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

Hyundai i30 N and i20 N axed
Hyundai i30 N and i20 N
News

Hyundai i30 N and i20 N axed

Production of petrol-powered Hyundai N hot hatches has come to an end in Europe, with electric N models picking up the baton
23 Feb 2024
Driving MST’s stunning Mk1 Ford Escort recreation – car pictures of the week
MST Mk1 Ford Escort – front
Features

Driving MST’s stunning Mk1 Ford Escort recreation – car pictures of the week

In the latest issue of evo, we get behind the wheel of the glorious MST Mk1 – here are some of our favourite shots…
18 Feb 2024
Toyota GR Yaris v Audi S1 – four-wheel-drive hatches go head-to-head
Toyota GR Yaris v Audi S1
Group tests

Toyota GR Yaris v Audi S1 – four-wheel-drive hatches go head-to-head

They’re two dinky performance cars with startlingly similar recipes, but how does the decade-old Audi S1 compare to today’s much-hyped Toyota GR Yaris…
17 Feb 2024