By on April 5, 2011


I’ve been waiting 28 years for Fiat to return to the United States, and that means TTAC is going back-to-back on the Fiat 500 coverage, following up Michael Karesh’s review with one of my own.

Me and Fiat, we have a history, see. My parents, already owners of a new Chevrolet Beauville passenger van, bought a pair of new Fiat 128 sedans in 1973. One was pungent green, the other a sort of washed-out yellow, and I knew in my 7-year-old heart that those cars made the best engine noises ever. You had to rev the piss out of that 62-horsepower engine to make the 128 go anywhere, but my mom grew up driving an ice-racing-prepped Porsche 356-engined Beetle and she went for the redline with each shift.

Those 128s crumbled into decrepitude fast, even by the lax standards of the time— my parents stuck with the yellow one for two years and the green one for three before washing their hands of the little Italian machines— but this was a four-door car that sold for $2,299, exactly the list price of the even more miserable and primitive ’73 VW Beetle (do we need to discuss the $2,306 ’73 Datsun 510? I think not). Regardless of the inherent terribleness of the 128 (with its switches that broke off under your fingers, doors that wouldn’t stay latched, and sheetmetal that managed to rust even in Northern California) the racy sound of that Fiat SOHC, more than anything else I recall from my childhood, turned me into a car freak.


Fiat’s fortunes in the United States went straight to hell starting in the late 1970s, as Fiat sales got slugged by relentless competition from cheap and reliable Japanese subcompacts and sports cars, while its “Fix It Again, Tony” brand image among American car shoppers was making the Greco-Italian War look sensible by comparison. Americans recoiled in horror from the new Strada, and Fiat retreated from the continent after the 1983 model year. As a cruel reminder of Fiat’s American glory days, the 124 Sport Spider lurched along, zombie-style, under the Pininfarina banner until 1985, while virtually unsellable Bertone-badged X1/9s were imported by past Subaru and future Yugo mastermind Malcolm Bricklin until 1987.

Yes, that’s Dennis Farina cold blasting a Smith & Wesson-packing California heavy who sneers at his Beretta: “The Fiat of guns. Always jamming on you!” Generations of Americans thought of Fiat as a joke, in spite of the company’s big sales elsewhere in the world, and even those too young to remember being stranded at the side of the road in an overheating Brava have heard the jokes from their elders. Truly, a return of Fiat to the United States could only happen under unusual circumstances, and the first Fiat-badged machine to hit our shores would need to be something special.

Well, the special circumstances are here (who in the hell could have predicted the Fiat-Chrysler deal?) and the 2012 Fiat 500 differs as much from the decline-and-fall models of the 1970s as the 2012 Corolla differs from its wonky, rattly-ass 1970s ancestors. I had a 500 Sport for nearly a week when I visited California to serve in the LeMons Supreme Court at the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons, and I had the chance to beat on it in the real world of San Francisco Bay Area wet-weather driving as well as the not-so-real world of a LeMons paddock.

Let’s start with the looks of the new 500. Even among Americans old enough to remember new Fiats on the street, the profile of the original 500 is nowhere near as iconic as it is to Europeans. The original 500 sold about as well in the US of A as the Renault Dauphine; i.e., hardly at all. That means that Fiat can’t cash in on a beloved retro image along the lines of the Beetle or Mustang, but it also means that there won’t be much groaning about the new 500 scaling in at over twice the curb weight of the original.

Let’s face it, Americans associate tiny European cars of the postwar era with pessimism. Underemployment. Diminished expectations. American car buyers of the 1950s and 1960s laughed at these cars, though they were actually pretty impressive engineering accomplishments.

The new 500 Sport, however, may appear more Japanese than Italian to American eyes. Note the similarity of profile to the Yaris; sure, some echoes of the cinquecento come through, but you get a lot more Yaris (and Fit) at first glance. Could Chrysler/Fiat have gotten away with bringing in a cheaper, sported-up version of the Panda for its American invasion? I thought so… until I brought the thing to Infineon Raceway.

