What is it?
It is incredible to think that the reborn Fiat 500’s existence now spans three decades.
It’s with a mild sense of incredulity that, in 2020, we’re still writing about what is essentially the same car that was launched all the way back in 2007. Sure, there was a midlife facelift back in 2015, and the engine line-up has changed slightly over the course of its 13-year lifetime, but even so it doesn’t seem inaccurate to say that the modern 500 is now quite an old car.
The reason that the little 500 is appearing here yet again is because Fiat has decided to electrify it. Well, electrify it a little bit. We won’t see the fully-electric 500e until its breaks cover at the Geneva show later this year, so for now this 500 Mild Hybrid - along with the new Panda Mild Hybrid - represents the vanguard of FCA’s electrification programme.
Take the 'mild' part of that name seriously, though. This isn’t a 500 that can run for brief periods of time on electricity alone - not that that’s stopped Fiat from marketing it as the 500 Hybrid in Europe anyway. Bit cheeky, that.
Here, the 500’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder motor has been paired with a 12-volt belt-integrated starter generator (BSG) and a seperate 11Ah lithium battery - all of which develops a mighty 69bhp and 68lb ft. Like many mild hybrids we’ve seen before, the BSG harvests energy during braking and deceleration and stores it in the battery so that it can then be used to aid acceleration, or power the car’s auxiliaries when the petrol engine switches off when you’re waiting at the lights.
Usually these systems contribute to fairly minor reductions in fuel use and CO2 emissions, and can generally come across as a bit of a cynical response to ever increasing legislative pressure to make cars cleaner and greener. It’s tricky to shake that cynicism here too - though for what it’s worth Fiat reckons the new 12v architecture contributes to a 30% reduction in CO2 over the old 1.2-litre four-pot.