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.

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.

Most Popular

2022 BMW M3 Touring teased ahead of reveal
2022 BMW M3 Touring
BMW M3

2022 BMW M3 Touring teased ahead of reveal

BMW has released new images of its upcoming M3 Touring before it reaches customers next year
24 Sep 2021
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up
Porsche 911 GTS review (992) – front cornering
Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up

Two and a half years after the launch of the 992, the GTS treatment both adds and subtracts but does the result gel on the road?
21 Sep 2021
Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022

First examples of the new Lotus Emira will roll off the production line early next year, with the entry-level four-cylinder to follow
20 Sep 2021