The latest changes only apply at this stage to the 500 Hatchback three door and 500 Convertible models although the range includes the 500L 5-seat MPV, the 500L MPW 7-seat MPV and the 500X Crossover launched this year.
The Fiat 500 name and range was resurrected eight years ago with the Hatchback and more than 1.5-million have been sold worldwide and out of that total the Fiat 500 range achieved just over 44,000 UK sales last year alone, the most sold in a single year since the new generation was re-introduced.
So what are the changes? Fiat says there are 1,800 of them but you need to be a Fiat 500 fan to spot many of them. It has new bumpers, new front and rear lights and a range of new colours, options and personalisation features.
It hasn’t grown in length but it has grown in maturity say Fiat and the changes include the hot-topic of revised Euro6 compliant improved fuel consumption and lower emission engines.
Other changes include an enhanced cabin which retains its retro feel and look, a new Uconnect infotainment system and the most sensible options include DAB radio for £100 and £350 will buy you TomTom sat-nav software plus live connected services. There is also a new range of body colours in bright and pastel shades and ‘Second Skin’ vinyl graphics customising themes to satisfy creative tastes.
All versions have LED daytime running lights, Start & Stop, remote central locking and space saver spare wheel. Pop Star additions include 15-inch alloy wheels, air-con, split folding rear seats and heated door mirrors, Lounge additions include a panoramic glass sunroof, touchscreen, Uconnect Bluetooth, front fog lights and rear parking sensors.
Engine choices, depending on the equipment/trim level chosen, are the most popular 1.2-litre 69hp four-cylinder petrol with the option for five speed manual or auto gearboxes, the 900cc TwinAir 85hp two-cylinder petrol again with manual/auto options and the TwinAir 900cc petrol 105hp with a manual six-speed gearbox.
A MultiJet diesel engine will become available in time for 2016 sales. Currently the best Combined Cycle fuel economy comes from the 85hp TwinAir manual and is officially shown as 74.3mpg. The lowest CO2 emissions are 88g/km from the same engine but with the auto gearbox.
Both the Hatchback and Convertible models are available with Pop, Pop Star and the most popular Lounge specification with prices for the Hatchback starting from £10,890 and rising to £14,420 and the Convertible from £13,540 to £17,070. If you delve into the options and personalisation goodies it will significantly add to these standard on-the-road prices.
With the 1.2 petrol unit costing £1,300 less than the 900cc TwinAir unit you can see why the 1.2-litre unit is chosen by 80% of UK buyers. The TwinAir might be better for fuel economy with lower emission levels but the lower purchase cost of the 1.2-litre unit is in reality more appealing.
Fiat UK chose to make available only the 900cc TwinAir unit for us media types to try at the press event. The exact version was the Hatchback TwinAir 105hp unit with Lounge specification which costs £14,420 but with options this test car was priced at £16,340. Some of the additional kit items included 16-inch alloy wheels at £180, leather upholstery at £780, auto climate control at £270, Bi-xenon headlights at £610, electric sunroof costing £260, DAB radio and TomTom navigation at £350, pastel shade Glam Coral paint at £300 and Second Skin Scottie roof graphics at £460 and body stripes added another £110 to the inflated price.
Over its eight years of life the current Fiat 500 has received improvements to its handling refinement so the latest version also has a slightly more refined ride. It seemed more stable and less unsettled by poor road surfaces but there is still bodyroll during cornering and the road-roar from the tyres was very noticeable. The handling though was agile and ideal for driving around town. The steering remains sharp but still lacking in feel and the Sport button just added weight to the steering but with no more feed-back to the driver.
One of the issues with the 900cc TwinAir two-cylinder engine has been the relatively poor real-life fuel economy. With this engine, because of its two cylinders, the fuel consumption is more affected by the driving conditions and weight carried than a more responsive four cylinder petrol unit. Officially this version of the Fiat 500 has a Combined Cycle figure of 67.3mpg and on my brief test driving using the Hampshire country roads the real life figure was 46.4mpg. With the all-important CO2 figure of 99g/km VED road tax is nil cost with insurance guide of Group 10.
It produces 145Nm of torque at 2,000rpm which is enough to give good low to medium speed punch and a fair amount of flexibility driving in and around busy traffic. On the open road it performs best if the driver takes note of the gearchange driving prompts. It isn’t the usual case of changing gear when the engine revs sound right as found with engines with more cylinders. Considerable use has to be made of the six-speed gearbox to keep in tune with these gearchange prompts and the long throw gearlever doesn’t help. No doubt the latest Fiat 500 has improved its charms, it’s fresh and fun but still expensive, but that hasn’t stopped it becoming a hot-seller.
New Fiat 500 Hatchback, Lounge 0.9 TwinAir 105hp manual £14,420 (£16,340 as tested).
Engine/transmission, 900cc, twin-cylinder petrol, 105hp, 145Nm of torque at 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 117mph, 0-62mph 10.0-seconds, 67.3mpg Combined Cycle (46.4mpg on test), CO2 99g/km, VED £0. Insurance group: 10.
Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles, boot space 185-litres.
For: Subtle updates keep it fresh and desirable as the UK’s best selling City Car.
Against: Improved ride comfort but still has its handling limitations, steering lacks feedback, personalisation options can make it expensive.