Entry price: $16,245
Price as tested: $22,110
This week, we drive the 2019 Fiat 500 Pop, the short wheelbase subcompact from the folks at Fiat Chrysler. Built in Toluca, Mexico, the 500 relies on an engine built in Italy and a transmission assembled in Japan, making this 500 a true multi-national foreign car. Fiat promotes its little two-door as a vehicle “packed with good looks from front to back.” Available are the traditional Italian style hardtop hatchback or for those who love open-air driving a slide-back soft-top Cabrio.
Our tester arrived in low-cost Pop hardtop motif, but we want to let readers know that Fiat 500 efforts also include larger 500X models in addition to its sub-compact two-door. These larger 500’s come with four-doors and offer more room for both passengers and cargo.
With an entry of just $16,245, however, it’s the small two-door 500 Pop we concentrate on this week, as Fiat consumers can enjoy a neat little car that’s good for maneuvering heavy city traffic and is a breeze to park in just about any situation. Thus, our tester is clearly a fun to drive machine loaded with Fiat personality and amenities. It is officially classified as a mini-compact by the EPA.
Under the hood sits a 1.4-liter Multi Air Turbocharged four-cylinder putting out 135 horses and 150 lb. ft. of torque. The engine powers the little Pop with a good degree of low RPM zip, and when connected to the heavy duty paddle shift six-speed automatic transmission, owners can expect zero to 60 mph in a tad over nine seconds. If you enjoy shifting, a five-speed manual is standard on the less expensive 500 model. Estimated EPA numbers for the automatic is 24 city and 32 highway, good but not great for this class car. The manual comes in at 28 city and 33 highway, much better than the automatic.
During our week long test, the 500 Pop attracted attention from the younger crowd, including those who don’t even have their license yet. So, if fun driving, small format and low cost are your main objectives, a Fiat 500 might well fit your needs. Additionally, you will surely be noticed when you head up the street driving a Fiat 500 regardless of the age group of onlookers.
A major reason for the car’s popularity lies in Fiat’s sports car racing lineage, which dates back to 1957 and its success in the small bore racing category with its Abarth model. Fiat also has a direct line to Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, both Formula 1 constructor entries that compete at the highest echelon of motorsport. We are on the media list to drive an Abarth in the next two weeks, so stay tuned for an update on why Fiat’s Abarth is still respected to this day when it comes to high performance.
On the road, Fiat 500 delivers solid handling be it traveling the turnpikes, rounding a curve on secondary roads or parking in snug city situations. Overall, Fiat 500 is very easy to maneuver as underpinnings include a MacPherson strut coil-over shock front suspensions combined with a twist beam axle rear setup. Brakes are ABS disc all around and emergency stopping abilities are outstanding thanks to Pop’s lightweight properties.
Our 500 Pop came with several options, including a $695 Urbana Appearance Package that adds side sill ground effects, black bezel instrument panel, sport cloth bucket seats, silver accent 16-inch hyper black aluminum wheels and Nero black trim lights. Other options include a $495 Popular Equipment package that adds auto dim rear view mirror with auto temp climate control (not necessary); a $695 Navigation and Satellite package with SiriusXM, GPS Navigation, and special black and grey two tone seats; heavy duty automatic six-speed transmission for $995 (nice, not a CVT); power sunroof for $795; and a Beats Premium Audio System for $695. These options plus a hefty $1,495 delivery pushed the final tally to $22,110.
Fiat 500 fills the need for those looking for economical transportation with a touch of Italian art. Four trim levels include entry level Pop, and then up the Fiat 500 ladder to Lounge at $19,995, the neat 1957 Retro Model that also starts at $19,995 and then up to the Abarth starting at $20,745.
Numerous standard features include Fiat Chrysler’s noted Uconnect with a five-inch display, Bluetooth with integrated voice, rearview mirror with microphone, fog lamps, center console media hub with USB, a second USB in the glove box, leather wrapped steering wheel, climate control and much more.
On the safety side, a Parkview rear back up camera is standard as is electronic stability control, hill start assist, all the airbags and much more. Your dealer will explain everything in detail, along with special incentives currently in play.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 90.6-inches, 2,452 lb. curb weight, 10.5 gallon fuel tank, 4.5-inch ground clearance, and from 9.5 to 30.1 cu. ft. of cargo space.
Fiat 500 sales have been slow here in the states, but with continued improvements Fiat hopes for more floor traffic from a niche consumer segment. It’s far from my top choice in this category, but there are improvements that now make the 500 worthy of taking a test drive.
Just always be aware that any “mini-compact” or “sub-compact” might be fun to drive, but they don’t do too well in accidents with larger vehicles.
Likes: Exterior looks, fun to drive, Fiat motorsports history.
Dislikes: Engine noisy, fuel mileage just so-so, it’s really small.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2019 Fiat 500
Entry price: $16,245