Inside The 2019 FIAT 500: Hundreds of Sprightly Features to Love

A strong competitor to the MINI lineup, the FIAT 500 offers customers a jovial alternative to the girthy family sedans and SUVs that aare popular in today’s market. The base FIAT 500 is a 2-door coupe which can also be ordered as a convertible (i.e., the 500C). Larger 4-door models are known as the 500L, while electric-powered variants go by the name 500e.

As you can see, FIAT brings a lot to the table when it comes to available features and models. In this article, we’re going to discuss the base 500 model, but also check out the other upgraded variants you’ll find on car lots. You may like a certain styling better than another, even though they’re all built from the same base.

Performance Specifications

The 2019 FIAT 500 is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. Abarth models receive an increase of 25 horsepower and 20 lb-ft of torque. This front-wheel-drive-only model comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission, but a 6-speed automatic is optional for those not versed in the arts of the stick shift.

Entertainment and Safety Features

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the 2019 FIAT 500. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), however, the newest model ranks “Good” in all tests, excluding the Small Overlap Front: Driver’s Side, where the FIAT received a “Poor” rating.

Given the model’s interior is hardly bigger than a New York City studio apartment, it’s not hard to grasp that the FIAT 500 does have its share of faults when it comes to safety. Especially given the size of most vehicles on the road today, in comparison with the import. Let’s face it, the new 500 is a smaller car, and smaller cars generally provide less cushioning in the event of a crash.

Trim Levels

There are only three trim levels available on the 2019 FIAT 500: the Pop, Lounge, and Abarth. Each of these models can be purchased as a coupe or a convertible. If choice of color is important to you, there are close to a dozen vibrant options available.

The base Pop models starts at $16,495. Though you won’t have access to a telescoping steering wheel, there’s still quite a bit to like about the 500 Pop model. Standard features include Bluetooth, a 5-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, a 6-speaker sound system, cloth seats, and voice command. This model rides on 16-inch wheels and features keyless entry as well.

Choose the Lounge model and you’ll pay nearly $20,000 for leather seating, heated front seats, heated mirrors, and rear parking sensors. Standard equipment also includes a fixed panoramic glass roof, chrome window trim, and satellite radio.

Speed enthusiasts will enjoy the Abarth model, which features extra horsepower and torque along with upgraded suspension, 17-inch wheels, performance brakes, and a leather-wrapped shifter. A rear spoiler and performance exhaust system give away the purpose of this model.

FIAT also offers a 1957 Retro Edition 500, with unique interior and exterior features. Inside, you’ll find an ivory-and-brown leather-wrapped steering wheel, ivory trim door panels, retro badging, and brown leather seats. These colors have been specifically chosen “to add some old-fashioned flair.” Exterior styling includes body-color 16-inch wheels, white mirror caps and roof, an available two-tone paint package, and three exclusive paint choices: Celeste Blu, Bianco, and Verde Chiaro. The exterior, of course, features retro badging as well.

Fuel Efficiency

Whether shifted automatically or manually by the driver, the new FIAT 500 won’t win any awards for best fuel economy, but it’s no slouch either. When equipped with an automatic transmission, the FIAT 500 gets 24 city and 32 highway EPA-estimated miles-per-gallon. Manual transmissions are able to achieve a 28 city and 33 highway mpg rating, provided you’re able to resist blasting full-throttle around town.

How the 2019 FIAT 500 Stacks Up

Alone, the 2019 FIAT 500 fares respectively among reviewers. Edmunds.com recommends the Lounge trim, but experts had a few issues with the interior cabin and outward visibility. Calling the second row “basically a glorified shelf,” experts at Edmunds weren’t able to see around the FIAT 500C’s lowered convertible top, which does make for a safety hazard. Considering the rear end of the vehicle is only four or five feet away from the driver’s seat, you could just look over your shoulder to solve this problem, but it might be enough to put off some potential buyers.

At the same time, you may find the 500e a more environmentally-conscious choice. The acceleration is incredible given the electric powerplant, and it’s hard to beat especially if your lifestyle doesn’t include many long road trips. The 500L adds a bit more mass to the FIAT 500 frame, bulking up both on safety equipment and cargo space for those concerned about such features.

The biggest concern when looking at a 2019 FIAT 500 is voiced by U.S. News reviewers:

“If you’re going to buy a 500, the 2018 model is your best bet because it has a more powerful base engine.”

That fact is hard to beat, especially considering that some critics thought the Abarth model was slow compared to even the base MINI Cooper model. Other concerns brought up by U.S. News include the hard plastics used in the interior and lagging acceleration on the highway. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend the FIAT 500 if you’re planning on a road trip.

Other models competing in the same segment as the 2019 FIAT 500 include the Kia Rio, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, MINI Cooper, and the Volkswagen Beetle (for now). The Chevrolet Sonic and Spark are also of similar proportions, along with the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa. Most of these models range in starting price anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000 and offer many of the same features. Brand styling will differentiate each one and may help you to narrow down your favorites.

The Good

  • Good daily driver
  • Memorable driving experience
  • Easily parked in small, cramped quarters

The Not-So-Good

  • Tiny compared to the many larger vehicles on the road today
  • Virtually no back seat
  • Almost zero cargo space

The Last Word

The 2019 FIAT 500 delights many drivers, but may not please everyone. If MINI Coopers and VW Beetles are the clown cars of the market, the FIAT 500 might as well be a HotWheels special edition diecast model. In all seriousness, though, check out what the FIAT 500 has to offer, whether it’s in original fun-size form, open-top, beefy-sized, or all-electric. And if all else fails, see what the Abarth does for you. You may find more beneath that small stovetop hood than you first imagined.

Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images

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