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Fiat 500 Hybrid REVIEW – A Must Buy?

This is a Fiat 500 Hybrid review (car specs here) of the rental I had for 5 days and 900 miles. I’m going to cover fuel economy, engine performance, cornering & braking, the seats, driving position and most important of all, why you would buy one.

Where Did I Go?

I picked the car up from Stansted airport and drove it directly to West Wales in below average weather conditions (wet & windy). I then spent 2 days driving it around Wales on motorways, towns, country roads and single-track lanes. After that it was a schlep to Oxfordshire, via the A40 (legendary road), M50 M42, M40, where it was stationary for two days before being driven back to Stansted airport on the M40, M25, M11.

All in all, I think I covered pretty much every road surface the UK has to offer and every type of road.



Fiat 500 Hybrid Review – Good Points

Let get to the good stuff first.

In the first three gears (the other gears will be covered later), the car was peppy enough for what it is.

The engine made a nice sound.

The interior was okay.

The handling was great, loads of grip, flat cornering, basically a lot of fun on the twisties.

Fiat 500 Hybrid Review – Bad Points

And now for the not so good stuff.

High speed stability was probably the worst I’ve ever experienced at normal motorway speeds, the car seemed to get blow about a lot at 60MPH plus, it needed constant slight steering inputs to keep it straight. This got tiring and a bit annoying. And the worst part was that it was happening where you wouldn’t expect it. Driving across the Severn bridge with a strong wind blowing, I’d say it coped like a normal car, drive through a cutting where you’d expect it to calm down the issue was the same.

The other gears, 4th, 5th, the car could struggle. 6th was a complete waste of time unless you were on a completely flat piece of road. A slight hill and I was changing down.

The hybrid system, honestly, I couldn’t tell if it was doing anything at all, only the battery indicator on the dash indicated it’s state of charge. Sometimes it would surprise me with the vim it had pulling from 60MPH to 70 but there was no indication to tell you what the electric motor was doing. I was left wondering if I was imagining the extra power or if something was actually happening. A simple display to tell you what the motor doing would have made a huge difference to the driving experience.

Fuel economy, considering the amount of motorway miles (I’d say 90% of the 900 miles), the Fiat 500 Hybrid only returned around 41MPG. I have access to a Ford Focus 1.6, 2001 model, and I’d say for the same type of driving, that car would probably get around 38MPG and be a big step ahead when it comes to power and space. In short, I’d expect at least 45MPG from such a small car. Again, I was left wondering what the hybrid system was doing and when. Considering the price of LED display these days, not to have information about the electric motor is bordering on unforgivable. When you’re paying extra to have the hybrid system but aren’t sure if it does anything, that is a problem.

The Really Bad Stuff

And now for the deal breakers.

I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to car seats, I’ve got on with every one I’ve sat in. Until I drove the Fiat 500. This car made my lower back ache. I’m sure it was something to do with the backrest. The base of the seat on the other hand, no problem. But back ache is not something I can tolerate.

The centre console encroached onto my knee space with a plastic corner just the right height to hit the bone. Okay, this wasn’t a deal breaker but it was another uneccessary annoyance.

The steering wheel was however, another deal breaker. Adjusts up and down but this changed the angle of the wheel too much for my liking. At it’s highest setting, the top of the wheel was noticeable further away than the bottom. And there was no reach adjustments which meant my legs were bent a lot with my arms quite outstretched. And to cap it all, the infotainement system screen was a reach ie I had to lean forward to get to it.

In short it was an uncomfortable car to drive with bad ergonomics.

Fiat 500 Hybrid Review – Wrap Up

The Fiat 500 Hybrid comes so close to being a highly recommended car. It’s a ton of fun to drive on winding roads and around town and the engine has character (in the first three gears).

But it’s completely let down by the seat and by the lack of adjustment in the steering wheel. If the seat was better and the steering wheel allowed you to get a good position, I’d have said it was a buy, if you didn’t do a lot of motorway miles. But these two things, which I think could be easily fixed, make it a no-go. I think you’d really have to be in love with the looks to go with it over something like a Ford Fiesta.

It’s a crying shame that such a basically good car is ruined by two stupid things.

How Fiat could sabotage their best-selling car this way is beyond me. I can understand people being seduced by the looks, but how many people replace their Fiat 500 with another one? Gone are the days when a car could have obvious and major flaws and still sell, generation after generation.

Conclusion

So close to greatness but the Fiat 500 Hybrid ends up as a definite no. I can overlook the high speed stability issues, the lack of go in 4th, 5th and 6th, I can look past the high seating position and I can look past the dodgy ergonomics because on a twisty road the car is so much fun. But what I can’t live with is an uncomfortable driving position and a bad back.

There are much better cars out there which are almost as fun to drive but without the major flaws of the 500. Only buy the Fiat 500 Hybrid for it’s looks with the knowledge you’re going to have to make some big sacrifices comfort wise.

Find performance parts on ebay




This page was last modified Feb 22, 2024 @ 6:41 pm

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