Used 2016 FIAT 500 Convertible Review
There are plenty of fuel-efficient small cars on the market today, but only a few of them clearly stand out from the crowd. A prime example is the 2016 Fiat 500. Fiat brought its cheeky Cincquecento ("500" in Italian) to the United States after acquiring Chrysler to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Now in its sixth year on our shores, the Fiat 500 continues to challenge the status quo with its distinctly Italian flair. Offered in hatchback and convertible body styles, numerous trim levels and specifications ranging from economical to downright sporty, the 500 is an endearingly offbeat alternative to the usual subcompact suspects.
The 2016 Fiat 500 brings Italian flair and a slew of trim levels to the small-car market.
Unfortunately, the 2016 500 carries on with some disappointing traits that have been around since the car's introduction. Taller front occupants in the 500 have to deal with limited headroom if the sunroof is specified, while the rear seats are best suited to small children on short trips. Cargo capacity is also modest, especially in the convertible. Speaking of the convertible, its top greatly restricts rear sight lines when retracted, as it folds into a prominent pile above the backseat. Acceleration in non-turbo models is snooze-inducing, and while we welcome the arrival of a standard 5-inch touchscreen infotainment interface for 2016, the interior is still outfitted with mostly low-quality materials.
If you walk away from your test-drive with similar reservations, know that the Fiat 500 isn't the only small car with a sense of style. The Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle are direct competitors and they boast stronger powertrains and nicer cabins, although they're also more expensive. The Ford Fiesta is another well-rounded rival with a couple of interesting turbocharged engine options, while the Honda Fit trumps them all with its incredibly versatile interior. But the 2016 Fiat 500 still manages to cram a lot of fashion and fun into a conveniently small package, and is likely worth checking out as part of your subcompact shopping process.
performance & mpg
Three engines are available for the 2016 Fiat 500, all of which send power to the front wheels via a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.
The Pop, Easy, Sport and Lounge trim levels receive a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a Fiat 500 Sport with a manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds, a laggardly time for the class. An automatic-equipped 500C was even slower in our testing, needing a sloth-like 12.4 seconds to get to 60 mph.
A six-speed automatic is optional on the 2016 Fiat 500, but it hurts performance, particularly with the base engine.
The Fiat 500 Turbo steps up to a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. At Edmunds' test track, a manual-transmission Turbo posted a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds, dramatically better than the base engine and a quick time for this segment. Fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg combined (28 city/34 highway) with the manual and 27 mpg combined (24/32) with the automatic.
The Abarth model's upgraded 1.4-liter turbocharged engine makes 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque with the manual transmission. With the six-speed automatic, those output figures change slightly to 157 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, a manual Abarth coupe sprinted to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while an automatic Abarth convertible did it in 7.5 seconds. Those are respectable times, but a Mini Cooper S is still about a second quicker. Fuel economy estimates for the Abarth are identical to those for the 500 Turbo.
Standard safety features for all 2016 Fiat 500 models include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 500 Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressively short 115 feet, while a 500C Lounge needed 124 feet. Disappointingly, a 500 Turbo hatchback took 125 feet despite its upgraded brakes, and an Abarth hatchback needed 123 feet despite its ostensibly stickier summer tires.
In government crash tests, the Fiat 500 hardtop received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded the 500 hardtop its top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, however, the Fiat earned the lowest score of "Poor." The 500's seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. The 500C (convertible) hasn't been rated by federal regulators or the IIHS.
The base engine's acceleration is undeniably lackluster. The manual shifter is pleasant to operate and the clutch action is light and linear, so shifting gears isn't a chore, but the reality is that this engine makes the 500 one of the slowest cars on the market. It's unfortunate that the 500 Turbo's engine is not more widely available, as it transforms the car into a fully competitive performer, while the Abarth model's upgraded engine is naturally even more engaging.
The 500's ride quality is pretty comfortable whether you're driving over rutted city streets or cruising on the highway. The firmer suspension tuning of the 500 Sport, Turbo and Abarth models improves handling response without much of a comfort penalty; if you enjoy a spirited drive, these trims are certainly worth considering. Any 500 is good fun on a quick errand, thanks to the car's diminutive dimensions and inherently nimble feel, though enthusiasts won't like the somewhat top-heavy feel and significant body roll at the limit. Steering is accurate but lacks feedback, and the Abarth's large 37.6-foot turning circle is regrettably like that of an SUV, eclipsing the other 500 models by a whopping 7 feet.
The 500's small, dim gauge cluster used to be an issue, but it was recently replaced by a bright digital display with large fonts and more easily deciphered menu logic (this is an option on the Pop trim, which retains the old gauge cluster as standard equipment). The center console was also revised, adding better cupholders and an easily accessed USB port. For 2016, the changes continue with a newly standard "Uconnect" infotainment system that features a small but readable 5-inch touchscreen with available navigation. The 500's control layout is still a bit of a mishmash, including the odd controls for the standard (non-automatic) climate system, but there's no doubt that this is the most user-friendly iteration yet.
Despite the zippy appearance and colors throughout the cabin, the quality of most materials is subpar. At least there's ample room in the front seats for taller occupants, though be advised that the tilt-only steering wheel can make finding a comfortable driving position a challenge, and the optional sunroof noticeably reduces headroom. The rear seats for any 500 are pretty much what you'd expect: torture for those older than preschool age, with basically nonexistent headroom in the hatchback due to the sloping rear glass.
Front seats are comfortable and there's plenty of room even for tall folks as long as you skip the sunroof option.
With the rear seatbacks up, the hatchback presents a reasonable 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space. Drop the seatbacks and you open up a total of 30.2 cubic feet. That's not bad for such a small car, but the Mini Cooper hatchback gives you more (38 cubes), and four-door hatchbacks like the Sonic and Fit are even roomier. Cargo capacity for the 500C isn't nearly as generous, as there are just 5.4 cubic feet available behind the rear seats and 23.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. Moreover, the convertible's folding canvas top stacks accordion-like on the rear deck when retracted, all but blocking your view directly behind.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.