Modifying and tuning the Fiat 500

Following on from our Fiat 500 Buyers’ Guide we thought we’d give you a little insight into what you can do to truly make your new car give you that little bit of extra exhilaration – or acceleration!

All of the engines used in the Fiat 500 can be tuned to a certain degree but unfortunately you will not achieve anything close to whiplash-inducing performance with anything other than the 1.4litre. Modest gains are there to be had for the 09., 1.2 and 1.3 but pretty much will all be single bhp figures.

The engines used in the Fiat 500 are the 0.9 litre twin-air, 1.2 litre and 1.4 litre petrol and the 1.3 multi-jet diesel. The Fiat 500 Abarth gets its boost in performance by bolting a turbocharger to the 1.4 engine, plus a few other tweaks.

As we mentioned in our Fiat 500 Buyers’ Guide, in standard form the engines deliver between 69 and 105bhp. The 1.4 petrol offering the most power but with only slightly better acceleration than the 0.9 twin-air. The 1.2 petrol and 1.3 diesel are just plodders, it would be easier – and cheaper – to sell these and buy a 1.4 than trying to modify them.

A re-map or plug-in tuning box for a 1.2 could possibly give you an extra 11bhp (up to 80bhp, compared to the standard 69bhp) but at a cost, depending on tuning company, of around £300.

A different tuning option for the 1.2 is a remap which improves throttle response. Companies like Superchips will carry out this remap at a cost of around £230. It does give a small 5bhp increase at maximum rpm but you’d need to be pushing the rev counter to over 4,000 to benefit from it. The throttle response chip purely gives a livelier response – as the name suggests – from the throttle. As we mentioned above the 1.2 and 1.3 are plodders and some 1.2 owners have been very vocal in their criticism of the vehicle’s sluggish take-off.

The 1.4 in standard and Abarth Turbo versions is going to give you the most return for your modification budget and possibly even top 200bhp but you would have to spend a lot of money to get close to that. A standard plugin tuning device could offer a boost of around 13-15bhp. Anyone offering a re-map gain of 25% to a standard engine with no other modifications is pulling your proverbial plonker. Steer well clear of the eBay snake-oil sellers!

Where to start…

Before you get to work increasing power you should ALWAYS uprate the stopping power too. MTEC provide front and rear discs in a range of styles: Dimple Grooved, Drilled Grooved, Drilled only, Grooved only and C-Hook for around £60 per corner. To accompany these MTEC also supply brake pads from Mintex or EBC. Depending on model they also offer zinc-plated performance brake hoses.

Now that you know you can stop the car the handling is next on the list. It is not uncommon to lower the car by around one inch (25mm) but you could drop it by as much as 40mm if you’re prepared to whittle out the wheel arches. But even without lowering you’re going to want to uprate the standard suspension.

Obviously the suspension and handling upgrades can be carried out on any model of Fiat 500, not just the 1.4, if all you are looking for is a better ride and a bolder look.

RTEC shop can supply a complete Airex Suspension Kit for the Fiat 500 as well as other suspension upgrades and coilovers from AP, Eibach, ST and KW Automotive. And while you’re under there you can add wheel spacers in widths from 5mm up to 30mm to improve the stance.

It is likely that your Fiat 500 came with 15″ or 16″ wheels. 185/55R15 were standard on the Lounge and Pop trims. Abarths are fitted with 195/45R16 as standard with the 17″ 205/40R17 as an option.

If you want to opt for the 17″ alloys – and there are huge selection of aftermarket rims at this size – then you need to stick with the lower profiles. Particularly if you’re intending to lower the suspension as discussed above.

However, if you are confident about fettling the bodywork you could opt for the delicious looking 18″ package shows on the Hamann Fiat 500 below. These are 215/35R18, Hamann also offered 235/35R18 as an option. But the bodykit hides the cutting that had to be done to get these to fit.

As with any car, the level to which you go is only limited by your budget and your skill.

Now to venture under the bonnet…

A remap and replacement K&N air filter is a good start for a modest gain.  A Supersprint stainless steel sports exhaust can be fitted as a complete system replacing the manifold and rear section or just the manifold, or just the rear, although we’d recommend replacing the whole lot.

Opening up the engine gives you the opportunity to fit a lighter flywheel, ported head, fuelling upgrades (pump and injectors) as well as a replacement fast-road cam. And if that still isn’t enough you could get really into it and add forced induction (supercharger or turbo), upgrade the pistons, valves and fit a race cam then get it all re-balanced.

All of that is not going to be cheap but if you want a real sleeper that blends in with the traffic but raises eyebrows at the lights it has to be a very interesting option. In a car a light as the Fiat 500 you will feel like you are flying!

Fiat 500 styling kits…

Just because the Fiat 500 is such a small package doesn’t mean that there are no options for changing up the exterior body-styling. In 2010 the German tuning specialist Hamann created a very distinctive package (shown earlier) but it is no longer available.

However Magna Tuning in Romania (above) offer a wide range of exterior styling modifications from the subtly to the extreme.

And if you are feeling very confident, there’s this…

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