By on April 23, 2010

John Steel, 42. Resident Nurburgring hotlapper, amateur race driver and menace of all slow moving objects. On weekends, he likes thrashing his Porsche 997 Mark II GT3-RS around the local track. Karen Levy, 25. Professional mall stormer, party queen and dedicated student. Enjoys a fine café-latte by the Mediterranean Sea and the gentle spring breeze while driving her Fiat 500C.

Two people, two separate sides of the automotive equilibrium. This time, driving around the peaceful and slow moving streets of southern Tel Aviv, amongst buzzing restaurants and overcrowded coffee shops, I get to explore the latter. Meet the Fiat 500C: the open-air sibling of the 500 retro car, and an inevitable win of form over function.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the ‘C’ in this Italian mini car’s name stands for convertible – only the 500C doesn’t really convert into anything. Taking the recipe of the original 500, Fiat’s ever-quirky engineers left the roof structure entirely solid, with a sliding fabric roof replacing the conventional steel – essentially a very large sunroof. This unconventional setup allows for a greater structural integrity than a traditional convertible, improves safety (all 7 airbags are left intact) and benefits practicality (since the roof doesn’t have to be stored in the trunk). But the real reason this setup was chosen is also the original sibling’s raison d’etre: affordability. Does it all work out in the real world? Let’s see.

Parked by the curb, the 500C attracts a lot of attention – most of it, predictably, from ambassadors of the female gender. Interestingly (while not surprisingly), it is also the Gay Car of the Year. Gender preferences aside, the 500C is a pretty car – ‘cute’ attractive, not ‘wow’ attractive. The retro-esque grille with the horizontal chrome emblem and round headlights give the car a face of sorts – and it’s certainly smiling. Its bubbly proportions and the tan roof neatly folded against the trunk transform you to a time when The Beatles topped the charts and Cuba was all about nuclear warheads.

Looking for the rear window? It’s not there, at least not when the roof is folded. Without a trunk to fold into, the fabric cover neatly arranges itself to perfectly block the driver’s rear view. With the roof, gone is the small window – so if you’re into drop top driving, you’ll have to rely on the mercy of the parking sensors and the flexibility of your partner’s neck. Really, who needs a rear view where there’s so much sky to look at?

The disappearing rear window isn’t the only awkwardness in the 500C’s chic cabin. Fortunately, that’s mostly good awkwardness: color coded plastic panels, a radial speedometer and rev counter, and in the well equipped tester – sporty red leather seats with contrasting white headrests. All pleasing to the eye, but not to the touch – Fiat’s newly-found interior quality hasn’t found its way here.

The wiggly handbrake, air conditioning controls and door handles and the flimsy rear seat access mechanism are just a few of the components that don’t have anything in common with solidity or quality, and most of the plastics are hollow and low rent. The same goes for the roof: my tester barely clocked 5,000 (admittedly difficult) miles and the roof was already stained. The driving position is also seriously lacking, leaving you too far from the steering wheel and too close to the pedals. Taller fans of the elevated driving position will find their head comically sticking out the roof.

The 500C’s roof has three modes: closed, half-open and Who Let the Dogs Out. The last two are fine for city driving, but in speeds reaching recommended freeway velocities, you risk blowing off your eardrums. Fortunately, if you’re looking for a peaceful and quiet drive, sound isolation while the roof is closed is quite good – not significantly worse than the standard 500.

Should the party in question consist of more than two adults, you better call shotgun fast – the rear seats are just OK for a shorter teen, and range from troubling to impossible, depending on your definition of a full size adult. Luckily, the unique roof doesn’t hamper headroom – which wasn’t too impressive to begin with – that’s sufficient for sub-six-footers. Getting back there, however, is a chore: rear seat access is clumsy – the handle doesn’t push the seat forwards, so entering the rear seat is a multiple stage process. The trunk is more reminiscent of a glovebox (6.3 cubic feet), and while the fancy roof only takes up 3 liters of storage space, sizeable shopping bags are probably the most you’ll fit in there.

The good thing about convertible cars: everyone seems to think you’re enjoying yourself, when in fact, you’re not. Powered by the 1.4 liter gasoline unit, the 500C spits out a full 100 horses – which sounds good for a small car, until you recall it isn’t really small, what with its dazzling array of airbags and safety features, nearing the car’s curb weight to a tick below a ton. And so, along with Fiat’s soon-to-be-discontinued sequential Dualogic gearbox, it completes the sprint to sixty at almost 11 seconds.

11 seconds don’t sound like much on paper, and they definitely don’t look like much on the road. The insensitive throttle needs a serious kick to garner some pace. Try flooring it when the light turns green and there isn’t even one tiny bit of a tire squeal to boost your alter ego. And then comes the shift to second.

