Should You Take the Fiat 500 Off Road?

The subcompact Fiat 500 is great on the pavement, but it’s lacking in many departments when it comes to off-roading.
Written by Christelle Agustin
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
500 is a two-door subcompact that excels at switching lanes nimbly and parking in tight spaces—but that’s about it. Don’t push the limits. You should not take the Fiat 500 off road.
The stress of your daily commute in hours-long traffic can be cured with the rush of off-roading. But you can’t necessarily use the same car for both purposes! Unless you’ve got a ride with high ground clearance, excellent low-end torque, and tough tires, keep your everyday vehicle off the trails and on the pavement. 
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better-priced car insurance

Can the Fiat 500 go off road?

No, the Fiat 500 shouldn’t be taken off the road!
Starting at $16,495, this small hatchback is made for highways and narrow city streets, not rough and tumble getaways. While it’s got decent low-end torque—aka the key to successful rock crawling—its short ground clearance, tire type, and drivetrain get in the way of the Fiat’s off-roading skills. 

Ground clearance

Ground clearance is a must-know when it comes to off-roading. The higher the measurement is between a vehicle’s undercarriage and the ground, the better chance it has of avoiding obstacles like rocks, boulders, and other elements. 
The Fiat 500’s ground clearance is 4.5 inches, which is unacceptable for off-roading. The recommended ground clearance is a minimum of 8.8 inches.


What is torque? Torque is the twisting force of an engine that allows a vehicle to power its wheels. 
What off-roading calls for, in particular, is good low-end torque, or power at low speeds. A car with little torque risks getting stuck on an incline. 
The Fiat 500 achieves 150 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm—this is actually pretty decent! However, torque isn’t much use when the rest of the Fiat 500 isn’t built for off-road activities.


The Fiat 500 comes with a set of P195/45HR16 all-season tires that are perfect for moderate temperatures. While these tires have you covered all season long, their traction isn’t strong enough to grip rougher terrain, steep mountains, icy roads, snowy conditions, or muddy swamps. 
Using them anywhere but city streets and highways will quickly weaken your tires’ tread and further decrease traction. Appropriate off-roading tires are categorized as all-terrain.
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Front-wheel drive is what you’ll find on the Fiat 500, but it’s not the ideal drivetrain for off-roading. 
At a minimum, you’ll need a car with all-wheel drive, which enables all four wheels to receive power to get you out of tricky terrain. For wilder off-road excursions, 4WD is preferred to manually control the force each wheel receives.


Taking on inclines puts your vehicle at odd angles. Here are the two most important angles you should know when off-roading:
  • Approach angle: The maximum angle at which a vehicle can climb without interference 
  • Departure angle: The maximum angle at which a vehicle can descend without interference
When you’re driving uphill or downhill, you’ll need to be careful about your bumpers hitting the slope. The Fiat 500’s approach angle is 18.8 degrees, which means your vehicle’s bumper is safe from damage when approaching less steep inclines. Its departure angle is 20.3 degrees
Neither angle is sufficient for off-roading purposes. Ideal angles are in the 30s and 40s.

Off-road rating: Don’t Try It

We’ve rated the Fiat 500’s off-road readiness based on our very own Jerry DIRT scale. So, can you go off-roading in a Fiat 500? Drum roll, please!
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
The Fiat 500 earns a D rating—don’t try off-roading with it. While the Fiat 500 is agile on highways and paved roads, the same can’t be said when it’s on bumpy, dirt roads. 
There are plenty of true off-road vehicles out there, but the Fiat 500 is not one of them.

The best off-road alternatives to the Fiat 500

Off-roading may not be in the Fiat 500’s cards, but don’t stop looking. In fact, we’ve done the work for you and found the best alternatives.
Best affordable alternative
2021 Mitsubishi Mirage
At $3K less than the Fiat 500, you’re piling on the savings including getting 36–49 mpg of combined fuel economy.
Best eco-friendly alternative
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe
This vehicle is much more expensive, but it can traverse this wonderful planet—and help save the environment.
Best alternative for serious off-roading
2019 Fiat 500C
Love Fiat? Check out the convertible subcompact 500C, which comes in a high-performance and electric version.
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How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

The features that make off-road vehicles robust and sturdy aren’t found in ordinary cars. This is why owning an off-road vehicle is pricier to insure than a regular sedan. Insurance companies know that off-roading is risky and raise their rates accordingly.
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