2015 was a big year for the Fiat 500. Not only did it get a update, but the iconic Italian city car reached the historic 1.5 million production milestone – an impressive tally in little more than eight years.
Available as a hatchback or convertible, some 240,000 have found a home in the UK and it’s sold in more than 100 countries around the world.
With the original still selling incredibly well, it’s no wonder Fiat decided to go for a relatively mild makeover. In fact, it’s so subtle that apart from the 65 onwards plates and slightly larger rear light clusters, it’s a struggle to tell the old and new versions apart.
The reality is that there are more changes than meet the eye.
Highlights include a revised front end featuring new headlamps and LED daytime running lights, more standard equipment, better infotainment and even more personalisation options.
I tested the new Fiat 500 in top spec Lounge trim (there’s also Pop and Pop Star below it) with the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engine.
The 500 range starts at £10,890, though my car would set you back £14,420 basic or £16,995 with all the options including including leather interior, electric sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels and red brake callipers.
Thankfully I can report that the 500 is as cute as ever – and just as much fun to drive.
Slip inside and the cabin is still comfortable and reassuringly retro – and it feels much roomier than you might think. Even though the big steering wheel won’t adjust for reach, the driving position is a little high and it’s tight in the rear, the tiny 500 is still a masterpiece of packaging.
Powered by a turbocharged 875cc 105hp TwinAir engine (so called because it’s just two cylinders), this is a dinky car that can certainly shift. With a top speed of 117mph, it can reach 62mph in 11 seconds.
Indeed, press the big Sport button on the console and the instrument dial lights up, while the steering becomes more responsive.
The engine is more high revving than most, while the sporty “thrum” adds to the fun.
City driving in the 500 is a joy, thanks to its light steering and compact dimensions (357cm long, 163cm wide and 149cm tall).
Driving on country roads is cool too with plenty of grip and controlled body lean in corners. It can even hold its own on motorways, though the hard-working little engine and compact cabin don’t make it ideal for cruising over long distances.
Interior revisions include the new Uconnect infotainment system (touchscreen on the Lounge) which is easier to read, more intuitive to use and features improved connectivity and functionality.
It’s not the biggest screen and it’s a fair old reach even with my long arms, but it does the job.
Where the new 500 scores highly is in the personalisation stakes – there are now more colour options and combinations than ever.
It’s safe too. The original car achieved a maximum five star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
There are also some very tempting PCP and PCH deals out there, meaning new Fiat 500 ownership is available from as little as £99 a month.
And, in theory, the 0.9-litre enigne is capable of 67mpg and emits just 99g/km of CO2 (meaning it qualifies for £0 road tax). The reality is that I achieved closer to 40-45mpg, though that was in mixed driving, much of it on the motorway.
Verdict: The Fiat 500 is better than ever and can still hold its own against some formidable rivals including the VW Up!, Peugeot 108, Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Skoda Citigo. Quirky, entertaining and practical, I’m convinced another at least another 1.5 million Fiat 500s will find happy homes over the next eight years.