Yes, this gearbox is terrible – there really isn’t a softer way to describe it. Sure, you can adapt to it and you can meticulously learn to lift your foot off the throttle when it decides to shift. You can also bring it flowers and chocolates on its birthday – the thing is, you’re not supposed to have a delicate relationship with your gearbox, and being advertised as an automatic, this powertrain creates false hopes of a smooth self shifter. Be aggressive with the throttle, and your head gets thrown against the hard plastic heardrest – almost as if the car scolds you for misbehaving. Smash the throttle in high gear, and absolutely nothing will happen – it simply won’t downshift.

According to the auto journalist’s handbook, when all hope is lost, try the Sport button. Pressing the red button makes the 500C hold on to a gear for dear life, ignoring subtle notes (like a gentle pet of the throttle) and bolder ones (like cursing in three languages). The steering marginally stiffens up and the throttle becomes more sensitive, but these changes are too subtle to have any dynamic implications.

Sport, then, is probably not a part of this 500C’s lexicon. Performance aside, the overassisted Dualdrive steering stiffens suddenly and artificially during acceleration. It’s vague and lacks any concept of feel, which doesn’t inspire confidence during spirited driving. If you manage to get past the steering, you’ll find that the little convertible can offer decent amounts of fun thanks to its short wheelbase, allowing it to cut corners and induce some tail play – all monitored by the electronic nanny, of course. But it isn’t a sporty car – not even a warm hatch, and surely not the first choice for a Sunday drive.

If you’re a John Steel, you would probably hate the Fiat 500 Convertible. The back is cramped, the plastics are cheap, the ride is bumpy, the driving position is horrible, the engine is weak, the gearbox is annoying and the steering is awful – I could bash this car for hours. But then again, judging the 500C acutely would be wrong. It drips with character, sits theoretical four people and some luggage, attracts loads of looks and has a shiny tan roof, which is what Miss Levy looks for in her brand new city car. So if these are the qualities at the top of your shortlist and you can’t afford the more expensive (but much better, albeit less practical) Mini Cooper Convertible, the 500C may be the car for you. I, for one, know it’s not for me.

Fiat provided the car, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

This review brought to you by icar.co.il


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73 Comments on “Review: Fiat 500C...”


  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    An amusing and enjoyable review — but you have to admit the car serves its intended purpose (being cute) and none other.

    If I’m not mistaken, this “convertible” configuration is not new in European cars. If memory serves the classic Citroen 2CV had a convertible top like this one.

    Regarding driving position, the Italians obviously have different ideas than you (or I) about this. They believe that your arms should be just about fully extended when you grip the wheel. I remember this very well when a college friend and took turns driving his Fiat 124 Spyder across the US. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. Of course the Fiat, like most cars of its day, had no power assist on the steering.

    Regarding the rear window. Drivers of all kinds and sizes of trucks manage to get by without a rear window.

    That said, it still strikes me odd that this car, like the VW “New Beetle” apes the look of a rear-engine car with a front-engined, FWD car. I don’t get the point, really.

    • 0 avatar
      postjosh

      citroen c3 pluriel = want it!

      http://www.niot.net/niot_570/citroen%20c3%20pluriel%20niot.net%20%283%29.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right that this form is nothing new, lots of small european cars have been available with a full length canvas roof like this… including the 1950s FIAT 500 as mentioned in the review. It’s a good compromise for an affordable open top small car.

      Thank you for pointing out about the driving position too! That bugged me reading the review since anyone with even a passing familiarity with italian cars should recognise it immediately. Having cut my teeth in italian cars I find this kind of driving position very natural and comfy, finding it “awkward” to sit with my nose against the windscreen as seems the norm in other cars… to each his own as they say.

      As for the look – the “point” with this car and the new beetle is to echo a fondly remembered classic. Where the engine is (or isn’t) mounted is pretty much irrelevant to the target audience.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      I have been told that Italians drive with their hands at the bottom of the wheel, 4 and 8 o’clock, with their arms lower. In this position the wheel doesn’t seem as far away.

    • 0 avatar
      Ken Magalnik

      Considering the target audience seems to be the somewhat less skillful drivers (because anyone that enjoys driving is almost guaranteed to hate it), having little rear visibility does not seem like a great idea.

    • 0 avatar

      I refer Mr. Magalnik to Bancho’s comment further down the thread. I think he’s right to blame the gearbox. The manual version is supposed to be much more fun… hopefully FIAT will get a better noddybox sorted for the US release.

    • 0 avatar
      Ken Magalnik

      I really don’t see how a manual gearbox is going to improve rear visibility.

