The unexpected cost of running a Fiat 500

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Londonscottish

MB Enthusiast
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May 12, 2007
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Location
London
Car
E500 & Fiat 500
Everyone I speak to who fixes cars tells me that modern cars are increasingly complex and liable to fail expensively. And to hang on to my 212. And they also say Fiats are pretty shit; I told my wife all about them and tried to get her to get an Aygo/Swift/i10 but she wanted the cutesy Fiat. TBH I can see why as it it a brilliant but of design; but in build terms it's rubbish.

My 212 is 13 years old, has done 83k miles and, in the time I've had it, has been pretty reliable. Other than consumables (and I include ball joints and drop links in that category) it's needed a starter motor, a couple of rear air springs, a coolant hose and a fix to an oil leak on the front of engine.

My wife's Fiat 500 is just under 8 years old and on a measly 21k miles. In the last 15 months it's had a total failure of the ePAS system (£840), a complete failure of the clutch hydraulics (£963) and now has failed it's MOT on two broken springs, two shagged dampers and two bushes which meant two entirely new wishbones. That lot cost me £780. That's nearly £2,600!

What's annoying is that the clutch failure is just failure of one cheap component but the labour's hefty so you might and well do it all when your in there. The bushes were incredibly shagged (half disintegrated) but you can't press them out and buy them separately you have to buy the whole assembly twice over. FFS. And as for the rear springs and dampers; the car's only on 21k.....WTAF? I did ask if they could do the springs now and the dampers later - I could have done that but then I'd have had to pay to have the rear bumper removed and replaced twice......

FWIW it's driving brilliantly now but it's the biggest lemon I've had in almost 4 decades. Oddly enough the last car I had which experience multiple expansive failures was an Alfasud I owned between 1988 and 1989. Funny that.

Although, having said all that, I did love driving that Sud and I do love bombing around in the 500.

Anyway, my conclusion is that the Merc is probably designed for the 150k mile benchmark that seems to be the industry norm and the Fiat is build down to price with a much shorter design life and is dangerous to own out of warranty/ in early middle age.

Just as well it's fun.

Any auto engineers on here who can comment?
 
Sorry to hear this.

Our ultra-reliable Kia Soul II which we had for 5 years was totalled in 2018 when a boy racer hit a row of parked cars in our street.

Looking for a replacement, we saw a low mileage second hand Jeep Renegade and Mrs. MJ really really liked it - boxy shape, cute, small, practical, what's not to like.

She then did some research and found out that the Renegade is based on the Fiat 500 underpinning and made in a Fiat factory in the south of Italy.

She said "no thank you" and we bought a second hand Suzuki Vitara, made in Japan, it is still going strong and had we no problems with it whatsoever.
 
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Everyone I speak to who fixes cars tells me that modern cars are increasingly complex and liable to fail expensively. And to hang on to my 212. And they also say Fiats are pretty shit; I told my wife all about them and tried to get her to get an Aygo/Swift/i10 but she wanted the cutesy Fiat. TBH I can see why as it it a brilliant but of design; but in build terms it's rubbish.

My 212 is 13 years old, has done 83k miles and, in the time I've had it, has been pretty reliable. Other than consumables (and I include ball joints and drop links in that category) it's needed a starter motor, a couple of rear air springs, a coolant hose and a fix to an oil leak on the front of engine.

My wife's Fiat 500 is just under 8 years old and on a measly 21k miles. In the last 15 months it's had a total failure of the ePAS system (£840), a complete failure of the clutch hydraulics (£963) and now has failed it's MOT on two broken springs, two shagged dampers and two bushes which meant two entirely new wishbones. That lot cost me £780. That's nearly £2,600!

What's annoying is that the clutch failure is just failure of one cheap component but the labour's hefty so you might and well do it all when your in there. The bushes were incredibly shagged (half disintegrated) but you can't press them out and buy them separately you have to buy the whole assembly twice over. FFS. And as for the rear springs and dampers; the car's only on 21k.....WTAF? I did ask if they could do the springs now and the dampers later - I could have done that but then I'd have had to pay to have the rear bumper removed and replaced twice......

FWIW it's driving brilliantly now but it's the biggest lemon I've had in almost 4 decades. Oddly enough the last car I had which experience multiple expansive failures was an Alfasud I owned between 1988 and 1989. Funny that.

