Fiat 500 not powerful enough for hills says BBC’s Watchdog

Fiat 500 not powerful enough for hills, says BBC Watchdog

BBC’s Watchdog programme slammed Fiat last night, over allegations that its 1.2-litre 500 city car “can barely get to the tip of a hill.”

The entry-level Fiat 500 1.2-litre was revised in May to reduce emissions to 113g/km CO2 and comply with new Euro 6 regulations.

But owners have apparently been contacting Watchdog, complaining that the 69hp petrol engine struggles to maintain speed up steep hills, and makes hill starts tricky.

One owner, Amanda Thomas, who lives on a hill in Cornwall, said:

“I’m lucky to get up a hill in first. There’s no power. The power just drops back, drops back, and then you start feeling unsafe in the car. You’ve got no confidence in it to actually get to the top of the hill.

“It’s that moment when you think oh my goodness, what am I going to do, I’ve got my foot on the accelerator and the clutch, I’m riding the clutch, because I’m worried that I’m going to reverse rather than go forward.

“I’ve actually said to them I don’t feel safe, and they just shrug it off, they’re not doing anything about it.”

The programme showed a presenter driving up a one in 10 hill in (what appeared to be) second gear, claiming she could “feel the lack of power.”

Watchdog asked a forensic mechanic to diagnose the problem with the car. He blamed a delay between pressing the accelerator and the power being fed from the engine, resulting in difficult hill starts.

But Fiat responded by saying the car is perfectly safe, confirming it’s been retuned to meet strict European emission regulations.

Presenter Anne Robinson:

“Fiat says this subtle difference might take some drivers a while to get used to. In other words, the reason all the owners we’ve spoken to can’t get up hills, is because they’re not good enough drivers. Fiat, by the way, says nothing about how you’re supposed to drive the manual 1.2.”

The programme called for Fiat to recall the 500, claiming that certain dealers have offered customers swaps for other models meaning the company knows there’s an issue with the engine.

Fiat responded by saying very few owners have contacted them about the problem, and it’s up to individual dealers whether they offer a swap.

UPDATE: BBC Watchdog this week (13 November) called in stunt driver Ben Collins, once The Stig on TopGear, to try driving a 2014 Fiat 500 1.2 up a hill.

Some say he would do it with ease. All we know is, he failed.

Update: Fiat has responded to claims that its 500 city car isn’t powerful enough for hills.

In a statement, the manufacturer said: “Following the BBC Watchdog segments featuring the FIAT 500 1.2, which aired on November 6 and November 13 2014, we received a number of calls from customers related to the performance of their engine when executing hill starts.

“The majority of calls we received were from owners of Euro 6 FIAT 500 1.2 vehicles built without optional ESC (Electronic Stability Control), which have different engine software to vehicles equipped with ESC. ESC is now standard on all models across the FIAT range.”

Fiat goes on to say that it’s working on a software update to “improve the driveability” of its cars – and this will be applied to these customers’ cars during their next scheduled service at a Fiat dealer.

Anyone with any questions about their Fiat 500 can contact their local dealership or call Fiat’s customer care team on 0800 3428 0000.

Web editor at Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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  • Ephgrave

    My son is getting his delivery today of the new Fiat 500 I have rung them about the Watchdog program last night we don’t think we should buy this car now, any comments please?

  • Simon D

    I own the vehicle and have no idea what there complaining about power, its slightly different from the euro 5 engine but i have no problems driving up hills or hill starts. And to the lady that said she was riding the clutch afraid she was going to go back, take your foot OFF the clutch and put your foot down what are you doing ? Can you drive ?

  • TIM

    We have one of these 500s and its hopeless pulling out of junctions,no power below 2000rpm.

  • Seriously? It’s a 69bhp car. Of course it’s low on power! But I learned to drive in a 55bhp VW Golf and managed just fine. Either choose your car more carefully or learn to drive it better!

  • Gail Critchlow

    I can absolutely and catergorically agree with last nights Watchdog programme – I bought a new Fiat 500 and collected it on Sat March 1st, by the Monday I knew that there was something desperately wrong with the vehicle, by the Thursday it was collected by Vospers Plymouth (who agreed there was a definite problem) and kept for 3 weeks whilst the fault was investigated , the car was returned to have exactly the same problem – very long and stressful story cut short, as the car was purchased on finance, I eventually(by the end of June 2014) under the Sale of Goods Act was able to have the HP Agreement cancelled and all monthly payments returned to me. This after threatening Fiat with the Financial Ombudsman. Not that I was fully compensated for insurance, time, phone calls etc – I have a file of correspondence an inch thick! . The Fiat 500 1.2 is potentially dangerous – it is certainly not a case of driving more carefully or learning to drive better – I have 25 years driving experience in all types of new, old, powerful, not so powerful vehicles – Fiat absolutely should do a recall on these cars!!! before someone is seriously hurt or worse!

  • Andy Crome

    My wife purchased one of these in June, she often commented on how it lacks power but I put that down to the fact the other cars in the household have much more power.

    I did drive it – agreed it lacked some get up and go – but it did only have 69hp so what should we expect?

    Today, after watching the watchdog program last night I suggested we went out again. It had been raining – but had stopped by now – roads still wet though.

    On our way we came up to some traffic lights on a moderate slope. I pulled up – the stop start kicked in – all as expected. As the lights changed I engaged gear, the engine fired up and – I couldn’t pull away. It had no power below 2000rpm whatsoever. So – I think that’s ok I’ll give it some more throttle – so this is where in my opinion it becomes dangerous. I revved the car up to between 2500 & 3000rpm – where upon the wheels span and the car started to slide backwards. A couple of grabs of the parking brake and we finally got going forward – but this is not safe.