    • 0 avatar

      It won’t. I thought might allay your concerns that this is targeted at “the somewhat less skillful drivers” since it’s a far more enjoyable drive with a proper transmission ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      The automatic transmission shouldn’t be an issue once Fiat’s DCT gets to the 500. I assume they’ll sort it out before it’s launched in the US.

      Again, I’m probably not the best person to judge this car. I’d never buy a car simple because it’s cute, and while the 500C is cute enough, the Mini is as cute and drives much better. For the price of a new 500C, you could pick up a gently used Cooper Convertible.

      Trust me, I prefer no power steering over this thing. I hear Fiat have finally managed to make their EPAS driver-focused with the new Giulietta – we’ll see.

    • 0 avatar

      WOW

      All hope I had for Chrysler has been thoroughly destroyed :(

  • avatar
    AJ

    The future Obama Motors, well that is for the peasants… I mean people!

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      This sort of comment is always good for a laugh, but what real evidence is there for it? The only manufacturer even somewhat destined to get a car this small is Chrysler and it will be this car basically. It’s smaller than anything else save for the Smart. The car in this article is a piece of jewelry, not some cheap car for the proletariat. When they start importing the tooling for the Trabant maybe you’ll have a point of sorts but until then I don’t see anything from any of the auto shows that shows your comment to have any merit.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      Bancho, well how about the left’s hate of the SUV? Such as wishful thinking for high gas prices to get middle America out of them? Wasn’t it Al Gore for one that suggested that? I admit that my daily driver is a Civic thanks to gas prices, which use to be my lifted Jeep that gets 12 mpg. Speaking of my Jeep, the left is also after closing down many western public lands that I and plenty of others enjoy driving our recreational vehicles in. Just look around for that evidence that our future will be funny little cars while elitists like Obama and his cronies will be driven around in limos.

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      Ya know…

      While its been known for YEARS that those who drive Jeeps, only a small minority of them actually use them as designed.

      Forget the towing argument.

      Forget the Safety and security argument.

      Forget the awd / 4wd argument..

      There simply isn’t a need for a vehicle of that kind.

      Heck.
      Jeep these days is as watered down as it gets.. but it also competes with BMW and M-B along with every other mass market SUV / CUV producer.. in going after the same market, for the same people.. who still believe there is truth in the aforementioned and pointless discussions.

      While the Civic is a decent car..
      The U.S always gets the worst of the variety. There ARE nicer and more powerful / expressive cars to be driving in that same catagory.. than a Civic (as decent as it is).

      As for as driving around a jacked GC..
      Few areas have space for doing such..

      And even fewer people have a clue in how to operate said vehicle in that manner.

      AND.. when vehicle is operated in said manner.. its just like towing. Done for a few times a year… (my opinion, hardly makes it worth it.)

      As far as Gore goes.
      He is a politician. He can philander, doesn’t pay HIS TAXES, screw the tax payer and be the biggest self righteous piece of crap there is, doesn’t give him the right to do as he pleases.

      It also doesn’t make it right to do as you or I please.. because he does.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. “Gay Car of the Year” but a Chick Magnet. So great for the bisexual who is comfortable with who they are?

    • 0 avatar
      postjosh

      it’s like i’ve always said, if you want to meet girls go to the ballet not a football game.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Bisexuals have effectively twice the opportunity to get laid. Probably more, given that the ones I know are decided metrosexual as well.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Before we completely hijack this thread, remember that “twice the chance of having a date on Saturday night” was Rodney Dangerfield’s and Woody Allen’s humorous take on the question “What’s the best thing about being a bisexual?”

      Rodney, RIP. Woody’s career RIP.

    • 0 avatar
      The Anam Cara

      educatordan, you mean the same woody allen who won an oscar for “vicky christina barcelona” in 2008, a movie which netted all these other nominations? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0497465/awards

      outside of that i don’t know what the point you were trying to make was, but his career seems to be at least as healthy as your homophobia.

  • avatar

    How hard is it to make a car this size fun to drive? Yet it sounds like the flubbed about everything that plays a major role in driving enjoyment.

    Must say I’m really looking forward to measuring the reliability of the new Fiats. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t deserve their rep?

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Or maybe you have to readjust your score range to accommodate Fiat.

    • 0 avatar

      (Speaking purely anecdotally) all the FIATs I, and my family have owned have been reliable cars, so it’ll be interesting to see your reliability findings Michael… nice to hear you’re open minded about it at any rate ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      It’s not. It just sounds like this one had a completely crap gearbox. I’ve seen reviews of the 500 that put it up against the Mini Cooper with the same sized motor and a stick. In that case the 500 held its own quite well.

      Honestly with a motor that small you need a stick or a really goor dual-clutch box to make the driving experience enjoyable.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If my relatives are anything to gauge by, FIAT still has real problems. For a European car, that’s saying something.