Although, having said all that, I did love driving that Sud and I do love bombing around in the 500.

Anyway, my conclusion is that the Merc is probably designed for the 150k mile benchmark that seems to be the industry norm and the Fiat is build down to price with a much shorter design life and is dangerous to own out of warranty/ in early middle age.

Just as well it's fun.

Any auto engineers on here who can comment?
Pretty much in line with people I know who own both the E class and Fiats in general. It explains my love of these Frankfurt Taxis.

People rightly love Fiats for their style, and forgive their ...peccadilloes, but the happiest Fiat 500 owners that I know are the ones who personally finance a new 500, with warranty, every 3-4 years.

How consistent is the MoT history of the Fiat. Is there a whiff of the cloven hoof anywhere?
 
Pretty much in line with people I know who own both the E class and Fiats in general. It explains my love of these Frankfurt Taxis.

People rightly love Fiats for their style, and forgive their ...peccadilloes, but the happiest Fiat 500 owners that I know are the ones who personally finance a new 500, with warranty, every 3-4 years.

How consistent is the MoT history of the Fiat. Is there a whiff of the cloven hoof anywhere?
It's interesting, as my experience with our 2010 500 (albeit Abarth) and 2011 S212 has been the exact opposite! Our Abarth (had from almost new) is on 120k miles now and has had a couple of rear shocks (only because the top bushes were shot and it was cheaper/easier just to replace). Its also had a clutch and ive recently done a clutch master cylinder. Its also had two rear wheel bearings. Other than brakes and pads and other service items that's all it's had. (touch wood). I did change the rear bump stops to Fiat Coupe/Alfa GTV items as they make the ride a bit better on our roads. (The originals don't allow enough suspension travel). My wife drives it quite hard and it has a horrible commute from Guildford to Reading so a lot of crawling traffic. I do the servicing and most of the work on it myself now. Some bits are super easy, anything in the engine bay is a nightmare as there's no space at all. Im hoping the clutch slave keeps behaving as it's one of those stupid ones inside the bell housing (who on earth thought that was a good idea? They seem common now as well)

I have been really impressed with the robustness of the little Abarth, although the ride is hard as hell.

The S212 on the other hand (by 116k miles) has had rear air bags, all air lines and compressor, rear height sensor, oil cooler, water separator, engine and trans mounts and a DPF pressure sensor plus all the usual service items. It does now need a couple of front drop links.

To be honest the most reliable car ive had has been my year 2000 Alfa GTV V6 where absolutely nothing has failed (though it's only on 65k), or the Mondeo Mk4 i had (just had drop links and a DMF). I sold it our neighbours when it was on 160k and it's still going strong. To be fair about the Alfa although nothing has failed i have changed quite a lot of stuff on it!
 
Everyone I speak to who fixes cars tells me that modern cars are increasingly complex and liable to fail expensively. And to hang on to my 212. And they also say Fiats are pretty shit; I told my wife all about them and tried to get her to get an Aygo/Swift/i10 but she wanted the cutesy Fiat. TBH I can see why as it it a brilliant but of design; but in build terms it's rubbish.

My 212 is 13 years old, has done 83k miles and, in the time I've had it, has been pretty reliable. Other than consumables (and I include ball joints and drop links in that category) it's needed a starter motor, a couple of rear air springs, a coolant hose and a fix to an oil leak on the front of engine.

My wife's Fiat 500 is just under 8 years old and on a measly 21k miles. In the last 15 months it's had a total failure of the ePAS system (£840), a complete failure of the clutch hydraulics (£963) and now has failed it's MOT on two broken springs, two shagged dampers and two bushes which meant two entirely new wishbones. That lot cost me £780. That's nearly £2,600!

What's annoying is that the clutch failure is just failure of one cheap component but the labour's hefty so you might and well do it all when your in there. The bushes were incredibly shagged (half disintegrated) but you can't press them out and buy them separately you have to buy the whole assembly twice over. FFS. And as for the rear springs and dampers; the car's only on 21k.....WTAF? I did ask if they could do the springs now and the dampers later - I could have done that but then I'd have had to pay to have the rear bumper removed and replaced twice......

FWIW it's driving brilliantly now but it's the biggest lemon I've had in almost 4 decades. Oddly enough the last car I had which experience multiple expansive failures was an Alfasud I owned between 1988 and 1989. Funny that.

