One of the smallest cars on the road evokes a certain flavor

2016 Fiat 500 Easy Hatchback Review

A playful and fun option for those in the city

By: Wade Thiel

Web2Carz Senior Staff Writer

Published: April 11th, 2016

The Fiat 500 Easy Hatchback competes with cars like the Mini Hardtop, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark and Smart ForTwo when it comes to diminutive hatchbacks. This group of cars focuses on a quirky kind of fun with a small footprint that's perfect for city driving, and within the confines of those parameters, the Fiat 500 is a major contender. Take a look at small cars that don't necessarily fit the eccentric mold, however, and you're likely to find much more practical options, albeit less chic and eye-catching.

We took this tiny tot of a car out on the roads for a week to see what this distinct flavor was all about. Less of a practical hatchback and more of a fun small car in which to zip around town, the Fiat 500 is now a normal presence on American roads, having overcome the initial threshold of cuteness when it first arrived.

  • Driving Impressions

    Before driving it, we figured the Fiat 500 Easy Hatchback's diminutive size would make us feel like an ant trying not to get smashed by the much larger SUVs and crossovers on the road, but once we climbed inside the little Italian car, we realized it has a presence all its own. You'll certainly be noticed. While the car does feel a bit go-kart-like, the fact that it's so pinned down to the road and stable at almost any speed inspires a lot of confidence. Even on the highway we felt much more confident than we expected, although more power would have been nice. It was only when taking on the worst kept city streets and highways that the Fiat 500 felt uneasy - this thing doesn't like bumps or road imperfections.

    Much of the 500's abhorrence to cracks, broken concrete or the occasional deep set manhole cover comes from its short wheelbase (90.6 liches), it's difficult to make a car handle bumps well when the axles sit so close together. Luckily the car is nimble enough to avoid most road hazards.

    • Ride Quality: Bumps can be a bit jarring in the little 500, and while the suspension does its best to walk a line between sporty and comfortable, it's hard to do much to really mitigate bumps with such a short vehicle.
    • Steering: The 500's precise steering is one of its best attributes and it provides good road feel. Also, the car's tight turning radius makes it ideal for maneuvering into and out of small city parking spaces.
    • Acceleration: Lackluster even in the higher revving sport mode - forget about easily passing people on the highway. Throttle response is decent, with little delay.
    • Braking: Progressive braking with good pedal feel make slowing down or stopping the 500 a breeze.
    • Handling: A short wheelbase and a light curb weight help inspire confidence when maneuvering this little car.

  • Technology & Safety

    Technology isn't lacking in the 500, but what's there doesn't make this car seem like something of the future. The little car doesn't have some of the amenities many drivers have become accustom to, like parking sensors and a rearview camera - although backing up a car this small is never difficult. It also features a tiny touchscreen display that worked well but is barely larger (only by .3 inches) than a standard iPhone 6 display.

    Infotainment system aside, the 500 comes equipped with remote keyless entry, a digital gauge cluster, and steering wheel controls. The car also comes with a couple USB ports, 12-volt auxiliary and voice command with Bluetooth.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The 5-inch touchscreen's resolution is good but not great and can sometimes look just a bit fuzzy. While screen resolution isn't spectacular, the system functioned well with minimal loading times and responsive controls.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Paring a phone was easy, although we did experience the need to reconnect a couple times upon reentry
    • Voice/Sound Quality: The Beats sound system is a major plus in this little car, and the big speaker in the trunk of the car can really blast out some clear sound when the volume is cranked up. Voice calls were another matter, with sound quality on calls being sub-par compared with music.
    • Controls: Simplistic and easy to use. You can go from the infotainment home screen to anywhere within the system in just a few movements. The rest of the car also features simple buttons for driving modes, windows, climate controls, cruise control and voice command initiation.
    • Safety: Standard anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tire monitoring, hill-start assist and front, side and side-curtain airbags.

  • Exterior Design and Styling

    The Easy trim level is new for 2016, but the exterior of the 500 remains largely unchanged. It is still the cute little car it was when it debuted stateside in 2011. It has an upright almost boxy style that is modern, yet reminiscent of the old model. Its small proportions and round headlights up front help drive home that this is indeed the modern version of the tiny, iconic Italian coupe.

    • Front: Like a little Italian mustache, the chrome accents to either side of the Fiat emblem add a little style to the front end, and the small round headlights help complete a cute and charming face.
    • Rear: The rear of the car gets wider as your eyes travel from the roof of the car down. The subtle chrome accent just under the Fiat emblem and the rectangular taillights make for a clean, almost too simplistic rear end.
    • Profile: More streamlined than the car it's derived from, the 500 manages to keep the iconic shape of the classic Fiat 500.

