Looking for a small, fashionable car? Should you pick something new, or, for the same money, something vintage on the used market?
Fashion may come and go, but retro seems to have served the Mini and Fiat 500 well. You get to drive around in a car that looks like something from the past, yet it has all the luxuries of a modern car. If you’re in the market for something a bit more stylish than a small, mainstream vehicle, then these two could be exactly what you are looking for.
But which of the two is best? Do you go for a new Fiat 500? A car that comes with a full manufacturer’s warranty, new car smell, and no previous owners. Or, do you go for something a little older with some miles under its belt for the same money? You’d be saving money over a new car, but would it be reliable enough, and do those additional miles mean that it’ll need expensive repairs soon? There’s a lot to consider.
Read on as we compare our favourite versions of both to find out which one you should buy.
Fiat 500 1.2 Pop Star List Price: £12,490 Target price: £11,736 Official fuel economy: 60.1mpg Emissions: 110g/km CO2 Power: 69bhp 0-62mph: 12.9sec Top speed: 99mph
Mini hatchback 1.5 Cooper Price new: £15,505 Price today: £12,500 Official fuel economy: 62.8mpg Emissions: 105g/km CO2 Power: 134bhp 0-62mph: 7.9sec Top speed: 130mph
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and a full service history
New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper – styling
Both of these cars are styled to look like past versions of themselves, but with a modern twist. Think chrome, oversized styling features, and bulbous, curvy shapes.
The Fiat 500 is the smallest car here; it’s a city car, afterall. To maximise interior space, the wheels are pushed out as far as they’ll go into the corners of the car. The roof is higher than the Mini’s, but instead of being chopped off at the rear, it slopes down at a rather steep angle. Up at the front, there’s a short bonnet to match the original 500, with big, round headlights at bonnet line height, framing the large Fiat badge at the front of the car. It’s cute design overall, with barely a straight line on it.
The Mini is anything but these days, having grown in all areas to meet the demands of customers and safety legislation. To disguise some stretching of exterior dimensions, lights, grills, door handles and even the fuel filler cap, have been supersized to match the growth. Despite all this, the silhouette is still recognisable as a Mini, with round headlamps housed in a clamshell bonnet, steeply raked windscreen, a floating roof and flat rear end.
New Fiat 500 vs used Mini Cooper – driving
The Mini Cooper feels like it’s in a completely different performance class compared with the Fiat 500, indeed, the Mini has enough pace to embarrass hot hatches of just a few years ago. Despite having a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the Mini is the most powerful car of the two with 134bhp, while the 500 must make do with 69bhp. This stark difference is revealed in the 0-62mph time, which is a huge gap of five seconds, and while you won’t be performing standing starts every time you set off in the Mini, you will notice its greater performance reserves, especially around town, because you can stay in a higher gear and let the engine pull effortlessly from low revs. The 1.2 in the 500 needs plenty of revs to make decent progress and therefore limits its out of town abilities.
The same can be said of the ride quality. The 500 certainly isn’t uncomfortable, but it never really settles – no matter what the road or speed. Along uneven backstreets, you’ll often find yourself doing an involuntary impression of a nodding dog, while potholes and larger intrusions tent to send shudders through the cabin. The Mini copes better, particularly if you can find one with the optional adaptive dampers. They do an excellent job of smoothing out bumps when comfort mode is selected. The standard suspension set up is fine too, provided it comes with smaller alloy wheels. Sport suspension improves the body control, but the ride isn’t as compliant as the other two set-ups.