    We’ll be contacting watchdog and Fiat – and in all honesty, we might have to reject the car unless they can resolve the problem.

    I know some of you can’t imagine this is a problem – but believe me, there is not enough power below 2000rpm on a slope to pull the vehicle away and to go from that to sliding backwards is not safe.

  • Ianthe Marie

    I have had 2 brand new Fiat 500’s in the past 2 years, both 1.2 ltr engines and I have no problem with loss of power. It’s in line with what you would expect a 1.2 ltr engine to perform like. With the greatest of respect I think some of you need to learn how to drive the car a little bit better.

  • Geoff Bristow

    My wife has had the same experience –useless on hills. Vehicle bought in September this year

  • martin brayshaw

    In march 2013 we purchased a new 1.2 colour therapy which performed as you would expect without any power loss issues. Then in April 2014 we returned to the dealer and part exchange it for a lounge convertible 1.2 not thinking we were going end up with a car which is a night mare when you live a town built on seven hills, the car has been back to the dealer three times for them to read different software perimeters and send them to fiat, Fiat have comeback saying the car is working as per manufactures settings/requirements, I have also been told to go back to the dealer and a master technician would show us how to drive the car, this the biggest insult they can give a customer who has purchased two brand new 500s and also suggested to friend’s who looking to replace their cars they purchase a 500 which at least two have. .
    Ford also had the same issue with the KA 1.2 (same engine ) but the difference is that Ford faced up to the issue and sorted their customers making them happy people, so come on Fiat get you act together and make your 500 customer happy people..

  • Tracy Webley

    I picked up my second Fiat 500 in March from Vospers Plymouth. I’d had a Fiat 500 since 2011 and had been really happy with my old one, great for nipping around country lanes. I know they’re not designed to go at any great speed but this new one is ridiculous. It has such a lack of power compared to the old one. It’s been in to Vospers who have stated there is a problem with the engine. They’ve complained to Fiat who have denied the issue.

    I am glad this is being brought to the attention of Fiat through the media.

  • Craig

    I bought a brand new 1.2 Lounge in March 2013. I too, at times, have noticed a serious lack of power but I just put it down to swapping to a car with a smaller engine. You definitely have to adapt your driving style to drive one of these cars. The car is in finance and I won’t be purchasing it after the three years are up.

  • Phil

    Me & the girlfriend hired one of these in Sicily & we thought it was us lol. Seriously people, if you’re going to spend your wedge on a new car is it not wise to have a good test drive first?

  • Mark

    Same problem in the new Euro 6 tuned Fiat Panda, they have strangled the engine in order for it to meet the latest emission standards – it is lethal !

  • Liss

    Is this effecting automatics or just manuals?

  • Jas

    Reading this article, and many of the comments on here, only makes me believe that British women are whiners and do not know how to drive.

    You mean to tell me that the 1.2L 69bhp city car you purchased doesn’t rocket up hills the same as your 400bhp Maserati? Shocking I tell you, shocking!

    Test a small-engined car thoroughly before you buy it, especially if you don’t understand basic motoring.

  • Caroline

    I have had the same problem with mine. At first they said there was a problem. But fiat then came back to me saying there was not problem. It was a new engine and it does this to save energy. But if I can not reverse up my drive, and have to give it too much power how can this be energy saving?

  • Michelle

    Does the problem effect just manual cars ?

  • John Griffiths

    My wife bought a new 1.2 colour therapy in June this year. We live on a very hilly estate and she has never once experienced a problem. In fact when she got it, she exclaimed what a gutsy little car it is. ( Mind you, her previous car was a Chevy Spark so it’s not a great comparison, but she’s chuffed to bits with the Fiat!)

  • Mark

    It’s not that it’s powerful. It’s that you cannot pull away from hills or indeed junctions with any sort of incline. It’s not how u are driving the car will not rev for u to pull away. 30 years in the motor industry mechanic driven more cars than you shake a stick at. It is downright dangerous. Some cara seem to be affected more than others. That did the same thing with the first euro five emission engines that went in the run off panda mylife. They remapped the Ecuador so the cara would run right. All very hush hush fix. They have made the same problem even worse making the fire engine try and meet the euro six emission standards. Fiat won’t admit it as this is their most popular engine in their most popular two cars. They say it is a characteristic of the new euro six engine and it is in spec. That may well be. But it can’t pull away up hills. It’s not fit for purpose.

  • Colin Lambert

    F.I.A.T.= J.U.N.K. My Skoda Yeti has a 1.2 engine with 105 HP! 0-62 10 seconds. Huge torque. Pulls lime a train. And weighs over a ton. Get a grip F.I.A.T.!

  • Jo

    I have the same problem with the fiat 500 lounge bought brand new in February. I had to drop to 1st gear and was a real struggle to get up a hill in Loch Lomond. I was just thankful no one was behind me as I thought the car was going to roll back. I only just managed to crawl a a very slow to nearly stop pace and the engine didn’t sound too healthy either!! I’ve just received a letter for a recall of faulty wiring I think I will speak to them about driving up hills too. Let them have a go and see if they can do it!!

  • Vanessa

    I have just purchased the 1.2 Lounge for my daughter who is still learning to drive, this has been done through a company call Marmalade who specialize in cars and insurance for new and young drivers. When I picked the car up, I was very please with it but told my daughter it does not like hills! I laughed as I put this down to the fact I am used to more powerful cars.
    We have gone out in it several times, the only problem she has had is junctions on a hill. She just can not get it to drive. I do believe this is a major problem as an inexperienced driver this is a more difficult maneuver and the lack of power is very worrying. My point here is that a lot of these cars are being driven by young and inexperienced drivers as they have aimed this car at a young ‘fun’ market. I have done what I thought was the best thing I could do for my daughter, a new car being as safe as possible on the road. Now I really am not sure, she has lost a little confidence and I am very concerned for her safety due to this ‘fault’ in the car’s setup.