Although, having said all that, I did love driving that Sud and I do love bombing around in the 500.

Anyway, my conclusion is that the Merc is probably designed for the 150k mile benchmark that seems to be the industry norm and the Fiat is build down to price with a much shorter design life and is dangerous to own out of warranty/ in early middle age.

Just as well it's fun.

Any auto engineers on here who can comment?

Sorry to here that. I've had 2 Fiat Pandas and an Alfa and they've all been far more reliable and rust free than any of my Mercedes.... I like Italian and German cars but German ones are, in my experience, pretty unreliable once past 50k miles (doesn't stop me liking them tho😅)
 
Sorry to here that. I've had 2 Fiat Pandas and an Alfa and they've all been far more reliable and rust free than any of my Mercedes.... I like Italian and German cars but German ones are, in my experience, pretty unreliable once past 50k miles (doesn't stop me liking them tho😅)
Here's ours on 120k miles:
Abarth.jpg
 
Everyone I speak to who fixes cars tells me that modern cars are increasingly complex and liable to fail expensively. And to hang on to my 212. And they also say Fiats are pretty shit; I told my wife all about them and tried to get her to get an Aygo/Swift/i10 but she wanted the cutesy Fiat. TBH I can see why as it it a brilliant but of design; but in build terms it's rubbish.

My 212 is 13 years old, has done 83k miles and, in the time I've had it, has been pretty reliable. Other than consumables (and I include ball joints and drop links in that category) it's needed a starter motor, a couple of rear air springs, a coolant hose and a fix to an oil leak on the front of engine.

My wife's Fiat 500 is just under 8 years old and on a measly 21k miles. In the last 15 months it's had a total failure of the ePAS system (£840), a complete failure of the clutch hydraulics (£963) and now has failed it's MOT on two broken springs, two shagged dampers and two bushes which meant two entirely new wishbones. That lot cost me £780. That's nearly £2,600!

What's annoying is that the clutch failure is just failure of one cheap component but the labour's hefty so you might and well do it all when your in there. The bushes were incredibly shagged (half disintegrated) but you can't press them out and buy them separately you have to buy the whole assembly twice over. FFS. And as for the rear springs and dampers; the car's only on 21k.....WTAF? I did ask if they could do the springs now and the dampers later - I could have done that but then I'd have had to pay to have the rear bumper removed and replaced twice......

FWIW it's driving brilliantly now but it's the biggest lemon I've had in almost 4 decades. Oddly enough the last car I had which experience multiple expansive failures was an Alfasud I owned between 1988 and 1989. Funny that.

Although, having said all that, I did love driving that Sud and I do love bombing around in the 500.

Anyway, my conclusion is that the Merc is probably designed for the 150k mile benchmark that seems to be the industry norm and the Fiat is build down to price with a much shorter design life and is dangerous to own out of warranty/ in early middle age.

Just as well it's fun.

Any auto engineers on here who can comment?
Too much gadgetry into a small space.
 
I lost reverse gear on my Fiat - not a big problem as you could open the door and push it back with your foot while still in the driver's seat :D

Fiat2.jpg

I also drove it home down the A3 once on 1 cylinder after the post sheared off the top of one of the plugs. Happy days :)
 
Pretty much in line with people I know who own both the E class and Fiats in general. It explains my love of these Frankfurt Taxis.

People rightly love Fiats for their style, and forgive their ...peccadilloes, but the happiest Fiat 500 owners that I know are the ones who personally finance a new 500, with warranty, every 3-4 years.

How consistent is the MoT history of the Fiat. Is there a whiff of the cloven hoof anywhere?

The history is fine. I bought it from Arnold Clark when it was just over 5 years old on 15k miles. They'd just done a cambelt service on it and I thought it would work like clockwork like the Clio before it which lasted 20 years, scrubbed up well and cost peanuts to run.

Like the Clio, this one had the sort of high spec a private buyer would go for - metallic paint, leather, opening sunroof, DAB and Tom. It was averaging 3k a year before I bought it, under 2k pa since I've had it.

I think I've been unlucky having both the steering and clutch go. Most of the suspension stuff, TBF, is probably down the vast swathes of landmine-like speedbumps that extend in every direction as far as the eye can see.
 
