However, for road users and the environment, the MHEV doesn’t add much to the bigger picture – it’s still wholly reliant on a lazy 1.0-litre petrol engine.
Putting its eco-credentials to one side, the Fiat 500 Hybrid doesn’t offer the same level of excitement when it comes to driving nor the level of practicality as its rivals or technology either. The only thing going for it, at least in our eyes, is its iconic Italian design.