  • Neil scott

    Just traded my 3rd fiat 500 a 1.2 2013 model year car for a a fiat 500 CS 1.2 manual built 11.9.14 – it has issues pulling away up a hill but far worse reversing up an inclined drive! Parking between 2 cars on a hill is very tricky – the clutch I can see will not last as the only way to reverse up an inclined drive requires burning the clutch. Multi-storey car parks prove interesting also!

    Fiat say my driving style needs modification but giving no indication how to do this! Perhaps move house and stop shopping in Bath!!

    Seriously – I consider myself a good driver and enjoy cart racing – have been driving for in excess of 30 years and in the last 5 weeks fiat think I have a driving style issue rather than admit the new euro 6 1.2 is not fit for purpose!!

    A fix is needed and quickly before an inevitable accident happens

  • Adrian turner

    It’s not going up hills that is the issue as little engines cars are never going to fly up them its initially pulling off. It can be on a flat road or hill start. It’s as if the car has a flat spot on initial pull off. Doing a hill start makes the problem more obvious. You have to slip the clutch loads in order for it to move. Which in time will damage the clutch. Fiat customer relations are not interested and neither are the dealers. The car I test drove before buying a brand new 14 plate was a 13 plate and didn’t have this “characteristic” as fiat keep calling it. So I feel I have been mis-sold the car as if the one I test drove was like this I would never have bought one in the first place. Shocking!

  • Colin Lambert

    If you all want a smallish car go and buy a Skoda Fabia 1.2 You will never look back! (and you get 4 doors!)
    And NO I have NO CONNECTION with Skoda, other than a VERY satisfied customer.

  • Thanks for the recommendation, Colin – we’re certainly happy with the Octavia vRS we’re running at the moment!

  • Amylou7

    Scrap the shite….and get an Audi

  • laura baker

    I have had 2 fiat 500’s now, a 13 plate which i loved!!! It was the perfect car, in August I “upgraded’ to the 64 plate, I was told it was exactly the same car. I can tell you now, IT ISNT!!!! I thought it was just me but this makes me feel differently.

  • Paul

    69 bhp should be more than enough for a Fiat 500 sized car. The issue seems to be how the power is delivered not the maximum power output. Watching warchdog tonight it looks like FIAT have engineered in a massive flat spot whilst trying to reduce emissions and meet Euro 6 requirements. Hard to know how they can just fix this. Remapping would inevitably raise co2 outputs and effect homologation

  • johns

    My wife purchased a 1.2 petrol one in April 14. We live close to one of the highest towns in the country (lots of hills) and have had no issues with it

  • Mr Scott

    It is effecting cars built after April 14 , the car in tonight’s show was built on the 11.9.14 and has 890 miles on the clock.

  • Mr Scott

    I have a FIAT 500 built pre April 14 , registered May 14 and it is fine , however my 6 week old FIAT is a dog on hills.

  • Mr Scott

    Ditto , changed a perfect 13 plate for 64 plate which is sluggish and dead on inclines!! One unhappy 500 owner, may ask for my old car back from the dealer!!!

  • Neil Tilbrook

    So it’s only an issue with the 1.2? Is the 0.9 twin air better? Was looking to purchase a 500 in the next couple of weeks, and given us more things to think about when we test drive…Hagg Hill in Sheffield has to be a test for it!

  • Only appears to be the 1.2, Neil… choose the 0.9 turbo and you’ll have a slug of low-down torque to help you along. Do note though, 0.9 has very different driving characteristics so it will ‘sound’ like it’s bogging down and labouring at first, even though it’s not! Watch the rev counter – you will be surprised…

  • We suspect it may well be something like this, Paul. Trying to get a test drive in a 14MY car to find out.

  • Ephgrave

    My son got his new fiat 500 a week ago the sporty 1.2s and he loves it, no problems very sporty very flash

  • Mr Scott

    Hi Eshgrave – if your sons car was built April 14 forward then I suggest you find a hill put a driver and 1 or 2 other adults in it and try and drive forward from still – good luck (ps mine was built in September which had further revisions from the April 14 model – ie hill holder as standard which when coupled with start / stop on a hill adds even more delight (not)

  • These morons that say we don’t know how to drive make me laugh.

    This is our THIRD 500 & the ’64’ model HAS A FLAT SPOT at about 1500rpm – JUST where you need a bit of grunt, especially, but not only, on hills.

    I hadn’t even heard about the Watchdog hoo-hah until I took the car to my dealer for the ‘wiring’ recall whereupon, on noting the flat spot to the dealer, he pretty-much accused me of only doing so because of the TV report – then called the flat spot a ‘characteristic’.

    If this isn’t fixed/remapped/whatever, it will certainly be the last 500 – or even Fiat – my family buys.

  • Mike Jerram

    My wife is teetering on the brink of buying a new 1.2 500, got exactly what she wants all spec’d out. But no order will be placed unless this problem is resolved. Does it also affect the Twin Air models? She’s had a 1.1 litre Cinquecento Sporting for more than 10 years, and that performs very well for its power, and on twisty roads and driven with enthusiasm will outrun many more powerful cars.

  • Mr Scott

    No it only effects the 1.2 built April 14 forward
    Go for the twin air!

  • Mike Jerram

    Thanks! She’s driven an Abarth but not yet a Twin Air. She’ll be relieved!

  • TwinAir is a favourite of many a motoring journalist – very charismatic engine (with lots of turbo pull!).

  • Mike Jerram

    She’s got the brochures out again already! Thanks.

