My Fiat 500 has been very reliable so far. I have had it for 9 months and have clocked up over 10,000km. The first thing you notice, if you have come from Japanese and German cars like I have, is that the Italians do it all differently. It is just as stark as going from sushi to pasta or strudel to pizza. Its a new palate experience and it will take you time to get used to it. Some of you wont like it at first, others will instantly prefer it. Whether its the way the rear windscreen is mounted, to the way the doors close to the location of buttons. Its all completely different.
The main problem, as I see it, is that I often feel the engine missing some beats when its idling as it sends the vibration through the car. Its especially noticeable when cold but I have been told that this is 'normal' after complaining about it to the dealer. Lately, when started from cold its knocks out instantly but then is fine when restarted. I don't know what it is about that engine, but it seems it doesn't like being cold. Once warm, the engine is a real gem as it pulls smoothly and is happy to be revved hard, (as it needs to be because there is not much power south of 3,000 RPM.)
If you do city only driving then expect it to drink 7+ l/100km but if you have a urban mix like I do with some freeway driving thrown in you will probably get more like 6. I am getting just better than 6 and as good as 5.5l/100 some tanks. Mind you, I am advised (by independent Fiat mechanic) to only feed it 98 octane which is 10% dearer so keep that in mind.
Sick of using a clutch for the last 12 years I insisted on buying something without one. With the Fiat, a robotised clutch less manual was the only choice - they call it Dual-logic because you can have it in auto mode where it changes itself or in manual mode where you can do all the changes. This system is easily the clumsiest, clunkiest system I have ever experienced in a car. 10,000km into the experience and im still learning how to use that tranny properly to get the smoothest changes out of it. It seems it works better being driven assertively, changing crisply up and down whereas when you're being very gentle with throttle or brakes, it can grab gears unexpectedly and bunny hop fairly violently. A regular slush box auto would be miles better, especially if it had a 6th gear. On the up side, i get kicks out of banging that little gear lever back and forth to choose gears as i need them. You can do this at any time without having to select manual mode, and it blips the throttle to get the engine to the right revs for the chosen gear, which I like.
The 500 is quite happy to be driven like a go-Kart, and inspires some cornering confidence, even on standard tread. Thats something that cant be said for all cars in this price range.
The strongest point about this car is its styling both inside and out which trumps all the competition. It doesn't feel cheap to look at or to touch or to sit in. Switch gear and buttons are all good quality. In Pearl duco, which mine is, it feels light and airy inside due to the light coloured dash insert, cream leather steering wheel and seat trims. Its a premium feel I guess if you compare it to a Mirage or Alto interior. Its a car that makes you fell happy and it seems others feel it too. Everywhere I go, people look and comment. What 15k car does that? The words 'fun' and 'cute' are regularly used adjectives. The only improvement on the looks would be at the wheels. The hub caps look cheap, are super light duty and don't fit properly as they bulge and bending at some of the clips.
Some of the negative things you don't notice until you own the car for a while. Firstly, the driving position. It seems ok at first but after a while you notice that the seat is mounted too high and the height adjustment only raises and lowers the rear of the seat cushion, not the entire seat you sit on. The seats are very firm too. I don't mind it so much as, to me, it makes them feel longer lasting but to some, they will feel overstuffed and hard.
The steering wheel has no telescopic adjustment. For short people, this things are absolutely not a problem. I , however, am 6"2'. Whist I actually fit in the car quite well (the seat is not even all the way back and I don't bump my head getting in or out) I do feel like I need the steering wheel a bit closer to me. I also find the accelerator and the brake pedal to be too close together. With shoes on, sometimes when going for the brakes, press them both at the same time without realising.
While mentioning quibbles, here is a doozy : If you use your windscreen wipers with your drivers side window down(say, to get rid of moisture after parking it outside over night), you will get wet as the wipers flick the water in your window. Also when opening the door of the wet car, it drips all over the seat and the interior from the door jamb.
Oh, and there is no light in the boot so you have to load and unload luggage in the dark at night time. You would never have a german car do these things. It just serves to highlight the different things that different companies' engineers pay attention to.
There is also no grab handle for passengers. There is no 'one touch' to wind up the passenger window, you have to hold it down the whole time. When Fiat reduced the price of the 500, I guess they removed as many little bits and pieces as they could. It would be nice to be able to option for cruise control though. Although this car is not really a highway cruiser, it will happily do it if you need it to and it spins along nicely. I would appreciate the cruise control for all the 80 zones I have to drive in. The little Fiat creeps up to 100 without me realising and that can be a big fine on the wrong day!
On the upside, Fiat kept all the safety gear. Part of the appeal of this car for me was the 5 star safety rating, with 7 airbags the full suite of other electronic safety devices.As good as it looks, if the safety department was lacking, I would not have considered it.
Thankfully, mine also came with a full size spare. Im not sure they all still do.
The main lure for me to purchase this car over the others in its segment was is its sheer styling appeal. Not just any style though, in my opinion, this little 500 has enduring style, Italian finesse, which will endear itself to owners for years and years and become part of the family.
Even if it does flick water on me sometimes or make me start it twice on a cold morning I could never get rid of my little baby now. Im going to keep it forever!
Who ever said that about their Yaris?