      Most of them live around or in Turin and two work for FIAT and most of them would pick just about anything else over a FIAT/Alfa/Lancia. One recently bought an Accord, and the lack of problems vis a vis home-market products was an eye-opener for him.

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      Honda and Toyota really haven’t penetrated Europe as much as America, so there are large chunks of the population there who have not experienced the it-simply-doesn’t-break-ness of your typical Honda or Toyota product.

      Example: I bought my 2006 Scion xA brand new in August 2005. Total list of non-maintenance repairs (that is, not counting brakes, tires, windshield wipers, or oil/filter changes):

      1. Replaced stereo under warranty.
      2. Um, that’s it.

      What percentage of five year old Fiats have ever had a similar repair history? My guess would be approximately 0.00%.

    • 0 avatar
      FromBrazil

      Well, can I submit my case? My car has exactly 5 years and been driven for over 30 000 hard third world miles. Outside of normal wear and tear, nothing, absolutely nothing has gone wrong. I do take it in every 10 000 km for preventive maintenance and change the oil every 5 000 km (to ward off against bad gasoline).

      To be absolutely honest though this car has been noisier than what I consider acceptable (and noisier than all the other Fiat, Ford and Renaults cars i’ve owned). However, this car came to me as a great opportunity and it cam e to absolutely basic – and basic in Brazil is no air con, power nothing. Over the time I’ve had the car I’ve taken the car apart and installed power windows, locks, alarm and air con. So I guess half the noise was inflicted by these interventions. There is down here a professional called “tira-grilo” who specializes in getting rid of these noises. So soon I’ll take the car to one, spend around 150 American dollars and get back a car w/ brand-new car noise levels.

      In fact, I’ve liked this car so much I’ve decided to do the Steve Lang experiment on it and go at least 100 000km on it before thinking of changing. It still drives great, is fun, economical, easy and cheap to maintain. And nothing, absolutely nothing is falling off or threatenin to.

      I think most Americans will be in for a surprise with the reliability of modern Fiats. They’ve been able to snatch 1st place in themarket down here after a presence of only 30 years (and beating perennial leaders VW and GM and laggard Ford). Give ‘em a chance and who knows what’ll happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      Ya know..

      Its cars like this.. and the Mini Cooper.. compared to the harsh reality of what is sold in the U.S..

      Vs what is sold in Europe.

      Now.
      Every damn Mini I see in the U.S..
      Is the same damn base model, with the auto stickering for a hair under 20. Its not the good looking trims, in nice VIBRANT colors, drivin by guys working the stick…

      SO.
      Im sure this will be right behind the Mini.

      Cute. DOES. EQUAL. Gutless.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Nice pants!

    Twotone

  • avatar
    Ken Magalnik

    You lost me at “Meet the Fiat 500C: the open-air sibling of the 500 retro car, and an inevitable win of form over function.”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A car with character and a review to match it. Huzzah!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That top is terrible: it looks like a pile of laundry or a fallen curtain.

    If VW did anything right with the New Beetle ‘vert, it was the tidy, space-saving and attractive (in a retro way) method for stowing the top.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I really like the top. So much so I’ve added one to my old Beetle. Better than a piece of glass that won’t open enough for me. Yes it might not be as good for theft protection but then, I choose not to live somewhere like that.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    dazzling array of airbag

    OK, I see this a lot on TTAC, but it confuses me. I’ve held a few airbags, and they’re LIGHT. A few ounces, maybe. Even when you account for the interior packaging and wiring, I doubt each one adds more than a pound or two – so what gives?

    From reading articles and comments here you’d think airbags were solely responsible for taking cars from 2000lbs to 3500lbs, but I just don’t see how they can have a significant effect on weight. Can anyone throw some light on this?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      A lot of car people are both luddites and “authenticists”** at heart.

      They don’t like technology, and they’ll blame it for things like weight gain—even things like ABS or ESC, which are all software and weigh nothing.

      Cars are heavy because of chassis NVH and stiffness requirements, sound deadening materials, bigger engines, heavy wheels and much heavier seats. Not because of navigation systems, stability control or airbags.

      ** An “authenticist” is kind of like an elitist who approaches their elitism from the opposite direction: they’re so “salt of the earth” they can raise your blood pressure at a distance. Try to imagine it as a kind of holier-than-thou populism

    • 0 avatar
      Ken Magalnik

      Can’t speak for ECS, but ABS systems require a few pounds of worth of solenoid valves and other plumbing to work. Not much of a difference in a car, but very noticeable on a motorcycle.
      I suspect, but do not know, that airbags require stiffening of whatever it is they mount to, in order to function properly.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      The weight problem with cars is not one thing, its everything! A few pounds here, a few pounds there, and suddenly a small car weighs 3500 lbs. It’s like a buffet: a little of this, a little of that, and suddenly your eating a 3500 calorie dinner.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s like a buffet: a little of this, a little of that, and suddenly your eating a 3500 calorie dinner.