  • Vlad

    ” Colin Lambert November 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm –

    F.I.A.T.= J.U.N.K. My Skoda Yeti has a 1.2 engine with 105 HP! 0-62 10 seconds. Huge torque. Pulls lime a train. And weighs over a ton. Get a grip F.I.A.T.!” >>>>>>> But your Skoda has a Turbo engine and costs half as much again as the FIAT 500! Hardly a fair comparison unless you want someone with a BMW X5 to come along and compare with your Yeti. Clearly FIAT seem to have messed up on the engine map – nothing a quick recall and a spot of reprogramming won’t cure under warranty. All the other FIAT 500 engines seem to be perfectly fine. For reference the 1.4 Turbo Abarth is available in up to 180 bhp – sees off a Yeti every time.

  • Vlad

    And for the record, Skoda UK suggests they have dropped the 1.2 engine from the new Yeti range to be replaced by a 1.6, presumably because it would not comply with the Euro 6 emission standards that the FIAT 500 1.2 complies with. You are not comparing apples with apples my friend.

  • Colin Lambert.

    I am comparing 1.2 engine with 1.2 engine and merely stating that Yeti 1.2 is almost twice as powerful (HP) and will pull a One ton + vehicle up any hill you care to throw at it.
    I don’t know where you got the rumour about Skoda dropping the 1.2 engine. The 1.2 is available in the new Fabia.& will continue to be so. Is that more apple comparison-like for you?

  • Colin Lambert.

    I did not spot your comment regarding the Abarth. I am fully aware of that as I have driven one. Now YOU are not comparing apples/apples.A squirt of a car with 180BHP is quite likely to beat a one ton+ ‘brick’ with only 105 HP. Hardly surprising and hardly worth pointing it out?

  • Guy Ratcliffe

    Wow, well just watching the video and show has made up my mind. I was looking to get this car for my parents, as driven it in Europe on holidays and loved it. Not going to touch this car! Guess what Fiat, you can’t ignore what people say (they are called your customers) and if you do you will loose sales…including me.

  • craig jones

    so ben collins cant drive the fiat 500 up a hill, just goes to show how rubbish a driver he is!!!!, as i can drive mine up a hill

  • Tim

    Craig, is yours an April ’14 onwards 1.2 model which appears to be the effected vehicle? If so, then well done!

  • Mr Scott

    Craig, you are welcome to try my 500, it was built 11.9.14, under 10000 miles on the clock when driven by Ben in the programme. I can not even reverse it up an inclined drive.
    I also own a 6 month old model and that is perfect – it is light and responsive.

  • Mr Scott

    Oops that should read under 1000 miles on the clock, approx 900 when used in the programme.

  • Mr Scott

    Guy the 500 is brilliant – this is my 3rd or be it with power issues – either wait for the fix or get the fantastic twin air.
    I love the car just dislike the slow response by FIAT
    The alternatives are just too grim to contemplate!

  • Chris

    My daughter has a 500 which she took delivery of in August. It’s her 1st car since passing her test and both she and I have driven the car without any issues. Her friend and work colleague has just taken delivery of a 64 plate model last month and she has commented that hers does, suffer the lack of power. Our car easily travels up hills with no real effort, of course considering that the car is only a small engine so I would not expect its performance to be the same as my turbo charged car!!

  • Dawn

    I bought my Fiat 500 Colour Therapy 64 plate in September & only travel a short distance to work each day. I commented to a colleague within a week of having the car that the car seemed to stutter when travelling slowly & didn’t have much gusto. I wish I’d have contacted the dealer immediately as I emailed since the Watchdog programme & have heard nothing back. Before this car I had a Punto 1.2 & it was much more powerful.

  • Chris

    Opps……….. Just taken delivery of a 500s for my wife to drive, Daughter is checking out the lack of power and yes its down a little on Hills wife has noticed the lack of power. Will report back after a few more weeks of driving and testing. Not much we can do as its been purchased, My view is it just needs a computer software modification ? Funny watchdog did not mention the break clonk thats a common fault on the 500

  • TIM

    Ours is Oct 13 and its just the same wont go up hills and struggles to set off.Hopeless below 2000rpm.Our 2010 model was fine.

  • Andrew

    Hi Chris,

    I have had 4 FIAT 500’s
    2014 and 2014

    latest one is rubbish up hills but is also lack lustre to drive on the straight – they should remove the S – it is a joke

    What is the brake clonk to which you refer – my issues with past 500’s are:

    Failed re suspension at 6 months old
    Failed central door locking
    Rattling dash

    All quickly fixed – hope the latest issue is fixed quickly – my clutch is just about finished at 1050 miles!!!!


  • Andrew

    Tim – my 2013 model was built in April 2013 and was fine.
    My early 2014 was built pre Mar 14 and was fine
    My newest 64 plate was built in Sept 14 and drives with no enthusiasm – very tired!

  • Dan

    I have two 2013 Fiat 500s and love them. I’m not sure why you have trouble going up hills, I just push on the gas. These have a lot of power on the highways and fun to drive on curves. These are my most favorite autos I’ve ever owned out of many. Zero problems. Media can make a problem where a problem doesn’t exist. Someone teach these people how to drive a clutch on a hill, be more aggressive.

  • Andrew

    Hi Dan
    It is the FIAT 500 built April 14 forward that has the issue

  • Andrew

    Dan you are welcome to try my built 11.9.14 model as driven by the stig last Thursday – short of a miracle this car is ……..not going to impress you….?If stig can not drive it, you my sir can not either…..the clutch is all but burnt out and has 1,000 miles on the clock and has now been on the road 7 weeks today!!!!! Ie this car is not fit for purpose!!!!

  • Phil

    My wife picked up a new Fiat 500 1.2 Pop Colour Therapy in late September 2014, no problems at all, works up the steepest hills, a good runner!

