Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge
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With an all-new third-generation Fiat 500 Electric grabbing the headlines, the second-generation 500 remains on sale in mild-hybrid form, offering customers who aren’t quite ready to give up on fossil fuels a final chance to indulge their fondness for its cheeky image.
On the plus side, the retro styling and wide range of customisation options are as appealing as ever, while the 500 Mild Hybrid powertrain is decently economical. The car's small size makes it easy to park, too. Unfortunately though, the car falls short in other areas, being rather impractical and not much fun to drive, factors which make it increasingly difficult to recommend to those not sold on the 500’s retro style.
Even so the 500 Mild Hybrid retains a unique character that few other cars on the road can match. Millions of sales worldwide suggests the little Fiat’s faults can be easily overlooked.
This second-generation of the Fiat 500 has had a long and successful run, which mirrors the success of the iconic original 500 sold between 1957 and 1975. Launched in 2007 and facelifted in 2016, the modern interpretation of this charismatic little car still cuts a dash as a fashionable metropolitan runabout.
Except it’s only modern up to a point, having been recently usurped by the all-new third-generation 500 Electric, which in spite of its evolutionary style is a thoroughly up-to-date re-imagining of the 500 theme that runs on batteries alone.
For fashion-conscious city car buyers unmoved by the prospect of ‘plugging in’ a new Fiat 500 Electric, the petrol-powered 500 Mild Hybrid - or 500 MHEV - remains a likeable choice.
A facelift in 2016 introduced a new infotainment system, but other flaws such as flimsy build quality, poor equipment levels and high list prices were left unaddressed.
The Fiat 500 has been for sale in dealers for almost a decade and a half. It has gone on to spawn a sporty Abarth version and the 500C convertible, while the 500X SUV and 500L MPV take the city car's styling and add practicality to the mix.
If you're buying used, we'd recommend choosing the older TwinAir two-cylinder turbo petrol engine over anything else. It's a nippy performer that suits the 500's character, with good real-world fuel economy. Second-hand options include a 1.2 petrol and a Multijet diesel too, but for new buyers this legacy model is available only with 1.0-litre three-cylinder hybrid power and a six-speed manual gearbox.
The 500 MHEV line-up still spans four trim levels though, called Pop, Connect, Dolcevita and Sport, each offering varying levels of luxury and style.
In a way, the Fiat 500 has established itself as its own niche in the new car market. It's smaller than the other retro-inspired model for sale today, the MINI, while its compact dimensions aren't quite small enough to make it a genuine city car. Prices tend to fall somewhere between the city car and supermini classes too.