Driven: 2017 Fiat 500S Review
After testing out the Fiat 500S, here is what I thought of the car.
What is the 2017 Fiat 500S all About?
To speak of Italian classics, you must bring up their exquisite and characterful sportscars. Just look at the list. The Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari Testarossa, the Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Countach, and even the quirky, but strongly likeable De Tomaso Pantera.
But, with that said, I think the most influential car to come out of Italy could be the Fiat 500. Originally conceived as a basic economy city car, it blew up into huge proportions. Selling millions of units, it remains to be one of the best selling cars of all time.
The Fiat 500 truly kick-started the concept of a ‘city car’ and now I get to examine just how far Fiat has come with the 500, in the form of the latest Fiat 500S.
The Fiat 500S has really retained its iconic looks. In fact, I would say that even the old folks will recognise this as a Fiat 500, even without knowing that the new Fiat 500S is a thing. Looks are not something Fiat can change on the 500 easily without upsetting its fan base.
So, much like the classic 500, the 500S mimics cute, innocent small car aesthetics. Of course, it’s bigger than the old 500 in every measurable way, due to compulsory safety regulations and modern amenities. Its rotund, well-rounded shape appeals to many people nevertheless.
The biggest and most interesting aspect of our 500S is definitely the colour. On the surface, it looks just like it is matte black, but look deeper and you will uncover a deep, unique military green. It adds an extra depth to an otherwise typical paint. To complement the colour, a nice set of 16 inch matte black wheels with diamond cuts are fitted to our 500S.
Powering the 500S is a truly minuscule engine in the modern era. You might know it from the Panda. It’s the 0.9-litre turbocharged 2-cylinder TwinAir engine. Before you turn your nose up on this 7-year-old engine missing another two cylinders, it’s surprisingly capable. It puts out 105 bhp and 145 Nm of torque. And this engine weighs only 90 kg.
A 6-speed manual box delivers the power of the engine to the front wheels. Still, even being a small car with a relatively modern engine, it’s not fast. It takes 10 seconds for the 500S to get from 0-62 mph, and onto a top speed of 117 mph. However, being a tiny, turbocharged modern engine, it’s practical. It can achieve 56 mpg and puts out just 99 g/km of CO2.
How Does it Drive?
Driving dynamics should play a big part in the sports-infused 500S. Yet there are really no tweaks made to the drivetrain and suspension of the 500S. You would have to look at an Abarth for that.
To start off, the Fiat 500S has an eminently excellent visibility. It’s a short, tall car with big windows all around. You sit pretty upright in the 500S and for city driving, that’s ideal.
The 500S is clearly made to accomplish certain tasks. Efficiency, simplicity, and charming utilitarianism. Its engine might be small, but man is it a jovial little guy. It’s not a fast car from a standstill, but it makes all its torque at 2000 rpm. Paired with pretty short gears means overtaking isn’t challenging at all.
It’s an interesting sounding engine. It has a pretty low redline. On idle, it sounds more like a bike than a car. Once you rev it out though, it starts to exhibit a deep four-pot tune. It is really a lazy engine though, probably due to its conservative tune for economy purposes.
A Comfortable Ride
Ride quality was a problem that plagued the pre-2010 500s. Afterwards, Fiat worked their magic on tweaking the 500 to tame the ride. After all, the 500 is a city car at heart, and for most people a comfortable ride triumphs everyday in the city.
With clever and careful adjustments made to the suspension setup, Fiat has managed to rid the car of any crudity. It swiftly negotiates urban undulations with admirable consistency. It’s a surprisingly mature ride, so to speak.
Being an electronically assisted unit, the steering isn’t direct. It’s not the best choice for track days. However, around the city in the City mode, you would appreciate the featherweight effort required to steer the car.
Overall, the car feels rigid and inspiring around the corners. A mature ride means it’s not the most hypersensitive and amenable. With that though comes the relaxed attitude the 500S provides. It is difficult to unsettle and disrupt the 500S around corners.
What is it Like Inside?
Something that comes with most European cars is a quirky and interesting interior and the Fiat 500S is no exception.
As the S in the name might suggest, the Fiat 500S is the sporty sibling of the bunch. As evident from the fabric upholstery around the seats and door panels. You also get sporty seats as standard on the 500S.
The 500S’s instrument cluster might be reminiscent of a Mini. With a large centre digital multi-display screen that sits deep into the binnacle, it looks properly focused. The steering wheel is large relative to the car and is stitched in leather.
The centre console certainly looks quite cool. It’s all very rounded off. The infotainment system is a basic 7 inch unit. While the rest of it might look spartan in the modern age, it’s simple and looks pretty rugged. The shift knob is on the centre console too, meaning it’s just an arm’s length to shift the car, much like the one on, say, a Civic EP3.
One of the biggest selling points for the Fiat 500 is its sheer efficiency. It’s a small car that can pack actual luggage. At 185 litres, the 500S can comfortably last you a weekend road trip. Especially when you compare it to something like the Toyota IQ.
There are also some notable interesting perks. For example, there is a red 500 badge on the passenger side dashboard and our door trim was in a bright, striking yellow. It’s a nice contrast to an otherwise very grey interior.
Driving the Fiat 500S is a quite cheerful experience. You are really not taking things seriously here and I think it brings a bit of joy to passersby too. It’s just a pleasing little car with an odd charm. The engine being used by Fiat here is quite impressive, being ‘handicapped’ to 2 cylinders. It’s not fast, but it’s good enough for its purpose.
The biggest reason why someone would go for the Fiat 500S is definitely the looks. It’s an adorable looking car with a tiny wheelbase. Parking is just a breeze, and there’s no need sweating while navigating tight alleys. Even being pint-sized, it still holds a respectable amount of cargo.
With all that said, considering the size, the Fiat 500S is not a cheap car by any means. However, the good thing about the 500 is you will find one you like. There are a plethora of customisation options available for the 500, from practical to wacky.
The TwinAir engine itself is quite a peculiarity that nobly harks back to the classic Fiat 500. It has an attractive classy and chic interior, with reasonable space. If you are a big guy, perhaps larger offerings, like the Punto, may intrigue you more.
If you want a truly tiny car with solid boot space and oodles of charm, the 500S fits the criteria. However, if you want something sportier that will tingle though, you might want to check out the 500s with the abarth badge.
2017 Fiat 500S
- Price: £14,285
- Engine: 0.9-litre turbocharged 2-cylinder TwinAir
- Power: 105 hp
- Torque: 145 Nm
- Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
- 0-62mph: 10.0 Seconds
- Top speed: 117 mph
- Weight: 1,100 kg
- Economy: 56 mpg
- CO2: 99 g/km
Author: Paul Hadley