      That’s true, but it’s not a little here, a little there, that’s making the difference: it’s a lot in about three or four places: frame, powertrain, seats, wheels, and a tiny percentage everywhere else.

      Where I get kind of chuffed is how people skip past a few hundred (unsprung!) pounds of chromed rims only to rant about twenty pounds of electronics and some software.

    • 0 avatar
      Ken Magalnik

      Don’t forget about sound deadening insulation, as its rather heavy.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Yeah, but this doesn’t weigh 3500lbs. It weighs 1900lbs – about the same as a Lotus Elise, as a matter of fact. Even the 1962 Lotus Elan was 1500, and given its likely side-impact performance, the extra 400 that current mini-cars carry around for safety doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      The 240Z was 2400; the Corvair was 2500.

      My Saab 9-5 is 3500, but it’s a huge luxobarge. The 350z is 3200, the Subaru WRX is 2800, only 400 more than the ’70s era 240Z despite being a rather larger sedan.

      In fact, in many cases, cars aren’t all that bloated – my 9-5 has plenty of safety features and is lighter than an older Merc. My dad’s 350Z is indeed significantly heavier than the 240 – but is also significantly faster and undoubtedly handles far better. And econoboxes don’t seem that much heaver, if at all, than econoboxes of years past; the Chevy Aveo is 2400, the Accent is 2500. The Yugo was 1900.

      Speaking of my luxobarge, the much-loved-by-TTAC Mercedes W126 tipped the scales at over 3600 for the SEL, but had a paltry two airbags. The current S-Class is 4300, but includes massively complicated HVAC, seats, interior trim, nav system, and, undoubtedly, huge-ass rims.

      So why do TTAC writers and commenters ONLY mention airbags when complaining about car bloat? Why don’t they complain about 20-way power seats, backup cameras, 400hp engines, and luxury interior materials that could replace depleted uranium in artillery shells? The last time I checked, the big mean government hadn’t mandated wood dash boards, absurdly luxurious seats, and thick-pile carpeting that would make the Sultan of Brunei blush.

      But if the government puts in place safety regulations to nudge an industry that probably still wouldn’t be using seat belts if it didn’t have to, and TTAC is ready to call in the Minute Men. Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      So why do TTAC writers and commenters ONLY mention airbags when complaining about car bloat?

      For the same reason an effort to put stickers on cars noting their carbon emissions would result in teeth-gnashing, but a similar requirements for stickers noting accurate horsepower and torque numbers wouldn’t see an eyelash batted.

      It’s not a TTAC thing specifically, but it’s part-and-parcel of an “ecosystem of values” that makes you more likely to be an automotive enthusiasts.

      It’s also mildly hypocritical, but so are all sorts of things on all sorts of value ecosystems all over the spectrum.

  • avatar
    obbop

    It has Dodge Neon’s eyes, in my esteemed uneducated opinion based upon a quick peeklet at the pic.

    Or maybe it doesn’t.

    But if the average size of USA cars puttering down the pavement is steadily reduced I can envision many positives coming from that minimizing.

    Imagine, ponder, contemplate, dream, envision etc. if some day the majority of peoplemobiles are tiny-mobiles taking up small amounts of space and attaining good to great fuel mileage.

    More room!!!!!! Maybe less noise thus less noise pollution.

    More gas for everybody.

    Lots of positives.

    I can foresee the time coming when parking lots, spaces etc. may come in different sizes.

    Maybe one street would have “standard size” parking spaces for those with “standard” size vehicles…. deliveries using vans and pick-ups and workers needing full-sized vehicles making repairs and service calls, etc.

    Then a street with half-sized or whatever parking spaces allowing a larger number of itty-bitty cars to park.

    Parking lots could have areas where only tiny cars could fit, maximizing parking spaces.

    Future roads could conceivably have “little lanes” for little cars where semi-trucks and old-fashioned BIG vehicles are not allowed.

    What an encouragement for folks to buy and use small efficient vehicles that assist in minimizing human impact upon the environment.

    I would prefer negative population growth until a “mere” billion or so humans were execrating upon and inputting from the planet’s biosphere but future projections of population reality are scary to me.

    Especially when the “educated” populace is apparently the cohort falling in numbers while those belonging to cultures/societies that, in my opinion, are not necessarily conducive to “modernity” and a bright shining Heinlein-esque future are the ones multiplying akin to icky bugs.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      Actually, a number of parking lots (mostly parking garages) already have designated areas for “compact cars only,” but that doesn’t stop anyone from parking their Suburbans there.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’m surprised by the negative review; every other review I’ve read makes me want a 500, but this gives me pause.