  • Andrew

    Hk Phil
    It is the build date not the Registration date – my dealer has several pre April 14 cars in stock

  • Suzanne Putman

    Martin Brayshaw. I was interested to hear that Ford had a similar problem with the KA. May i ask where you got this information from as i purchased a Ka with this problem and Ford denied that anything was wrong. I ended up returning the car and having to purchase a more expensive car as i had signed the credit agreement.

  • Jean

    I am so disappointed with the new 2014 fiat 500 cars, the performance is greatly below what I was used to with my old 2012 model! To think I was so close to choosing the Ford Fiesta but then went for the fiat 500 based on my experience of driving the car for the past two years which I loved, I consider the changes they’ve made to the new car considerable and if people were made aware of it and how the performance and power is lacking then they can make an informed decision whether to purchase etc, I definitely would have not chosen this car…. I’m absolutely livid and stuck with a car I now hate.

  • Phil

    The build date was September 2014, I have checked with the dealer and it is a Euro 6 Engine which is apparently mapped slightly differently to the previous engines, but it seems to perform excellently?

  • Debbie

    Does anyone have details of dealers that still have new pre April 14 cars
    in stock. We are desperate to find a replacement for our cancelled order for
    our young daughter ?

  • Ephgrave

    My son got a delivery of the sporty black one with back spoiler, 1.2 S and he loves it took it to Bournemouth this weekend he said it goes like a dream

  • Andrew

    Hi Phil

    Mine was built 11th September 2014 and is a complete underpowered disappointment – it replaced my 13 plate build date April 13 which was perfect.

    perhaos the issue is only affecting certain vehicles?

    FIAT are going to do a full diagnostic check this Thursday


  • Andrew


    What is the build day of the 500s you say is fine – pre April 14 ate ok

  • Rene

    Some of these comments are pathetic. I had one as a hire car and it was great (the concerns had been explained to me when I picked it up). Normally I drive a 1.9 deisel turbo golf and it even feels a bit down on power, in a strange way, after driving this new 1.2. I mean it is different but its not an engine to rev and I did need adapt to it a bit. It is the way engines are desighned these days, for economy and reliability and I can think of a few vehicles that I have driven that seem to behave in this way. Including motor cycles that dont like to rev over 5000 rpm ! I had a 1.6 tdi Octavia that was pathetic, although its had some ‘amasing’ reviews. In traffic on a level road it felt like it needed 1st at around 20mph to ‘get going again’. And on M ways it seemed to need 3rd to overtake in Traffic… All these comments I make are bearing in mind ‘modest weight’ in the car and on all gradients. As a lot of people have commented, if you want a powerfull car get a big car and do a proper test befor you buy…whats wrong with that? Also its worth learning to adapt to it in quiet traffic if need be rather than complaining over nothing. All cars are different and have their various strengths and weeknesses.

  • Simon

    Appears Fiat have come forward now and stated there is a problem with the car, and a software update is coming sometime in January. The 1.2 with traction control are not affected.

  • Andrew Brady

    Hi Simon,

    Where did you hear that? We’re going to chase with Fiat. Interesting if true!

    Many thanks.

  • Again, thanks Simon. We at MR have reached out to Fiat numerous times for comment, but have had no response whatsoever. We’ll keep pressing and chase this up: more news when we get it.

  • julian

    Interesting thread. The fact is the EU tests get stricter each year but are pointless as manufacturers are spoofing the test. When operated flat out most petrol engines haven’t improved in efficiency. What the makers have done is provide engine maps that ensure low co2 on the EU test. The test isn’t competed on the road in real conditions and bears no relevance to real emissions or economy. This is why most cars don’t get near to the claimed figures. Fiat aren’t really to blame hear. What they should do is offer a sports map with the higher emissions and tax that would entail. Most I think would choose it.
    Anyone remember the top gear Prius vs m3? The Prius used more fuel than the m3…
    Now to Skoda man. To come on here and post fiat=junk is juvenile and exactly what I expect from the kind of person who drives the least cool car brand in an attempt to justify their purchase. A Skoda in reality is like socks with sandals. Comfy. Versatile. Reliable. However wrong on so many levels.
    To compare an 8v atmospheric engine to a turbocharged 16v engine is silly. Nothing wrong with Skoda’s. Vw did an amazing job of turning the worst car brand bar Lada into a successful anti-brand. Amazing work.

    However it seems to me that owning a Skoda leaves you somewhat empty so you jump onto a thread about a stylish car that even a supermodel or film star would be happy to own, and try and call the entire company junk because we are all beholden to ridiculous EU emissions.

    The bottom line is a 2 valve per cylinder engine will always have a much tougher time passing the test and probably this is the end of the line for the 2 valve FIRE engine.

    It saddens me as Fiat have always made great engines and the FIRE in a 10 year old panda is a cracker. Willing and revvy and always up for the job.

    So Fiat, frustrating as this watchdog coverage was, come out fighting. Offer a proper map for the car and to hell with the higher tax bracket. People don’t buy a stylish car like the 500 just for low road tax.

    As for Ben Collins shame on you. You could have given it 4000 rpm and dumped the clutch. You looked silly.

  • Andrew

    Simon, mine has ASR (ESP etc) – and is effected. I think the issue only effects a very few models.
    I have just taken a new 500 for a drive (built Oct 14 ) and it is fine.

  • Andrew

    Julian – your comment about Ben Collins……I think he probably knows how to drive a little better than most of us…..the car he drove had a fault which probably only effects a handful of cars in the UK. I the car was driven the way you suggest the clutch would fail within a 1000 miles!!!!

    Plus on a car with ASR with power restricted you can’t do that – the brakes would come on and the engine would stall!!! (The car Ben drove had ESP)

    I have just taken a new 500 on the road and it is very responsive! Not effected at all by this issue – Whatever the issue is FIAT will resolve and everyone will be happy!

