Is Fiat reliable? An honest assessment of the Italian brand

Fiat once had a reputation for being unreliable, but is this still the case? We investigate...

Fiat have always been a pretty popular brand, but when they released the Fiat 500, Fiat were suddenly propelled into the mainstream. The Fiat 500 quickly entered the top ten most popular cars in the UK, and it’s quirky shape and funky colours made them a welcome addition to British roads.

However, there has been something that has been plaguing Fiat for many years. And that’s reliability. In fact, at one point, Fiat were so unreliable that people began the joke ‘Fix It Again Tony’.

But, has that changed? How reliable are Fiat?

In this article, we look at whether Fiat have been able to shrug off their unreliability and how their reliability compares to their rivals.

How reliable are Fiat?

The results for Fiat reliability are very mixed, to say the least.

In a recent Telegraph survey of the best brands for reliability, Fiat came an impressive 12th, with 112 problems per 100 vehicles. This is up from 18th the previous year.

ReliabilityIndex also rank Fiat pretty highly at 15th with a reliability index of 99. This is better than the industry average.

How reliable is the Fiat 500L?

In 2014, the Fiat 500L was named one of the most unreliable cars of the year by Consumer Reports. The main reason for this was the fact that there were huge failures with the infotainment system. Complaints for the unreliable models included dysfunctional multi-use controllers, unresponsive touchscreens and issues with phone-pairing.

Side view red fiat 500L mpv diesel on a road with trees in the background

Is the Fiat 500 reliable?

Owners of the Fiat 500 have mixed things to say about its longevity. On AutoExpress some of them have said that their car is super reliable and have awarded it 5/5 and others have said that the reliability isn’t so great. Although one person did state ‘niggly faults’ but said it was the service that was even worse. Others have reported several minor problems, but overall the feedback is fairly positive.

Reliability Index have rated the Fiat 500 as pretty dependable, with a reliability index of just 78 (the lower the score the better). However, the average repair costs are considerable at £305.24. It appears that the Axle & Suspension accounted for most of the problems at 32.93%.

Fiat Panda reliability

The Fiat Panda scored even better with a reliability index of 58. Their repair costs are about the same at £308.52. Again, the Axle & Suspension account for most of the problems, but electrics come in a close second, accounting for 20.59% of the problems.

Is the Fiat Punto reliable?

The Fiat Punto doesn’t fare as well but it is still considerably more dependable than many others. It has a reliability index of 86 and its average repair costs are much lower than other Fiat models. The average repair costs are £224.51. It is the electrics that cause the most problems in the Punto, accounting for 39.13% of problems.

So despite the Fiat 500L being named one of the most unreliable car models by Consumer Reports, Fiat are pretty reliable. This is according to WarrantyDirect and ReliabilityIndex as well as self-reports from some owners of the Fiat 500.

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Why are Fiat reliable?

So why are Fiat reliable? Or, why were they named unreliable at one point?

One of the main issues that face car manufacturers today is the failure of in-car technology. This modern technology was just that, modern. This means that it often went wrong and when it did, it was expensive and took a long time to repair or replace. This can greatly bring the reliability down. And, Consumer Reports have put down the fact that the in-car technology let them down.

Fiat Punto red paint front view

It could be that, when the new models were released, there were a few glitches when it came to the technology. And, now that the technology is slightly older and has been updated then the glitches have been ironed out.

Alternatively, if we look on the other end of the scale with the Fiat Punto and the Panda, these models don’t have as much technology. This means that there is less to go wrong and therefore are more reliable.

That said, Fiat cars are quite expensive to repair, particularly compared to some competitors. So, this will bring the overall dependability down.

It does appear that the reason Fiat were considered so unreliable in the past is due to the fact that the technology came with several glitches. But, these could have been ironed out in future models which is why their reliability has gone up. Alternatively, older and more affordable models that lack the new technology do not have that technology to go wrong, therefore being more reliable anyway.

How reliable are consumer surveys?

Overall, consumer surveys are an accurate way of telling how reliable a car is. Surveys ask the owners to rank how dependable their car has been, as well as report any faults or glitches. This is a good way of knowing how owners have got on with their cars, and whether they are satisfied with their reliability. It also gives us a good idea of how much repairs were, and what the service was like when they had to get the car repaired.

The likes of WarranyDirect are also reliable, as they sell extended warranties for tens of thousands of makes and models and, they know when a make or model needs to make a claim. They use this information to determine which cars are the most dependable and which ones aren’t.  

One of the problems with these consumer surveys is that we can’t determine long-term dependability of brand new cars. You can, however, look at past models and determine how reliable the model is that way.

Consumer surveys and companies like WarrantyDirect are an accurate way of determining the longevity of a vehicle.

Fiat vs. Hyundai vs. Toyota

How does Fiat compare to some of its rivals when it comes to dependability?

Hyundai are known for their longevity, they were ranked as one of the ten reliable car brands by Consumer Reports and also came 18th in a recent Telegraph survey with 130 problems per 100 vehicles. If we look at their city car, the i10, we can see that it has been awarded one of the lowest (or highest) reliability indexes we’ve seen at just 10. 10! The average cost of repairs is also reasonable at £234.84. The average time the i10 is off the road is also low at just 1 hour and 30 minutes on average. Their family car, the i30, is also really dependable with a reliability index of 27. It’s repair costs are more however, at £323.05 on average. Though the car itself is more expensive so this is expected.