    The only Fiat I’ve owned was an 8-year-old 128SL thirty years ago. It was not a reliable car; I had hoped things were better now.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      Most of the negativity centers around a poor performing transmission and the top that blocks view to the rear. Were I to buy one I’d go for a manual and forego the ragtop.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      The hardtop model doesn’t drive any better. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but this sort of steering shouldn’t be on any car claiming to be enthusiast-directed. The 500 in general is a love-hate affair. I’ve seen co-workers giving it unbalanced reviews simply because “it’s so charming”.

      Sorry, this car didn’t charm me so much.

  • avatar
    stuart

    It sounds very much like my old 128s; orangutan ergonomics (long arms, short legs), feeble acceleration, flimsy interiors, tough engines, much cuteness. It would be interesting to read a review of the manual transmission; the FIAT manual transmissions I’ve used were quite pleasant.

    Since TTAC has reviewed at least two FIATs in the past year, would it be appropriate to add a FIAT logo to the “Find Reviews By Make” section?

    stuart

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    Since I don’t know any of these american market cars being reviewed on this site the reviews always looked like the truth but lately looking at the reviews of the cars I know of, I am beginning to doubt.
    Lately there have been reviews of Fiat Bravo, Fiat 500 and now Fiat 500c all with autoboxes. Before that there was a review of a euro spec Ford Focus saloon and the reviewer was complaining it is ugly. Nobody in his right mind would drive a small fiat with an auto transmission, I have never in my life seen one with an autobox, nor anybody in his right mind would pick euro focus as a saloon which is the hatchback with a boot welded on it as an afterthought. It only exists for turkey and rentals. Probably only Americans are renting it.

    Back to this review, complaining so much about the back seats access and back seats in general in a review of a convertible city car 3.5m long is just ludicrous. The fact that they exist at all and that you can put little kids there sounds great to me. Also how is it possible that not the reviewer nor the commentators realized that you can lift the roof up when you actually need to reverse (also remember there is a half open settings if you really absolutely need to look behind when driving forward).

    I don’t know, this seems like a deliberate bashing of Fiat on part of this site and most of the regular commentators just love to hear it.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Around here in Israel, everyone is out of their minds. The majority of cars here are automatic – and obviously, the press cars are automatic as well. Since most Americans don’t like their car with a stick, it bodes well for TTAC’s prime reader base.

      Autobox notwithstanding, it wasn’t really the focus of this review. And I found my opinion of the rear seats quite positive. My problem with the access to the rear seats was the handle – it’s clumsy and doesn’t allow you to simply push the front seat like in most convertibles and coupes.

      Lifting the roof each time you want to look in the rear mirror could make you a little late to work. It’s a practical issue which is well worth mentioning, because for all this soft top’s advantages, this is a serious letdown.

      I have no beef with Fiat, and I try to be as objective as possible. I’ve given Fiats positive reviews and negative reviews. It’s entirely possible that the reviewer’s personal preferences ultilmately reflect in the review, and in this case I thought they’re worth mentioning.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Count me as a lover of Fiats. I’ve owned 6 of them over the years and currently own ’76 and ’81 X1/9′s. This is the first negative review of the new 500 I’ve read, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

      I’d never own a small, 4 cylinder car with an automatic either. I’ll be placing an order for an Abarth Essesse at my first opportunity.

      Come to think of it, I’ve read some fairly snarky comments here about the Nissan 350Z, as well. IMHO, a “car guy” who doesn’t recognize the true value of a sub-$30K car with that kind of performance isn’t really an aficionado.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      @GeneralMalaise,

      While we may disagree on many things, the x is not one of them.

      Whether on “Dragon’s Tail” or HWY 9 from SJC to the ‘Cruz, the x is one of the ultimate drivers’ cars. Especially, when viewed on a dollar/fun/speed ratio.

      I’ve owned about 5 x1/9s over the years. Every day I think about aquiring another.

    • 0 avatar
      marjanmm

      Tal, that must mean Israel is one of the few Fiat markets (if not the only one) with prevalent automatics so sounds logical to me their autobox will not be that good, why would they invest much into developing one? Besides you said it will be defunct soon so American market will probably get something better since with such a huge new market Fiat will have more incentive to developer or buy a better auto transmission.
      Either way the dualogic will not make it to America, so why insist on reviewing car after car with it when it obviously hamstrings the performance so much.
      On the other hand, you could do a take two review with a manual, this is an enthusiast site after all.

