A guide to Fiat cars (part 1)

If you’re looking for a small, practical car with low environmental impact and distinctive, stylish designs, Fiat could be the manufacturer for you.

The Italian manufacturer, which also owns Alfa Romeo, has won numerous international awards for its low-CO2 engine technology in recent years, and has even hinted at an ultra-efficient two-cylinder model for some of its smaller cars.

As such, the manufacturer is one of only three to boast average CO2 emissions from its cars below 130g/km – the EU’s target for all manufacturers by 2015.

And, in the Fiat 500 the Italian manufacturer has an absolute gem. Voted the world’s sexiest car ahead of a host of Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Aston Martins by Top Gear, the affordable city car has proved a major hit with buyers looking for an alternative to a Mini.

In the first part of our guide to Fiat cars, we take a look at the smaller cars in Fiat’s garage.

Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 city car has been lavished with praise since its launch in 2007, but the name harks back to the classic 500s of the 60s and 70s.

Indeed, the retro style of the new Fiat 500 adds to its charm, and the excellent drive and fun, cute looks put the Fiat 500 in a league of its own.

It’s affordable compared to its chief rival, the Mini, and although second hand models are relatively hard to come by, residuals values are expected to be high.

The choice of 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines as well as frugal diesel alternatives keep running costs to a minimum, and the three trim levels; Pop, Sport and Lounge, offer extremely high levels of equipment.

If you’re after something a bit different, the Fiat 500 has spawned an almost endless string of spin-off special editions as well as the popular 500C drop-top variant.

Prices for the Fiat 500 start from £9,300, but if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a special edition, expect to pay a little more.

Fiat Panda

While the Fiat 500 has the retro looks, the Fiat Panda is much closer to the classic Italian city cars of the past.

With styling, modern looks and compact dimensions, the nippy Panda is the ideal car for city life. It is capable of squeezing into tiny city-sized parking spaces and the go-kart like handling is ideal for urban journeys.

The Panda even offers a 4×4 option for better grip and is surprisingly practical with five doors and a bigger boot than many rivals.

Engines are predictably efficient and frugal, while the inside exudes nothing of the ‘budget’ label with some high quality plastics and a decent amount of equipment.

But, it remains one of the cheapest all-round cars to own available today. Expect low insurance, road tax and fuel costs from the little car with a lot of style.

Prices for the Panda start from £7,500.

Fiat Bravo

Replacing the unpopular Fiat Stilo family hatch was always going to be a popular choice for Fiat fans, and the Bravo manages it with ease.

The VW Golf rival features responsive handling and his grippy but compliant around corners, making for an excellent ride.

The Bravo finds a good middle ground between large and small and as such is equally at home on motorways and twisty country lanes.

Fiat offers low-CO2 engine options with the Bravo, including a frugal 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel engine with two different power outputs. An Eco pack further boosts the Bravo’s environmental credentials and subsequent running costs.

The Fiat Bravo is an attractive – and affordable – alternative to the ever popular Ford Focus, and with high levels of equipment, a good drive and a five star EuroNCAP crash test rating, the starting price of just £14,000 is a bargain.

Fiat Punto Evo

The Fiat Punto Evo is hard to pin down. It features sporty, hot-hatch styling and improved performance over your typical three-door hatchback, but emissions and fuel consumption have been targeted by Fiat to bring down costs.

The result is an affordable, desirable supermini with enough under the bonnet to provide a few thrills. Fiat has crafted a genuine contender to class leaders such as the Ford Fiesta in the Punto Evo.

There’s a sportier trim level if that’s what you’re into and a clever marketing campaign including the world’s first car manufacturer-funded music video with Faithless has increased its visibility with younger buyers.

Fiat’s clever MultiAir technology offers low running costs so if you’re looking to downsize in the wake of rising fuel prices, the Punto Evo is a stylish alternative.

Prices start from around £9,500.

Fiat Grande Punto

As expected, the ‘Grande’ part of Grande Punto’s name refers to the amount of space available. There is 246 litres of boot space and four adults can sit comfortably inside – a big achievement for a supermini.

The Grande Punto comes in three- or five-door hatch versions, both of which are beautifully styled and well put together.

Like the Punto, 500 and Panda, the Grande Punto undercuts many of its rivals in terms of both price and driving costs. Expect CO2 emissions below 140g/km and high fuel efficiency figures, particularly with Fiat’s range of diesels.

The ride is firm but comfortable and the Grande Punto handles as well as a much smaller car. It also boasts a five-star rating in the EuroNCAP safety tests.

Starting from just £9,750 new, the Fiat Grande Punto is an affordable, more practical option in the bloated supermini market.