White Hyundai i10 driving on road fast
Orange and black Toyota Aygo in a warehouse at night

Toyota are also another brand that are known for their longevity. In the Telegraph survey, they came ninth with 96 problems per 100 vehicles. AutoExpress also put their Toyota RAV4 as the most reliable car in their most recent Driver Power survey. The Toyota iQ is also the most reliable car on ReliabilityIndex, with a reliability index of just 3.

Their city car, the Toyota Aygo, received a great reliability index of just 30, with an average repair cost of £211.23. The Yaris, another supermini, received a reliability index of 32. The average repair cost isn’t too bad either at £247.73.

If we look at their Compact SUV that could rival the 500L, then the dependability isn’t as good, but it is still above industry average. It has a reliability index of 99. The average repair cost is more expensive at £448.98 but the car itself is more expensive, so this is understandable.

Overall, it seems that Fiat do put up a good fight when it comes to dependability. As a brand, they give Hyundai a good run for their money and they beat them in the latest Telegraph survey. However, when it comes to individual cars, Fiat don’t score as well. Hyundai and Toyota have produced some of the most dependable cars on ReliabiltyIndex, and this includes the city cars that the Fiat 500 competes with. If you are looking for a dependable city car, then we recommend looking at either Hyundai or Toyota. However, if you are looking at something slightly larger, then we recommend any of the brands, as they are all as dependable as each other.

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What are the most reliable Fiat cars?

The following are the most reliable Fiat models;

  • Fiat Punto
  • Fiat 500

These score fairly well on ReliabilityIndex.

What are the most unreliable Fiat cars?

The least dependable are;

  • Fiat 500L
  • Fiat Panda

 

In conclusion, Fiat aren’t an unreliable brand. However, they aren’t the most dependable brand out there. Their smaller cars fare better, receiving slightly above average dependability scores. However, this is not enough to beat some of their rivals, including the Hyundai i10 and the Toyota Aygo, who score considerably better. The Fiat 500L has been named the most unreliable car of the year, so if you are looking for a compact SUV, then you are probably better off looking elsewhere. That said, if you are looking for a quirky car that looks good, is fashionable and won’t cost you a fortune in repair costs, then there’s no reason not to look at a Fiat 500.

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Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

16 Comments

  • Vishal Reddy| 23rd August 2019 at 1:45 pm Reply

    Hi I have a 2009 fiat punto and it very reliable. I have driven 75000 km so far and other than tires, battery and clutch I didn’t change or repair anything else. It has the best reliability.

    • Rachel Richardson| 23rd August 2019 at 4:01 pm Reply

      Hi Vishal,
      It sounds as though you’ve had a positive long-term relationship with your Fiat Punto. Unfortunately, they are no longer in production, though Fiat still make a number of other models in different ranges.

  • Randall Robinson| 22nd May 2019 at 3:13 am Reply

    It may be interesting to compare reliability and quality issues between the European-built Fiat 500 and the Mexico-built ones sold in the USA.

    • Rachel Richardson| 22nd May 2019 at 8:50 am Reply

      Hi Randall,
      This is an interesting suggestion. Our business is focused on the UK market, only selling to UK-based clients, however we try and keep reviews and information balanced and do look to American sources when it comes to the reliability of cars that are sold both here and in the US (though primarily those manufacturered for the UK market).

      • Randall Robinson| 23rd May 2019 at 2:42 am Reply

        This idea I had not only after reading the remarks in this forum but also after reading and hearing elsewhere about the Fiat 500’s negative reputation in the US and the same make and model’s positive sentiments as expressed by its European owners. It is as though we were talking about two different cars, so therefore I wonder to what extent we may indeed be talking about two different cars as build quality and manufacturer specifications can differ between different assembly plants in different markets.

  • Ron Able| 16th January 2019 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Have a 2014 Fiat 500L with not problems in 4 years. Great value for the money, still get comments and questions from curious people. My son bought a used one.

    • Rachel Richardson| 23rd January 2019 at 8:48 am Reply

      Hi Ron,
      Happy to hear that you’ve had a positive experience with the Fiat, so good that you’ve passed the good to your son. I am sure that our readers will find your experience useful when it comes to making a decision about their next car.

  • nick m| 29th December 2018 at 5:25 am Reply

    ive had my abarth since 2014. its been great fun and i have not had one problem with it.

    • Rachel Richardson| 2nd January 2019 at 8:56 am Reply

      Hi Nick,
      I am happy to hear that you’ve had good experiences with your Abarth and that you’ve had no issues. I am sure that our readers will find this information interesting.

  • michael marchionte,sr| 19th October 2018 at 12:18 pm Reply

    I own a Fiat 500x what a great car.

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th October 2018 at 4:54 pm Reply

      Hi Michael,
      Really happy to hear this positive feedback about the Fiat 500x. I know that our readers will find this feedback helpful when looking for a car.

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