Powering all Pop models is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 101 horsepower.
Sixty years on from the introduction of the Nuova Cinquecento, the 2017 Fiat 500 Pop is one of the smallest cars money can buy today. At 3,546 millimetres (139.6 inches) in length, its stubby dimensions make for an easy-to-drive urban runabout that can be parked and slotted in just about anywhere. Following the hallowed model produced from 1957 to 1975, the modern version is also a funky looking retro hatchback that could best be described as “cute”. Recently, a Bright Metallic Blue 500 found its way into the DoubleClutch.ca garage for a week on test.
Starting at a base price of $19,245, the base Pop trim doesn’t quite come standard with a whole lot of equipment. There’s a 5-inch UConnect touch screen infotainment system that’s fairly intuitive to use and features Bluetooth connectivity and six speakers. Beyond that, it steering wheel mounted audio controls, and that’s about it. The Bright Metallic Blue itself is $195, air conditioning is $1,300, and SiriusXM satellite radio is $375. With an as-tested price of $21,115, the 500 Pop isn’t particularly cheap, but it seems to be a case of form over function here. The good news is that as of this writing, there are several thousand dollars off in incentives straight from Fiat-Chrysler themselves.
Powering all Pop models is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque. While not a lot of power, there’s not a lot of weight to move, and the 500 moves around well enough when pushed. There’s a lack of low-end torque however, and it takes either patience or excessive downshifting in order to effectively merge and pass in traffic. The test car was equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, and an optional (for $1,495) six-speed automatic may help things along with an extra ratio to choose from.
The manual gearbox is a relatively refined piece to use, with a positive feeling shifter and a very easily modulated clutch. The drive by wire throttle setup is also very well calibrated, and allows for smooth launches and linear inputs. With the aforementioned low end torque deficit, downshifting is easy, and makes city driving all the more fun and engaging. While you may not go anywhere in a hurry in the 101-horsepower Fiat, you’ll have plenty of fun in the process.
With its small dimensions and small engine, good fuel economy comes fairly naturally in the 500. City consumption is rated at 7.7L/100KM, and highway driving is good for 6.1L/100KM. After a week of testing, observed fuel economy was 6.8L/100KM. On extended highway trips, with a trained right foot, it may be possible to do better than the rated numbers. Fuel tank capacity is 40 litres, and feeding the Fiat regular fuel will do just fine.
Behind the wheel, although the 500 is small and light, handling wasn’t particularly the strongest suit. The little Italian hatchback braked well and responded eagerly to inputs, it quickly lost confidence as it began to turn the corner. Steering was light and lacked feedback, and the suspension didn’t keep the car as planted as it should. Some underdamping in the shock absorbers also made it feel like it was wallowing about going over larger road imperfections at higher speeds. Part of this may be due to the low-rent all season tires on 15-inch steel wheels; optional 16-inch alloy units with better tires should help here. This is particularly unlike the Fiat’s British cute-car competitor, the MINI Cooper, which is about as good as front-drive handling gets.
On the inside, interior fit and finish is about right for a car in this class and price range, and the blue dash panel matches the exterior paint. Stripes matching the Italian flag are a neat touch on the seatbacks, and the whole cabin gives off a retro vibe that borders on getting too chintzy. There’s a folding armrest for the driver, but there is no centre console storage to speak of. The ergonomics are a little bit funky; the gauge cluster information centre is a bit confusing to operate, the air conditioning control is counterintuitive when it comes to showing whether it’s switched on or off, and the power door locks are hidden by pushing the door handles. Consider it a bit of Italian flair typical to cars from the likes of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Engine noise isolation is good, but wind and road noise get a little bit loud at speed. Seat comfort is middle of the road with hard, flat front seats, and good luck fitting any person with legs in the back seat. That said, cargo space is reasonable with the rear seats folded down and the tiny privacy covered removed – four large 19-inch tires were able to be swallowed up in the 500 for transport, but expect it to become a one-passenger car at that point.
Having been around for nearly a decade worldwide, the 2017 Fiat 500 Pop is starting to show a bit of its age in terms of refinement and handling. At full retail price before the ongoing factory incentives, it isn’t as competitive as other small cars such as the Nissan Micra (reviewed here) or Chevrolet Spark, but it also carries a lot of charm that the others simply don’t have. It’s not the best performer from a spirited driving perspective, but still manages to be very fun in its own right, at its own pace. For these reasons, much of this car is purchased for emotional reasons, and the good news here is that it’s not a totally irrational choice.