    Best small car on the road!!

  • Julian

    Andrew the clutch will get worn out by slipping it – dump it with some revs and the the car will get going – the ASR will reduce wheel spin not stop the car completely. The problem is the mapping to reduce emissions at low rpm has ignition settings that reduce torque – Ben didn’t give it any revs they were trying to demonstrate the problem which they did well. My point is they could have got up the hill with “an aggressive start” as Clarkson would say…

    I expect you can switch the ASR off. BMW’s often get stuck in the snow in default mode- many owners don’t realise that changing the electronic settings can restore drive.

  • Megan

    I have been back and forth to my dealership with this problem since before it was highlighted by watchdog. The service department have so far installed 2 different software updates and have assured me that there will be a letter in the post from fiat uk detailing a third (and hopefully final) update of the cars parameters. Issue with my car is that you can start on a hill if you don’t touch the accelerator at all until the clutch is completely released. Not ideal for traffic lights on a hill etc. But at least the dealership is listening to me now.

  • Andrew

    Julian – firstly can I say the issue does not effect all 1.2’s and therefore the engine remapping you suggest may seem not the answer?

    Dumping the clutch in my car does not work on a hill or whilst trying to reverse up a drive – with or without ASR – switching stop start off also does not work.

    The stig tried all possible ways in my car and reported it as it was – he didn’t try to demonstrate the issue he did his best to make the car perform….he couldn’t and therefore you would not be able to do this either.

    I believe this issue is isolated – the euro 6 engine is mapped just fine as demonstrated in my daughters 14 plate and the loan car I currently have, a 64 plate build date September 2014 – I said, they are fine….so how can the issue be mapping? Surely if these cars are fine FIAT could just put the same software on my buld date Sept 14 model?

    Julian , unless you are a FIAT technician working in ITALY I simply do not think your advice to Dump the clutch is good advice, this would break my car…..Jeremy Clarkson would not be able to reverse this car up the drive without either breaking the gear box or hitting the wall.

    FIAT engineers (in Milan) currently have no idea what the issue with my car is but are working on it.

    like I said, it appears to effect a very small number of 500’s and it is probably more like a faulty piece of hardware somewhere in the loop.


  • Kyle

    What do people expect when they buy a 1.2? I had a Fiat 1.2, it was pathetic, I’ve got a 1.9 diesel now, tuned to 220bhp, it’s not all about the speed, now I can overtake those pesky lorrys on motorways without a struggle, hill starts are a breeze with hill holder and all that torque, if you want a decent car, don’t buy a poverty spec underpowered 1.2! Enough said…

  • Andrew

    Kyle – the 1.2 is plenty powerful enough. It is just a few recent models have a fault which FIAT I am sure will resolve.

  • Dawn

    I received the following from the Fiat garage I bought my 500 from in September: The passage below is directly from Fiat.

    Following the BBC Watchdog segments featuring the FIAT 500 1.2, which aired on November 6 and November 13 2014, we received a number of calls from customers related to the performance of their engine when executing hill starts.
    The majority of calls we received were from owners of Euro 6 FIAT 500 1.2 vehicles built without optional ESC (Electronic Stability Control), which have different engine software to vehicles equipped with ESC. ESC is now standard on all models across the FIAT range. In response to the small number of customers who are not satisfied with the performance of their non-ESC cars when executing hill starts, we are currently working on a software update which will improve the drivability of their cars, and as soon as it becomes available we will apply this software update to these customers’ vehicles during their next scheduled service at an official FIAT service facility.
    It’s important to note that all FIAT 500 1.2 cars are absolutely safe and operate within our design and manufacturing parameters and fully comply with all current legislative requirements.
    Should anyone wish to get in contact in relation to their vehicle they can contact their local dealership or call our FIAT Customer Care team on 00800 3428 0000.

  • Pete

    Something doesn’t seem right here. Euro 6 is nothing to do with CO2 limits. It’s about reducing dangerous nitrogen oxide emissions from the exhaust.

    AFAIK, this only affects diesel engines. The emissions levels for petrol have not changed between Euro 5 and Euro 6.

    It’s easy to blame EU meddling here, but I suspect a simple screw up on the part of Fiat.

  • Rae

    I have a ’14 plate Suzuki Alto which is a 1L petrol engine and can manoeuvre, climb hills, hill start, hit 70 on a motorway and overtake without any issues.
    In May my best friend bought her Fiat 500 and at first I just assumed she was having problems because she was not used to a small engine/car. Tried it myself after watching the Watchdog special and found it so different to my own car. It was slow on hills, almost crawling up a hill which my own car can easily handle at 40 and a hill start by our workplace was almost impossible – definitely a fault with the car if you ask me.

  • Julkian

    Andrew dumping the clutch even at the redline won’t break anything… But are you saying that if you dump the clutch and give it full beans you cannot even wheelspin with ESC off?
    That would be seriously dangerous. An aggressive start in busy traffic eg turning right, could result in a smash. Let’s keep it real over EU meddling. What creates more co2? A new car or using one that already exists? It is all complete nonsense (emissions limits). If they were serious they would be making tiny light cars mandatory. Instead the rules are just making cars dull and doing nothing for the planet. Where is that Miura on ethanol….