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    The cloth seats in the car are reasonably comfortable, but on longer drives would probably be a little too cramped for someone larger than average. They provide a decent amount of bolstering, which comes in handy when you're whipping around tight corners. Our only real complaint were the little round headrests with extremely stiff padding.

    The ergonomics in the 500 are decent, but could use some work. Despite the interiors simplicity, few things were completely comfortable and easy to use. The window controls were in the center of the dash, the USB, and auxiliary charging near the floor. Also, the steering wheel tilts but just not quite enough and could really do with telescoping so you don't have to reach.

    • Front Seats: Supportive and reasonably well-bolstered, although they could use some additional adjustment (lumbar support) to make the car better for longer trips.
    • Rear Seats: Similar support to front seats, but almost no legroom or headroom.
    • Visibility: It is very easy to see out the front, back or sides of the 500 and because the wheelbase is so short, there are virtually no blind spots.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    Cargo room in a car this small is, of course, minimal. There simply isn't much room to work with, but that doesn't mean it doesn't try. The rear seats come in handy for anything that won't fit in the trunk area, but try to cram anyone back there and we wish you luck. The folding rear seats do make it easier to load up the car with items you never thought would fit in there, but don't look to make any seriously long trips with this car, because you'll end up buying disposable stuff just to get through it all.

    • Storage: Glovebox and cup holders are adequate. Door pockets aren't too big but useful for small items. Beyond that, there isn't much else.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: The trunk is small but suitable for groceries or a weekend bag and if you need more space, there is always the option to fold down the rear seats.

  • Final Impressions

    Fiat's 500 is a stylish, small car that delivers an enjoyable but not all that exhilarating experience. While it warrants a top place among quirky, stylish coupes, when compared with other, more practical small cars, like the Fort Fiesta, Chevy Sonic or the Honda Fit (which are cheaper), the Fiat 500 has to rely on its looks and precise steering to stand out. Still, it is a good option for the right person.

    Urbanites who want stylish, small-car transportation can't do much better than the 500. It's eye-catching, interesting and retro-inspired exterior is something everyone notices no matter where you go.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 1.4-liter I4 MultiAir

    Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

    Drivetrain/Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 101 hp, 98 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 27 city / 34 highway

    Base Price: $17,745

    As Tested: $21,290 (incl. $995 destination)

    Standard Features: Advanced Multistage Front Airbags, Supplemental Front Seat-Mounted Side Airbags, Supplemental Side-Curtain Front Airbags, Driver Inflatable Knee-Bolster Airbag, Front Seat Reactive Head Restraints, LATCH Ready Child Seat Anchor System, 4-Wheel Anti-Lock Disc Power Brakes, Electronic Stability Control, Tire Specific Pressure Monitoring Display, Hill Start Assist, Power Door Locks, Remote Keyless Entry, Speed Control, Rear Window Wiper / Washer, 10-Gallon Fuel Tank, Engine Immobilizer, Uconnect 5.0, 5.0-inch Touchscreen Display, Integrated Voice Command with Bluetooth, Rearview Mirror with Microphone, Media Hub in Center Console, USB port in Glovebox, Premium 7-inch Color Cluster Display, Electronic Vehicle Information Center, FIAT Premium Audio System, Power Windows with Front One-Touch-Down Feature, 12-volt Auxiliary Power Outlet in Center Console, Leather-Wrapped steering Wheel, Steering Wheel Mounted Audio Controls Tilt Steering Column, Urethane Shift Knob, Premium Cloth Bucket Seats, Driver Seat Memory, Passenger Seat Memory, Driver Seat Height Adjuster, Front Floor Mats, Rear 50/50 Split Fold-Down Seat, Air Conditioner, 15-inch x 6-inch Aluminum Wheels, 185/55R15 Tires, Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor Bi-Function Halogen Projector Headlamps, Body-Color Power Heated Mirrors, Tinted Glass Windows, chrome Exhaust Tip, tire Service Kit (No Compact Spare)

    Options on our test vehicle: Easy Collection 2: SiriusXM Sat Radio w/ 1-Yr Radio Subscription, Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror w/Microphone, Auto Temp Control Air Conditioning w/Micron Filter, Beats Premium Audio System, Nero / Grigio (Black / Grey) Seats, 6-Speed Automatic Transmission

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