LeMons racers, many of whom tend to be super-geeked-out automotive obsessives with garages full of Panhards and Sunbeams, went apeshit over the sight of the 2012 500 in the Infineon pits. I figured this Fiat 124 Sport Spider racer would be very happy to pose his car next to the Judgemobile in the Penalty Box after his black flag, and such turned out to be the case. Note the size of the 2012 Fiat relative to the 1977 Fiat.

Still, the juxtaposition of old and new Fiat highlights the reduced “Italian-ness” of the newer car’s appearance. The 124 Spider was, by any but the most delusional standards, a punitively awful machine, down there in the build-quality mud with the comprehensively bad Triumph Spitfire, but it looked cool!. The new 500 looks cool, too, but the only strong reaction I got with mine outside of Infineon was from the gearhead kid in the Bondo-and-primer Alfa Milano who nearly plowed into a bus stop while rubbernecking at the Fiat. For the most part, the 500 just blended in.

Still, I kept posing the 500 with various Italian classics at the track, hoping I’d spot the spiritual link. Was it there? I couldn’t see it, but the car definitely grabbed the attention of hopeless car nerds knowledgeable automotive enthusiasts in this context. Everywhere the 500 went at Infineon, LeMons racers would drop their tools, mid-engine-swap, to check out the new Fiat. This meant that I had the opportunity to make humans of all sizes try to fit in the front and rear seats. A 6′ 4″ Alfa Romeo driver fit fairly well in the front of the sunroof-equipped 500; without the sunroof, a taller driver should fit just fine. Folks up to 5′ 8″ had sufficient room in the back seat, and TTAC Editor-In-Chief Ed Niedermeyer managed to ride 50 miles with his 6-foot frame squeezed into the back; he wasn’t comfortable, but it worked.

Here’s Judge Jonny at the wheel of the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons Semi-Official Pace Car. Mr. Lieberman liked the tip-in of the 500 and was pleased to lead the parade of 173 heaps around the famed track.

Back in the real, i.e. non-LeMons world, I still thought the 500 looked pretty good in spite of its lack of look-at-that passerby-grabbing magnetism. The Sport wheels have a quasi-custom appearance, without crossing the line into Manny, Moe, and Jack-grade cheeze, and the 195/45-16 tires look good and meaty on such a small car.

The interior of the 500 is made of unapologetically cheap materials, with none of the mock-classy “chrome”-plated plastic or Simu-Wood™ trim so beloved by Detroit in years past. Had the Chrysler of ten years ago had anything to do with this car, I feel certain its interior would have been spackled over with as much greasy, casting-flash-laden plastic as the lowest of low-bidder Indonesian petrochemical companies could have pumped into tanker vessels. Today, as Ice-T would say, shit ain’t like that. This is a cheap small car, and it’s not being marketed as a consolation prize for losers who couldn’t afford a new Chrysler Concorde; it’s made for buyers who want a little gas-sipping commuter with something of a sporty edge.

Nothing very exciting to report on the controls and instrumentation; this is all bland and reasonably well-placed gear. I poked around a bit under the dash and found that the quality of switches and electrical connectors looked fairly decent. I can’t make any promises based on my short acquaintance with the car, but it appears that the dash controls should hold together much longer than their counterparts from the Bad Old Days of Fiat.

The body-color plastic dash insert added a touch of motorcycle-fuel-tank-style snazz to the interior, and it should be easy to clean when passengers experience fast-food mishaps (or worse). I’m skeptical about its ability to maintain its color after a few years of sun in Albuquerque or San Diego, but who cares? It’s a cheap small car!

It’s just refreshing to see such lack of pretense in a car interior’s surfaces these days, even in a subcompact. You put this stuff through an American focus group and they’ll always demand heraldic crests and gingerbread, so it’s good to see that Fiat and Chrysler ditched that nonsense for the USDM 500.