It's interesting, as my experience with our 2010 500 (albeit Abarth) and 2011 S212 has been the exact opposite! Our Abarth (had from almost new) is on 120k miles now and has had a couple of rear shocks (only because the top bushes were shot and it was cheaper/easier just to replace). Its also had a clutch and ive recently done a clutch master cylinder. Its also had two rear wheel bearings. Other than brakes and pads and other service items that's all it's had. (touch wood). I did change the rear bump stops to Fiat Coupe/Alfa GTV items as they make the ride a bit better on our roads. (The originals don't allow enough suspension travel). My wife drives it quite hard and it has a horrible commute from Guildford to Reading so a lot of crawling traffic. I do the servicing and most of the work on it myself now. Some bits are super easy, anything in the engine bay is a nightmare as there's no space at all. Im hoping the clutch slave keeps behaving as it's one of those stupid ones inside the bell housing (who on earth thought that was a good idea? They seem common now as well)

I have been really impressed with the robustness of the little Abarth, although the ride is hard as hell.

The S212 on the other hand (by 116k miles) has had rear air bags, all air lines and compressor, rear height sensor, oil cooler, water separator, engine and trans mounts and a DPF pressure sensor plus all the usual service items. It does now need a couple of front drop links.

To be honest the most reliable car ive had has been my year 2000 Alfa GTV V6 where absolutely nothing has failed (though it's only on 65k), or the Mondeo Mk4 i had (just had drop links and a DMF). I sold it our neighbours when it was on 160k and it's still going strong. To be fair about the Alfa although nothing has failed i have changed quite a lot of stuff on it!

Yeah it was the bushes on the rear dampers that were shot. It feels really tight again now although one of the front dampers is misting and will have to be replaced next year. Might see if I can sneak in some Konis or equivalent.

Anyway, I guess cars are luck of the draw. I know someone with a 212 identical to mine who's had the subframe go, the ignition fail and now I thing the a/c compressor's gone.
 
So the man said....
Hmm, no need on the Abarth, it’s dead easy. I had the springs and dampers out when I changed the bump stops. I can’t see how the bumper would get in the way of anything?
 
I think I've been unlucky having both the steering and clutch go. Most of the suspension stuff, TBF, is probably down the vast swathes of landmine-like speedbumps that extend in every direction as far as the eye can see.
Nailed it, I think.

Speedbumps and, more recently, pot holes, are doing a lot of damage in Sarf London
 
The history is fine. I bought it from Arnold Clark when it was just over 5 years old on 15k miles. They'd just done a cambelt service on it and I thought it would work like clockwork like the Clio before it which lasted 20 years, scrubbed up well and cost peanuts to run.

Like the Clio, this one had the sort of high spec a private buyer would go for - metallic paint, leather, opening sunroof, DAB and Tom. It was averaging 3k a year before I bought it, under 2k pa since I've had it.

I think I've been unlucky having both the steering and clutch go. Most of the suspension stuff, TBF, is probably down the vast swathes of landmine-like speedbumps that extend in every direction as far as the eye can see.
I know the electric steering is a problem area across the range but I think more those versions that have the city button.
 
Nailed it, I think.

Speedbumps and, more recently, pot holes, are doing a lot of damage in Sarf London

Lots of short trips and stop/start driving are quite hard on urban runarounds too, which might explain the clutch failure.

As an aside I had a deaf boss who gave me a lift a few times - her company car was a manual and she only ever changed up when it stopped accelerating due to hitting the rev limiter. I pitied whoever ended up with her cars when they reached the private market! Low mileage, only 4 years old, FSH, 1 lady owner ...
 
Nailed it, I think.

Speedbumps and, more recently, pot holes, are doing a lot of damage in Sarf London

Italian cars are generally very resilient to damage from poor road surface. The roads in Southern Italy aren't great either (not the Autostrada).

In fact, last week I drove a 15 years old Panda Mk.2 in Puglia, it had 55000 Km on the clock, and I commented to myself that it goes over potholes and speed bumps much smoother than my current cars in the UK do.
 
Italian cars are generally very resilient to damage from poor road surface. The roads in Southern Italy aren't great either (not the Autostrada).

In fact, last week I drove a 15 years old Panda Mk.2 in Puglia, it had 55000 Km on the clock, and I commented to myself that it goes over potholes and speed bumps much smoother than my current cars in the UK do.
Pandas are like the cockroaches of the automotive world. I love them. Had a 4 x4 one on my first well site job in Basilicata, S. Italy. Amazing thing.
 

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