Car Buying

Are FIATs Good Cars?

FIATs often evoke a sense of fun and adventure, but are FIATs good cars? Read on to learn more about FIAT reliability and which models are the most reliable.

Read time

8 minutes

Date

02.01.2024

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Key takeaways

  • FIATs are known for their sense of fun and adventure, though they've faced challenges in reliability and have a smaller lineup compared to other brands.
  • For dependability and cost of ownership, FIATs rank in the middle, with higher than average chances of severe repairs but they offer respectable fuel efficiency for its class.
  • Despite challenges, FIAT models like the 500 and 124 Spider have received recognition for performance and low cost of ownership, indicating some strengths in the lineup.

Established in 1899, Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (FIAT) opened its first factory in Corso Dante, Italy. The first model produced by this Italian automaker was the 3 ½ HP. The predecessor to the FIAT 500 of today arrived in 1936 and has been charming audiences ever since. However, FIAT has struggled to remain a reliable brand among consumers, especially with such a small lineup. 


If you’ve always wanted to get behind the wheel of this peppy Italian coupe, a FINN car subscription offers a solution. FINN includes FIAT in its extensive lineup, along with several other makes and models. Your FINN monthly subscription fee also includes insurance, registration, depreciation, and maintenance. 

How reliable is FIAT?

FIAT doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to reliability. To be fair, FIAT only sells select models compared to other import brands that host a longer lineup. However, the brand ranks in the middle of the pack in dependability and cost of ownership ratings. Safety ratings and average repair costs are two areas where FIAT falls short. 

How car reliability is measured

Reliability ratings depend on more than a smooth ride every time. A reliable vehicle will get you from Point A to Point B, but also in a fuel-efficient manner. Reliable vehicles also cost less to fix, and visit the shop less frequently. The following sources can help determine a car’s reliability, regardless of make and model: 

  • J.D. Power dependability rewards 
  • FuelEconomy.gov’s fuel efficiency ratings
  • Safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Average repair costs reported by RepairPal
  • Kelley Blue Book’s (KBB) 5-Year Cost to Own


If you’re in the market for a new or used FIAT, these reliability ratings can help inform your purchase. Research your desired FIAT model to learn more about its performance in these areas. You can also compare the FIAT ratings to those of other brands, including Ford, Honda, Audi, Jeep, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Subaru

5 factors contributing to FIAT’s reliability

How reliable do you think FIATs are? Keep reading to learn more about how FIAT ranks in fuel efficiency and safety ratings, dependability, cost of ownership, and average repair costs

1. Dependability

The 2015 FIAT 500c earned recognition from J.D. Power as the highest-performance compact city car. Since then, the brand has also earned an award for the 500e as the Best Electric Small Car in the What Car? Electric Car Awards 2023. The Fully Charged Awards also recognized the same model in its Best Small EV category in 2023. 

2. Average repair costs 

According to RepairPal, FIAT ranks 18th out of 32 car brands with a 3.5 out of five reliability rating. The average annual repair costs total $538 for this import brand. Repair shop visits total 0.2 annually, with a 17% chance of a severe repair. The probability of severe repairs is higher than the 12% chance of severe repair among all models.

3. Fuel efficiency 

FIAT’s fuel-efficiency ratings depend solely on the 2023 FIAT 500X. In all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations, the 500X achieves 24 city and 30 highway miles-per-gallon (MPG). Combined, that’s 26 MPG, which is respectable for a vehicle of its stature. 

4. Cost of ownership

Kelley Blue Book awarded the 2020 FIAT 124 Spider the Best Sports Car for its low 5-Year Cost to Own tally. This same model also won the title a year previous. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing (MSRP) on the 2020 FIAT 124 Spider was $26,885. 

5. Safety features and ratings

The IIHS last tested the FIAT 500 back in 2019, when it received “Good” ratings in all categories except the “Small overlap front: driver-side” test, where it received a “Poor” rating. In 2020, the FIAT 500L earned a similar rating, earning a “Poor” score on the same test. However, the 2022 FIAT 500X earned a “Good” rating for “Roof strength.” 


The NHTSA has not yet rated the FIAT 500 lineup despite noting one recall and two investigations on the 2019 FIAT 500. This model earned four out of five stars in the “Overall Front” and “Rollover” tests. However, the NHTSA did not rate it for the “Overall Side” tests. 

What are common FIAT problems?

If you already know what to bring for a car inspection, watch for the following problems common for FIATs. 

1. Steering

Issues with FIAT steering stem from mechanical, electrical, and cosmetic complaints. Owners report noisy steering columns and power steering issues. FIAT steering wiring has also come under fire for wiring issues. The lower steering column shrouds also tend to come loose. 