Look at this: no attempt made to camouflage the seat-mounting hardware! Just about all cars at the low end of the price spectrum for the last 20 years have had a crappy hunk of plastic that snaps over the ends of the seat-track brackets, where it spends several years collecting nasty schmutz and developing cracks, before working loose and generally making the car owner feel that this machine is disintegrating. Not so on the 500, which doesn’t fear showing the occasional bolt head. It’s a small thing, but I find it illustrative.

The Bose Premium Audio system that comes with the Sport package fills up the 500’s little cabin with brain-scrambling volume, thumping out bass quality that would impress Tigra and Bunny; I found that Mike Jones’ Still Tippin’ sounded incredibly good when cranked way, way up. Pantera wasn’t quite as impressive, so it appears that the system was engineered with hip-hop rather than metal in mind (though I’m sure that enough twiddling with the somewhat frustrating audio controls could have done justice to Dimebag Darrell’s sound).

Speaking of frustration, I had a tough time reading the tachometer at a glance; it appears that Fiat took a look at the instrument budget and went all-out for style over function. The tach needle is tiny and hard to see, and seems to fall behind engine reality at times. I found myself hitting the rev limiter when the tach indicated I still had 500 RPM to go. Not a big deal, since it’s the sort of thing a driver adjusts for after a few weeks in the car, and understandable given the low cost of the car… but this is one area I’d prefer straight-up function.

And, now that we’ve veered off into curmudgeonly complaints, I hope that Fiat’s enforcers pour some castor oil down the throats of their owner’s-manual tech writers. Take a look at the callout numbers in the manual…

…and now check out the corresponding entries for those items. See how they don’t match up? I’m a technical writer by trade, and it causes me physical pain to see something this easy get screwed up. If your organization misses this stuff, what else has it missed? However, I suspect that this is just a localization glitch, caused by a hurried Americanization of the UK-market 500 manual, and that the 500s rolling out of the showrooms will have more usable manuals.

Returning to the 500’s interior, we see the no-frills seat fabric in action here. Cheap stuff, not pretending to look expensive. It ought to hold up under the rigors of real-world use pretty well, given that it isn’t weakened by pleather piping, fake buttons, or embossing.

The only thing I really disliked about the interior was the headrest design. The headrests are hard, unforgiving plastic with a tortilla-thin layer of padding. If you tend to sprawl out lowrider-style with your head against the headrest while driving, as I do, you’ll find your dome gets quite a beating when going over road irregularities. I’m sure there’s cheap aftermarket padded covers available, preferably something suitably blinged-out, so it’s not a dealbreaker by any means.

As you’d expect in such a small car, cargo space is somewhat limited. I found that my big suitcase with my helmet and racing suit had to ride in the back seat; the seat backs fold down, but don’t manage to get fully horizontal. Most of the interior space goes to the passengers, not cargo.

USB and auxiliary audio jacks in the glovebox allow the use of portable music devices through the 500’s sound system. The interface isn’t particularly intuitive (forget about browsing your iPod through the USB-connected stereo and hoping to find a particular song), but you can play your music.

Before we start talking about driving the 500, I feel the need to point out my disappointment that the Fiat 500 by Gucci isn’t available in the United States. Sure, we’re getting the Abarth, but the country that loved the Cartier Continentals and Oleg Cassini Matadors deserves a Gucci Fiat!

First of all, I was impressed by the 500’s composure on potholed, flooded, washboardy roads in bad weather conditions. While touring the junkyards of the East Bay (where I found this ’52 Buick Super), I subjected the 500 to the decaying infrastructure of East Oakland.

It doesn’t insulate you from the bumps like you’re Frank Sinatra floating in an Imperial with a French 75 in your hand, but it sure as hell doesn’t jar your cerebellum loose from its moorings when you discover that little puddle is really a foot-deep pit. You feel and hear the rough roads through just enough insulation to keep from being beaten up, and there’s never a sense that you’re about to be hurled into the weeds.