  • OnAMissionToMakeFiatOwnUp

    Bought my daughter a 500 sport brand new and we have the same problem. She almost had a nasty accident at a junction on a hill. She was trying to pull out but there was no power and she had to give it so much acceleration while riding the clutch that she shot out before she had a chance to look! There are certain roads that she avoids purely because they are on a hill and hill starts are virtually impossible. When going up a hill the display clearly states ‘shift’ as in change gear but if you attempt to go from first to second the car stalls so you have to scream up the hill in first! If she parks on the slightest of hills with the front of the car facing down when she starts the car the clutch pedal sticks down and has to be pumped for it to release. The car has just done 4,000 miles and the local dealer has said that it’s completely normal. We will be taking this to the financial ombudsman as fiat have sold us finance on a car that is not fit for purpose. THERE IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH THIS CAR AND FIAT NEED TO TREAT THEIR CUSTOMERS WITH RESPECT AND SORT IT OUT BEFORE THEY HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS. Come on…. Fix It Again Tony

  • Shannon

    I have the 64plate 1.2 lounge, it gets up hills fine it is just the hill starts and pulling off that has the delay in power. As I live on a massive hill and in a town with many steep hills, it makes me very anxious when I have to do hill starts, and makes me crap my self when cars are behind me. I was starting to lose my confidence in my driving as Ive only been on the road over a year and had a gap in between cars, so I thought it was just me having to get used to driving again and a different car aswell as it being brand new, I only had a little micra and never had problems with driving it, and always been very confident with hill starts so nice to know this isn’t just me

  • Minivan

    I have just returned from a holiday having hired a 500 for a fortnight, on the flat it was fine, however a hill start was a nightmare with no throttle response for several seconds and the only way to leave a junction on a hill was by slipping the clutch and waiting for the revs to build. Certainly dangerous and FIAT needs to respond ASAP. To the posts above suggesting a ‘lack of competence’, you are demonstrating your own!

  • Are there any Fiat 500 owners that have had a problem with the car dropping out of Automatic into neutral whilst the engine is cold? I had it happen to me 6 times now over the last 6 months and it’s not funny. Service people can’t find the problem but I don’t feel safe anymore

  • Lynne Hughes

    This problem is not only with the 1.2 500! I have a ‘new’ 1.2 panda pop and experiencing the same problems and now have to plan my journey as I cannot take the chance of stopping on a hill because It will not get up a hill from a hill start, this is very difficult when you live in the valleys of Wales. The car is just 3 months old and has already had a new computer fitted and had updates but it still won’t get up a hill from a hill start. Fiat need to get this sorted asap or they are going to lose a lot of customers. My last 6 cars have been fiat but if they don’t get this sorted out asap there won’t be a 7th 🙁

  • Nick Simpson

    We bought a 1200cc model last May in France. We live in a hilly village and the car has failed to move off on a hill start several times and we have had to organise following traffic and turn round to take another route. It is also dangerous when accelerating out of a turn in busy traffic. I am rejecting the car as no solution has been found after three attempts at the supplying dealer. Pity – it is our third 500C but never again unless we get satisfaction.

  • Do let us know how you get on there, Nick.

  • Luke

    I drive a W reg 64 BHP (when new) Corsa B with a 4 speed autobox and whilst its not the fatest, i feel its safe enough for hill starts.

  • georgina

    Ive just took mine in today to be told I have a stone in my brake caliphers? Has anyone else had this..dealership were crap and told me to drive it in even though my brakes were seizing.. its a 64 plate 500 pop with 1000 miles on the clock

  • georgina

    Also I had the same car in a 13 plate which was more powerful but had faults with dashboard and heated back window

  • Don’t get me wrong I love my fiat but I fill with utter dread when it come to stopping on a hill…I have way to many rolling back problems when the car won’t recognise the revs when taking off…it’s terrifying…especially with a car behind you. However apart from this it was a great first car to get me used to driving alone without an instructor so very easy and simple to use and a dream to park.

  • PAUL


  • Mike Jerram

    My wife is still teetering on the brink of buying a 105hp TwinAir to replace her Cinquecento Sporting, so this sounds like good news!

  • PAUL


  • Mike Jerram

    You’ve earned me some Brownie points there, Paul! I’d better get the cheque book out then…

  • Ashley

    I’m getting one delivered on Monday, has there been an update on this now?

  • paul

    They are brill mike mine is going on sale soon im upgrading to the new 500x right price though but very nice

  • mark

    i bought my 2nd 500 in march, but moved from a twin air, to a 1.2 colour therapy as i wanted to use it to teach driving, however, my student failed his test today after bekng unable to complete a basic hill start, otherwise he had a faultless drive. another student had a similar problem and also failed. i spent 1 1/2 hours with fiat st albans, who fobbed me off and couldnt care less. this is my last fiat. unless fiat resolve the issue, satisfactorily, our cars are will be unsellable and devalue horrendously.

  • Frances

    I’ve had my 64 plate 1,2 Lounge for 3 months now and although it doesn’t race up hills, it does go up them and it does hill starts. I’ve driven ‘eco’ cars for a number of years and the fiat 500 1.2 is no more or less powerful than others. I remember my 52 plate Astra crawling up steep hills in 1st gear and I never heard of any complaints about that. I love my little fiat 500 and I’m really pleased with it.

