Fiat 500 review - fashion victim or stylish mover? - Engine and gearbox

Retro charm offensive that’s inoffensive to drive

Evo rating
Price
from £11,050
  • Retro charm, reasonably inexpensive, compact, did we say charming?
  • Too compact, a bit too charming, more fun to look at than actually drive

Engine and gearbox

The 1.2-litre four-cylinder unit has been around for a while, but it’s still a decently refined, capable engine in the 500. It represents the entry point in the range, with just 68bhp. It might have twice the cylinder count of the TwinAir’s two-cylinder specification, but the smaller 875cc engine adds a turbocharger for enhanced performance.

The result is either 84 or 104bhp, with 106lb ft of torque. That peak torque is produced low in the rev range too, which should make for a tractable engine, but for the TwinAir to deliver anything approaching its promised performance it needs lots of revs. That’s fine, but it punishes fuel consumption, turning Fiat’s economy champion into a proposition that's far thirstier than it should be.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

There's a strange pleasure in extending the twin-pot, though. The automotive journalist's favourite onomatopoeic cliché of "thrum" barely covers the unusual noise it makes - it's more akin to the staccato thudding of a parallel-twin motorcycle, with a sprinking more refinement and an amusing burble from the exhaust. It's a characterful sound inside the car (without ever getting annoying) and it's a whole lot more interesting for passers-by than a diesely clatter.

The more powerful 104bhp TwinAir comes with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, the rest making do with a five-speed transmission. If you’re after an automatic Fiat offers any of the petrol engines with the five-speed Dualogic auto, a robotised manual. We'd be inclined to avoid it unless you absolutely must have an automatic.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/supercars/201980/maserati-confirms-future-plans-as-fcapsa-flagship
supercars

Maserati confirms future plans as FCA/PSA flagship

A new electric GranTurismo, Alfieri super sports car and revenue-grabbing SUV all detailed in Maserati’s grand plan
14 Feb 2020
Visit/ford/mustang/202231/1969-ford-mustang-mach-1-given-986bhp-twin-turbocharged-v8
Ford Mustang

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 given 986bhp twin-turbocharged V8

A pair of turbochargers and a modern Coyote V8 turn this ’69 Ford Mustang into a near four-figure quarter-mile hero 
13 Feb 2020
Visit/toyota/202232/250bhp-toyota-gr-corolla-hot-hatch-in-the-pipeline
Toyota Corolla

250bhp Toyota GR Corolla hot hatch in the pipeline

Following in the footsteps of the GR Yaris homologation special, Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division is to launch a hot Corolla
13 Feb 2020
Visit/hyundai/201819/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-nurburgring
Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Nurburgring

We brought the Hyundai i30 Fastback back to its spiritual home in Germany's Eifel mountains, where there is a racing track you might well have heard o…
7 Oct 2019