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Driven: Fiat 500 Hybrid. Image by Fiat.

Driven: Fiat 500 Hybrid
A hybrid system so mild it is practically ethereal does not make for a great eco-car in the Fiat 500.


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Fiat 500 Hybrid Lounge

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Good points: it's a Fiat 500, so it has plenty of character

Not so good: the hybrid system adds precisely nothing of note to the entire city-car shebang

Key Facts

Model tested: Fiat 500 Hybrid Lounge
Price: 500 Hybrid Lounge from 13,794
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with 12-volt mild-hybrid electrical system incorporating 3.6kW belt-integrated starter-generator and 11Ah lithium-ion battery
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door MHEV city car
CO2 emissions: 88g/km (VED Band 76-90: 110 in year one, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 104mph
0-62mph: 13.8 seconds
Power: 70hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 92Nm at 3,500rpm
Boot space: 182-550 litres

Our view:

We're going to keep this brief, because there's no way we can recommend the Fiat 500 Hybrid to you. Well, not if you're in the market for it to enjoy some actual, discernible hybrid goodness, that is, because what you've got here is a 500. It's going to become the Classic 500 and be sold alongside the newer and quite astounding all-electric model in showrooms for a couple of years, but it's still sweet to look at, possessed of a decently attractive cabin and powered by a charismatic 1.0-litre, three-cylinder 'Firefly' petrol engine. It's also cheap, a fairly equipped Lounge model like our test car starting at less than 14 grand. Which is nice.

The problems come when you try and even remotely ascertain what the hell the hybrid system is doing here. Sure, Fiat claims that it cuts CO2 emissions and improves fuel economy and so on and so forth, but as you can't get a 'plain' 1.0-litre, non-electrically-augmented 500 with which to compare data, we'll have to take the manufacturer's word for it. All we know is that, when we drove a TwinAir 105 a few years back, we managed to coerce 50mpg-plus out of it with little effort. And you got the plucky little two-cylinder turbo motor for that return, complete with 105hp and 145Nm, meaning the 500 was far more adept on the motorways than this Hybrid, with its measly 70hp and 92Nm outputs.

We drove the petrol-electric 500 for almost 400 miles during a week of testing, in which time it returned an overall 51.4mpg and a best of 53.1mpg on a long motorway run up the M25 and M1. Those figures are no better than the TwinAir this Firefly has replaced, so we cannot fathom for the life of us what the mild hybrid system - so mild, it's practically apologetic; it's a 12-volt set-up with an 11Ah lithium-ion battery, and if you're wondering what '11Ah' means then let us tell you it could roughly translate as 'no more sparky than a couple of Duracell AAs' - is supposed to be contributing.

Plus, it's teeth-grittingly annoying the way Fiat has calibrated it. When we first drove this Hybrid around the streets of picturesque Bologna in its native Italy, we got on well with it in its much-preferred urban environment, but didn't exactly enjoy the fact that the only way you could get the 500 Hybrid to coast (engine off) was to put the six-speed manual 'box in neutral and then get off the clutch pedal. This is a completely counter-intuitive way of driving and doesn't do much to remind you that you're in something ecologically sound. It just gets right up your nose after a while.

Then there's the battery-charge gauge in the 500's solitary circular dial. Cor, this thing nearly got a punch square in its stupid little chops. No matter what we did with the car, whether we drove it gently in towns, whether we let it coast for as long as possible (at one point, nearly causing a crash on the A46 near Leicester as we approached the roundabout at the end of the northern bypass at about 8mph), whether we rode the brakes or anchored on from high(er) speeds for no good reason, we could not get this battery indicator to show anything more than a quarter of its charge. Two bars. All the time. Glowing there, in your face, seemingly taunting you that what little capacity the feeble battery pack has, you'll never see it full. In the end, determined to prove the Fiat's smug charge meter wrong, we found the outrageous method to get all eight bars showing. And it is this: accelerate, as hard as you possibly can (and you won't be going fast in a 70hp Fiat with a 13.8-second 0-62mph time if you do this), through first, second and then third gears. Right at the top of third, perform a full emergency stop. Then repeat this process. Two. More. Times. Utterly, utterly bizarre and infuriating.

So don't buy the Fiat 500 Hybrid. It offers nothing and makes no sense in a world where the spectacular electric version of the Nuova 500 has arrived; that's brilliant in all the environmentally friendly ways the Hybrid is so shamefully mediocre. And whereas this unassuming petrol-electric running gear makes more sense in the ageing Panda, where there is no full electric alternative to overshadow the boxy old charmer, in the Fiat 500 family it simply feels like an unnecessary dead end of evolution in the Italian city car's life.


Dacia Sandero: one of the few new cars cheaper than the 500, although it's due for replacement any day now. Nowhere near as stylish as the Fiat, but arguably the Sandero is a stronger all-rounder as a 1.0 SCe.

Mazda2 Skyactiv-G M Hybrid: another part-'electric' vehicle where even Sherlock Holmes would have difficulty uncovering the clues that would identify its hybrid traits. Still, the 2 is an adequate enough little supermini, if not as flashy as the Fiat.

Suzuki Ignis: now packing similar mild hybrid power and while the Japanese micro-SUV isn't really much more powerful in the electric department, it does more to let you know you're in an electrified vehicle than the Fiat ever does.

Matt Robinson - 16 Oct 2020    - Fiat road tests
- Fiat news
- 500 images

2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.

2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat 500 Hybrid UK test. Image by Fiat.


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