What’s it like?
In hectic, stop-start Turin traffic the extra assistance provided by the diminutive electric motor is only just discernible, but is welcome nonetheless. Coupled with sensibly-weighted pedals and a light – if a little slushy – manual gear change, the process of getting the naturally-aspirated 500 Mild Hybrid off the line smoothly is a doddle.
Progress from there on in isn’t rapid, though, and you really need to thrash the engine in order to make meaningful progress. So it’s a good thing it seems pretty content with the idea of being revved out, and the noise it makes on an open throttle isn’t too bad either. The 500 has been criticised in the past for being a bit noisy under load, and next to the likes of the Volkswagen Up is probably still a bit on the loud side. But it’s hardly deafening, and is unlikely to dissuade anyone who’s sold on the looks to make a quick exit from their local Fiat dealer.
The same probably applies to its ride and handling. The Volkswagen Group cars are more well-rounded and polished next to the at-times lumpy 500, but it’s still a strangely endearing car to drive. The steering is a bit vague and entirely lacking in feel, body roll is relatively pronounced and front-end grip far from limitless – but the fact remains that the Fiat feels like it’s trying really hard to impress you. And to be honest, this eager-to-please character does go some way to helping you at least partially forgive some of its more obvious dynamic flaws.
The cabin feels as style-driven as ever, with seats upholstered in material fashioned out of recycled plastic providing a fitting nod to the 500’s new eco-credentials. The driving position is still pretty terrible, mind: a lack of adjustability in the seat base means taller drivers sit very close to the roof and bent-legged over the pedals.