2. Engine

Some FIAT owners reported a check engine light without cause that turned out to be a faulty signal. Low oil pressure can cause issues with FIAT engines, along with coolant leaks that lead to overheating. Certain FIATs also have exhaust issues. 

3. Transmission

Jerky movements, stalling, and the inability to shift cause FIAT transmissions to be unreliable. Owners have complained about difficulties in engaging gears. The clutch leaf springs within the transmissions are also prone to failure. 

4. Brakes

FIATs are known for having brake issues across various years. In 2008 and 2009 FIAT models, the rear brakes tended to lock up. Hydraulic failures also plague FIATs.

FIAT vs. Hyundai vs. Toyota

If you’re considering a FIAT, you might also ask yourself if Volkswagens are reliable. After all, the VW Golf and Golf GTI resemble the FIAT 500 hatchback in size. However, Hyundai and Toyota don’t necessarily make a direct competitor to the 500. Toyota certainly ranks higher in reliability, and Hyundai features a more robust lineup of models competing in various segments. 

Which are the most reliable FIAT cars?

Figuring out if you can lease a used car, mainly a used FIAT, can help inform your purchase. Look for the following models if you can find a dealership willing to lease you a used FIAT.  

FIAT 500

The FIAT 500 has been on the market in America since 2011 and pulls on the same heartstrings as the MINI Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle. According to RepairPal, most FIAT 500s visit the shop 0.2 times annually, and it’s the same story for the 500L. Model years of exceptionally high reliability include 2015, 2018, and 2019. The FIAT 500 Abarth is no slouch to drive either. 

FIAT 124 Spider 

FIAT developed the 124 Spider convertible alongside the Mazda MX-5. This affordable sports car rivaled the Miata for its capabilities and sheer joy behind the wheel with a turbo powertrain. It also scored high in safety and reliability, a potent mix for a sporty coupe. 

Should you drive a FIAT?

You should drive a FIAT if you’re looking for a car of small stature with enough performance and maneuverability to wind down any city side streets with ease. FIAT infotainment systems have a reputation for being primarily user-friendly, but standard technology and safety features put the brand behind the curve. Although FIAT has a limited lineup and no new models, various versions of the 500 platform allow for some customization. 

Are FIATs reliable FAQs

Researching the best way to sell a used car can help you free up cash to potentially get behind the wheel of a FIAT. Check out the following questions to see if a FIAT suits you. 

Believe it or not, FIATs can last upwards of 200,000 miles. Freddie Dobbs recently passed this milestone in his white FIAT 500. With the proper care and maintenance, other FIAT 500 models should last just as long, if not longer. 

FIATs can be expensive to maintain, mainly due to their import status. Owning one for a year can cost you between $500 and $600. However, FIATs are smaller vehicles, so there aren’t as many components to maintain as on a larger vehicle. 

FIATs do well in fuel efficiency based on their size. A peppy engine beneath the hood helps with acceleration. FIAT also offers a 500e, an electrified version of the fan favorite. 

Final thoughts

Buying a reliable car can help give you peace of mind, but to say many people purchase a FIAT for its dependability overlooks one of the best things the brand has going for it: the joy of driving. FIATs strike the same chord other subcompact models play on, with peppy engines and small statures representing the perfect combination for city streets and winding mountain passes. 


FIAT may struggle to convince buyers of its robust standard safety features or technological advancements, but the same could be said for any go-kart-like platform. It’s more about the driver’s experience than ticking any traditional boxes. 


If you think a FIAT might be part of your future, check out a FINN car subscription. FINN stocks several FIAT models in its extensive lineup, each of which can be delivered straight to your door. Subscribe to a new car with FINN to access flexible terms and a monthly fee that bundles insurance, registration, depreciation, and maintenance. What could be more convenient than that?

Are Fiats Good Cars
Are Fiats Good Cars

Final thoughts

Buying a reliable car can help give you peace of mind, but to say many people purchase a FIAT for its dependability overlooks one of the best things the brand has going for it: the joy of driving. FIATs strike the same chord other subcompact models play on, with peppy engines and small statures representing the perfect combination for city streets and winding mountain passes. 


FIAT may struggle to convince buyers of its robust standard safety features or technological advancements, but the same could be said for any go-kart-like platform. It’s more about the driver’s experience than ticking any traditional boxes. 


If you think a FIAT might be part of your future, check out a FINN car subscription. FINN stocks several FIAT models in its extensive lineup, each of which can be delivered straight to your door. Subscribe to a new car with FINN to access flexible terms and a monthly fee that bundles insurance, registration, depreciation, and maintenance. What could be more convenient than that?

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