      As for the rear mirror, so many truck and panel van drivers do without the rear window and survive and in 500c you have the option to extend the roof half way like on your third photo.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Israel might be one of the only markets for automatic Fiats, but that’s bound to change when the brand is reintroduced in the US. Besides, that’s no excuse: the MINI Cooper has a fine automatic gearbox and so does the Beetle, so there’s absolutely no reason for Fiat not to have introduced a proper gearbox earlier on. Its replacement, the DCT, is coming soon – and overdue.

      Don’t mistake me for a slushbox apologist – I would never own an automatic performance car. Seeing as there are very few manual press cars (even if a manual is available – the 500C is only offered with a manual ‘box with the 1.2 engine, which doesn’t have a presser yet), I review what I get, and I can’t – and won’t – ignore this angle, irrelevant as it may seem towards its future audience. The fact remains: right now, if you’re looking for an automatic 500, you’re looking for trouble.

      Again, the lack of a proper rear window probably isn’t a deal breaker for most people, but just like the auto ‘box, it’s well worth a mention. Don’t compare professional drivers to casual drivers looking for a fashion accessory. Either way, there’s no reason to ignore this while researching and reviewing a car.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      This is what happens when a “insert big, fast, expensive car” driver reviews a car they neither like nor “get”.

      I have driven the past 75,000 miles with a 115 HP four cylinder in a 2800 lb convertible. That’s plenty of juice to get around at speeds well above what would get me thrown in jail. I’m mixing with real, honest to goodness American traffic in a really small car and I have yet to be run over or killed.

      I LIKE the original 500. I owned one and drove one when I lived in Italy. I drove dozens of Fiats new and old while I lived there. They have their charms and style that has carried on for 50 years or more now. If a quality automobile is defined by grand sizes, weights, or how well it duplicates an isolation chamber then a car like the Fiat 500 – new or old – will never satisfy you. There will always be details to pick at. Just like some folks do with perfectly serviceable American vehicles from GM, Chrysler or Ford when what they really want and admire are import vehicles.

      We in America don’t seem to enjoy “fun” or “cute” or “clever” cars very well here. We seem to be hung up on impressing someone else with what we drive through how “cool” or “mean” or “intimidating” or how “expensive” or how “big” our rides are while denigrating those who would drive something “cute” or just plain “fun”. I choose not to participate in that. I like what I drive now, most of the cars I’ve owned in the past, and what I look forward to driving in the future. I very well could find myself driving an irritating little Mini (I like!) or a 500 (hope they really come here soon) or even an electric car. Don’t care what anyone else thinks either.

      Hopefully my family and I or my friends and I will be riding along having good conversation, enjoying to view outside, and not endlessly focused on whether my car goes 0-60 in 11.1 or 12.3 seconds or whether the 500 steering is impressive to some track driver. It’s a car. It’s a car that will likely be driven no where near it’s limits on a regular basis just like my coworker’s Mustang, the other guy’s F-250 4WD turbo diesel 4 door truck that does alot of commuter duty with a single soul on board… And it’ll deliver the same smiles per miles as my current non-manly-enough-for-some convertible.

      Cars are the BEST. I’ve owned nearly 40 of them in my years. I’ve admired big cars and small cars. Cars that went fast and cars that couldn’t. I hope to spend the rest of my life testing new designs and styles. I won’t however split hairs. It’s the hair splitting and the denigration of whatever isn’t popular at that moment is what killed my interest in car magazines years ago. Please TTAC, don’t do the same. Don’t tell me what is WRONG with the car without telling me what is RIGHT with the car as well. Don’t bore me with hair splitting. And stereotypes. I hate stereotypes. Take me places with your articles and cars. Show me people making the ordinary better and more interesting. Not obscenely expensive like the car mags which focus on supercars I’ll never get to drive, or ride in and probably never see in person.

      All these little cars have a purpose and value. They may be best suited for runs to a favorite restaurant or down the coast with your girl beside you and the top back (or down) or across to the mountains for a hike. Don’t bother asking who in their right mind would like a car like this with some long list of shortcomings. It identifies an author not as a car enthusiast IMHO but a hair splitter.

      A car like this is for riding around in. Running errands. Commuting. It’s not for carrying four adults very far or very fast. I wish the big American car makers tried so hard to make something distinctive. The Aztec doesn’t count.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    I guess we now know what all those people who bought smart cars will be trading them in on.

  • avatar

    This review brought to you by icar.co.il

    Tal,

    I wonder how many of the B&B can read and understand the site. My biggest problem isn’t my Hebrew fluency or vocabulary, it’s that so much of what passes for Hebrew in publications these days are borrow words from English.

    I decided to read one of the test drives and came across פלאשבק

    Pelashevek? Oh, I get it, “flashback”. Ben Yehuda is spinning in his grave – but then he also does so every time a Chareidi speaks Hebrew.