  • Soozi gould

    Bought a brand new fiat 500 in April 2013, to my specification, so paid for lots of extras, in the summer of 2014, the car began to play, losing power on the smallest of inclines and making peculiar noises, also all the piping unravelled itself out of the drivers seat. After a lot of toing and froing and a good few courtesy cars later, the garage could not find the faults so decided that after 8,000 miles they would put a reconditioned engine in it. I was not happy about this but they told me I had no choice and had to accept this. The car was still sluggish on any incline, and I would often have to put my foot to the floor to get up a hill. On a couple of occasions, I even rolled backwards, despite the car being fitted with anti roll mechanism.. Last Friday, my daughter, my 3 year old grandson, and I left for Redcar, from the south coast to see my parents. Approx half way there, the car began to change down gears on its own while we were doing 50 – 60 miles an hour, thus losing power, and shaking. the engine management light was flashing and another warning light. We had to pull over onto the hard shoulder in the pitch black to get advice from my husband. We had to keep doing this for the rest of the journey, every 5 – 10 miles. ( dangerous and very frightening, to say the least). We finally reached our destination and took the car the following morning to a local fiat dealer, who unfortunately, could not look at it until at least Monday, and did not have a courtesy car for our use. They were extremely helpfull however, but I had to hire a car from a local firm until tues midday, thinking that my car would be sorted by then, however, the fault could not be found on the diagnostic machine, apart from something wrong with the spark plugs. I had to extend the car hire until Wednesday lunch time when we had to return South, as fiats contracted hire company did not have an automatic available. Meanwhile, my husband was constantly on the phone to fiat, Italy and fiat, England. At one point, he managed to speak to one of the directors, who was not at all happy that they had put a recon engine in it after so few miles. She assured him that she would look into it, but as yet, have had no further contact. The upshot of all this, is that fiat are refusing to pay for the hire of the first car, and are leaving us responsible for picking the bloody thing up, instead of transporting it to us. Oh, and apparently, they are paying for the hire of the contracted hire car as a good will gesture! Whoop de bloody do!!!!

  • Nige

    I’m in the market for a sporty fun car and my short, shortlist includes a Fiat 500 Abarth or a Toyota GT86.
    Having owned Hondas for the last 10 years I’ve pretty much come to take reliability and quality for granted.
    Whilst the Abarth 500 is going to have a lot more poke than the 1.2, the comments on here are ringing serious alarm bells in my mind as to the quality of Fiats and the attitude of the company and dealers to any issues.

    Thanks guys, I think you’ve made the decision for me.

  • I’m a driving instructor, and teach auto, my last car was a 2litre supercharged C class Mercedes
    I now have the 1.2 liter Dualogic fiat 500
    8000 miles in 3 months
    please remember most cars today are fly by wire, the accelerator is not connected to the engine!
    Don’t be afraid to put your foot to the floor to move off up hill, you need to tell the ECU (engine control unit) you want power, to get low emissions and high mpg, the ecu will turn the power down, so you need to tell it you want power.
    ps just installed LPG conversion

  • Justian

    NEVER had a problem starting and moving away on hills or getting up hills in my 500 dualogic. It’s not as fast as my other two cars (I have a ’01 Range Rover Sport and a classic ’69 Mercedes SL)- but hey… It’s so tiny and cheap to run, and fun to drive… I just don’t care!
    Point of interest- I’m so pleased with mine that I ordered my second 500 three weeks ago- whilst I can’t see me buying a new Range Rover Sport!

  • Stu Butler

    i hired a Fiat 500 from Avis during a recent weekend break to Jersey. The car really struggled getting up hills, meaning I had to change down from 3rd, to 2nd and eventually 1st to get to the crest of a hill.
    Perfect for shopping on flat roads but if you need to drive up hill – stay clear or get out and walk.

  • David Hoole

    The 1.2 is a FIAT engine which is also in the second gen.Ford Ka – not a Ford engine. Indeed, under the skin they are the much the same car and are both built in a Fiat factory in Poland. The issue is not the engine, or its ‘cc’ or its horsepower.

  • Mike

    The car will be capable of getting to the top of the hill, whether YOU are capable of getting it there is a different matter entirely. I have personally driven a 993cc, 3 cylinder Corsa up a 1:3 incline.
    As for hill starts, I assume the 500 has a handbrake?? This is the answer to hill starts.

    If you want to fly up hills, speed unaffected, then buy a 2.0 TDi, dont buy a seriously underpowered 1.2 petrol, then moan about it. Would you attempt to sail the atlantic in an inflatable dinghy? No, its clearly not suitable.

  • Owen Lewis

    That is pretty poor considering the similarly powered and much cheaper 1.2 Dacia Sandero has no such problems

  • Rhys Edwards

    Okay so I’m not the most experienced here (still on L plates). .. I have a Fiat seicento 899cc surely the fiat 500 in question can’t be that bad in comparison.. My driving instructor drives a 1.2 fiat 500 but not sure which..

  • Thanks for your comment, Rhys. We’re actually driving the new 2015 Fiat 500 next week in Italy, including the latest 1.2-litre version… and will be quizzing the engineers on it!

    Come back for more then…

  • Michael I

    Just back from holiday in Italy. My hire car was an almost new 1.2 litre Panda. I really struggled to climb steeper gradients on approaching hill towns – needing much revving and some clutch slipping. I was surprised, because in previous years the 1.3 diesel Panda was more than a match for this type of terrain. I believe the diesel can produce around twice the torque of the 1.2 petrol engine, and if you live in a seriously hilly area is a much better bet.

  • jochenstacker

    The problem is ever stricter emissions controls. Politicians know it’s sexy to bang the table and say they are “doing something!”, so they will say “I shall decree that emissions shall come down by 20% this year, see mother earth rejoice for I have single handedly saved the Earth!”.
    The result is that manufacturers either have to build cars that can beat the test and drive normally in the real world, or build cars that comply with regulations at all times but are completely undrivable. Simply because of legislation enacted by technically clueless windbags.
    And maybe ICE engines have run their course, they better hurry up with the alternative before we all end up again on bicycles. At least that would be the Greens wet dream come true.

  • Lewis Dorman

    This is a car popular with new drivers, the majority of which are under 25. Thus, a 2.0 ANYTHING is going to be incredibly expensive to insure.

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  • Stuart King

    A Fiat was the lowest point of any product of any type I’ve had in 40 years. Stupidly made low quality abomination.

  • 18pminus1

    Why not try it in third gear it is not the car, my mum has one of these and manages to climb hills pretty well. Though there is a lack of power than the old one but still.

  • rose white

    Surely the DoT and other organisations should get on the case?