The engines are lively enough and light steering makes city driving a doddle
Driving position needs more adjustment
All have seven airbags and most models have Isofix child seat anchor points. Stability control costs extra, though
Room for improvement
The back is cramped and the boot is tiny, especially compared to rivals
Entry-level models lack air-con, but higher grades hike up the price considerably
The 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol engines are lively enough, while the turbocharged 0.9-litre Twinair models demand high revs for the best performance. The Multijet diesel is surprisingly punchy, with impressive fuel economy. The 500 is well suited to urban streets: the steering is effortlessly light, and the 'City' button makes it even lighter to make parking and three-point-turns a complete doddle. Sadly, the ride is rather unsettled at low speeds, and when you're going faster, you'll feel plenty of body lean in bends. When you venture onto the motorway, the ride becomes floaty and you're subjected to excessive wind- and road noise. Both the diesel and Twinair engines produce a fair amount of racket, too, so the 500 is best kept within city limits.
The retro dash looks fantastic and all the instruments do their job perfectly. However, the limited steering wheel adjustment and strange seat height adjuster means that not everyone will find it easy to get comfy behind the wheel. Even by city car standards the 500 is compact. Although two up front will have enough room, the back seats are best for children. The boot is smaller than that in some rivals - the tiny VW Up, for example - and not all models have split-folding rear seats to extend the space while still using a rear seat. Entry-level Pop trim includes an MP3-compatible stereo and stop-start technology to help keep fuel bills down, but that's about all you get. Upgrading to Lounge trim adds a glass roof, Bluetooth mobile phone connection, alloy wheels and air-conditioning.
The 500 scored below average for mechanical reliability in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey so there's room for improvement. However, safety provision is very good: all models have seven airbags and most have Isofix child seat anchor points. Stability control costs extra, though. The 500 also scored the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, putting it on a comparable level to the Mini.
If you're looking for a fun runabout rather than a practical family car, the 500 is a great choice. If you have children who drive, you can bet they'll want to borrow it. That desirability will help its resale values and best of all, the 500 is affordable to buy in the first place.