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Fiat 500s struggling to get up hills, buyers threaten to cancel orders

Fiat is investigating an issue with a lack of power in its 500 superminis after a high volume of complaints.

Some prospective car buyers are threatening to cancel their Fiat 500 orders after a BBC Watchdog programme highlighted a problem with drivability; the 1.2 litre manual Fiat 500 struggles to get up hills. Engine changes designed to help it meet emissions requirements have resulted in a lack of power, rendereding some gradients tricky to drive.

The 2014 1.2ltr manual shift Fiat 500 has had some engine changes and now struggles to get up hills.

One Cornwall-based driver, Amanda Thomas, explained, “I’m lucky to get uphill in first [gear]. The power just drops back and then you start feeling unsafe in the car, you don’t have any confidence… I said [to the Fiat dealer] I don’t feel safe but they just shrugged it off.” 

BBC Watchdog highlighted the problem almost ten days ago and some dealers have been trying to make good and fix the issues but not all customers have received the same treatment. Initially, Fiat claimed that “it’s a characteristic of the new Fiat engine” and that “the subtle difference might take some getting used to”, reassuring viewers that “the cars are perfectly safe.”

In response, the Beeb invited ex-“Stig”, Ben Collins to give driving one of the problem models a go. The stunt driver explained: “The biting point with the clutch feels normal but there’s absolutely no power in the lower rev band. It’s practically ‘undriveable.’ There’s a massive dead spot for the first 3,000 revs.”

This isn’t the first time the issue has been brought to Fiat’s attention. In October, John of HonestJohn.co.uk responded to a question on his forum, “This is a general complaint of the 1,242cc FIRE engine since it was recalibrated to meet EU6. I’ve had it out with FIAT. According to them the software fix is only for the starting/idling of the engine, but a reader who had it done tells me it has restored the overall running of the car to satisfactory.”

The volume of complaints received by the BBC has grown since the issue first aired on 6th November. Following up on the 13th November show, Anne Robinson confirmed that Fiat is now looking into the matter. Meanwhile, customers with any concerns are urged to call 0800 3428 0000.

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