    It seems to me that with all the fancy dansky perfect, imperfect, and past perfect binyanim, and Hebrew’s seeming infinite capacity for prefixes and suffixes that one should be able to convey the meaning of the word flashback in an actual Hebrew word.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Hey Ronnie,

      The link up there is for chiefly for SEO purposes. Glad to see someone actually did click it!

      Modern Hebrew is very much an evolving language. Growing up in the age of internet ain’t easy, and obviously plenty of words from popular culture here and abroad make their way into the vocabulary. I think it’s a natural progress for any language, regardless of its complexity, and especially considering that Hebrew still doesn’t cover all the words and slight meanings.

      The dictionary lists the translation to ‘flashback’ as ‘Hevzek LeAhor’ – a much less ‘spicy’ sounding word, and one that doesn’t convey the meaning as sharply as simply saying ‘flashback’.

      I always speak and write grammatically in Hebrew, and am actually a fan of the new words the Hebrew Language Academy is introducing. But I’m also in for embedding foreign words.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      The finer points of Hebrew grammar and vocabulary – now there’s a direction I didn’t expect to see a TTAC post going.

  • avatar
    undrgnd40

    funny, this review got me thinking of the smart car. my in-laws own a smart car and i’m waiting for the day somebody pastes a rainbow sticker on the back of it. in all seriousness, i think america could benefit from smaller, more efficient cars. although they don’t have to handle poorly or have 0-60 times of more than 10 seconds. i am excited to drive the ford fiesta when it arrives to local dealerships.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The Fiat 500C will be featured in an upcoming Pixar production of A Teddy Bear Picnic.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This is discouraging. A small, nimble car with good steering and handling, adequate power and a manual transmission would be fun around town. I was hoping for a alternative to an Asian transportation appliance. An Abarth version of the 500 would be ideal as long as it drove well. This review suggests that all 500s will be turkeys.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m guessing that Fiat does not sell the 500 Abarth in Israel?

  • avatar
    rcdickey

    It’s ugly but it grows on me more each time I see it.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Backatcha, porschespeed. Keep ‘em on the road!

  • avatar
    ludicrous

    I have a beater Fiat Uno 1100cc which is my daily driver – 560,000km’s on the odometer and I drive it absolutely flat out – I keep it well maintained but very little has gone wrong with this remarkable little car – it cruises at 100mph and at least once has indicated on its very accurate speedometer 120mph (on a very long down hill) I drive it like I stole it and rev the hell out of it – its great fun to drive and returns staggering fuel economy – i always laugh when I read about those crappy land yachts form the seventys that couldn’t break triple digits if there life depended upon it – what s.h.i.t. boxes they must have been……

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    I am glad the reviewer had a pair to say how they feal. So often reading car reviews (not on this site) is like reading Stereophile describe audio equipement (don’t hurt the feelings of our sponsers or possible future sponsers), in short “Its a great deal for the price point”. What I really want to hear is would they buy it? Well in this case no and you know what?..thats is ok.

  • avatar
    daviel

    as a former fiat owner, the review sounds to me like it’s listing features! You forgot the snapping clutch cables. All that aside, I have been agonizing over what’s next for me. I gotta have one of these little jewels!

  • avatar
    Joss

    Sorry this post is a bit late but so’s the 500′s arrival in NA.
    I’m torn, this is one cute little car. But being a slush stirrer the available autobox is a big part of the 500′s equation for me. No I don’t think dual-clutch will make it a non-issue, I’ve just read the dual-clutch in the recently released NA Fiesta is a jolty~ratio~hunter.

    Also remember the sorry Renault partnership with Chrysler back in the 80′s? You know when there was NO dealer support of the product – Alliance/Encore/LeCar? I wonder how many Chrysler NA dealer techs will be factory trained on the 500 down in Mexico and there is so little time now. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself here…

    I’m torn, I’m through 4/5 year lease on a Versa with CVT and before I had a Sentra on a 4 year – never needed a tow truck in about 9 years. Should I stay with [boring] Nissan or risk this? Chrysler/Fiat needs to offer an above & beyond warranty but then if they do that on the 500 won’t they be pressured for the rest of Chrysler the range? Look at Fiat in the UK, they’re own dealer network and a standard 7 year/300K mile warranty on the cheapsy 500. Imagine what an internal political policy battle that kind of warranty would be for Chrysler Fiat over here.

  • avatar
    aspexts

    If it has to be explained , then you just dont get it.

    It’s not about specs and tech and gee, is it the best?
    It’s about fun. Simple plain fun.

    My wife is not a car person. Had trouble finding her own car, could care less.
    Ask her about her FIAT 500c, she will make your head spin.

    I find it highly entertaining,,,, and yes,,, fun.


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