Heavy rain on the dreaded Nimitz Freeway? No problem. The 500 rolls right along on the highway with as little drama as cars twice its bulk. While I had the 500, I traveled hundreds of miles of highway in wet and dry road conditions, and the car proved to be a pleasant highway cruiser. Noise levels aren’t bad— you can carry on a conversation in a normal speaking voice at 80 MPH— and the car copes with Nimitz-style roughness without wearing out the driver.

The 101-horse MultiAir engine… well, it’s an engine. Somehow the 101 horsepower in the 2,350-pound 500 feels much less powerful than the 102 horsepower in my 2,200-pound ’92 Civic. I must admit I was hoping for an experience akin to what I recall from the ’73 128 of my childhood, an engine that snarls, making 101 horses feel like 202. Instead, the 1.4 MultiAir is just an unobtrusive, sensible powerplant. Would I be disappointed in a Toyota or Hyundai subcompact with an engine like this? Not at all. I just wanted something more… Italian.

The chrome-cueball gearshift knob looks jaunty, but the shifter itself has an irritatingly vague, indistinct feel. There was something familiar about its short-throw-yet-rubbery sensation, and I sifted my memory banks for days before it hit me: it feels like the shifter in the early VW Vanagon. I stalled the car a few times when mistakenly starting out in third gear, and I lived in fear of hitting second instead of fourth when downshifting from fifth (in fact, this never happened). I wouldn’t class this as a severe problem, because you’d get used to the funky shifter in the same way Fiat drivers of old got used to a headlight switch that had to be punched several times with the heel of one’s hand before the lights would come on. Were I to buy a 500, however, I’d look to the aftermarket for an improved shifter.

For the first few days I had the 500, all my driving was either stop-and-go urban, long-haul highway, or slow cruising around the Infineon Raceway grounds with all the windows down and “Funkytown” blasting. The car seemed like a good value, something I could be happy with as a long-term daily driver, but nothing about it really seemed exceptional. I managed to get 32.7 indicated miles per gallon in a mix of highway and stop/go driving, which seems respectable for a car that doesn’t compromise much on comfort, but I wasn’t quite blown away by the fuel economy. “You need to put it in Sport mode and take it on some twisty roads,” Lieberman kept telling me. With that vanilla engine, I figured, how much fun could it be?

As I discovered once I took the 500 for a couple of runs over the Oakland Hills on Fish Ranch Road after the race, the 500 Sport is plenty fun once you get it alone on a snaky, hilly road. You still don’t get much zip from the engine, but the 500’s grip on the pavement borders on ridiculous for a gas-sipping urban commuter. Sneakers-stuck-to-melting-asphalt sort of grip. Angry-cat-digging-claws-into-your-groin grip. I wasn’t talented brave enough to try to find the car’s handling limits, at least not on a public road still wet from a week of rain, but I did start to wonder what the ideal purpose for such a setup would be. A driver looking for a bomb to go screaming around the hills is going to shop for something with more engine, but a 9-to-5 commuter doesn’t need that racy suspension.

Then, while making a burrito run later in the day, I grasped the genius of the 500 Sport’s designers. This car was designed to steal parking spaces in hostile urban environments. Picture this: you’re running late for an appointment in some nightmarishly parking-challenged place like San Francisco or Manhattan. You drive around block after block, trying to spot the telltale signs of a pedestrian who will duck into a car and free up a space for you. Dozens of other drivers do the same, as all of you circle sharklike, sniffing for blood in the water.

Then you see it! An oil-burning Jetta with a space-saver spare on the left front and a 350-pound junkie at the wheel is wheezing out of a spot up ahead… but it’s on the wrong side of the street and another shark heading toward you has locked onto this tempting prey. That’s when the 500 Sport comes into its element! You whip the Fiat into a full-throttle U-turn— tires glommed to the asphalt like a crackhead on a dropped $20 bill— as the car pivots like a forklift through its tiny turning radius, and you’re into that damn parking space before your competition can even hit the turn signal. You look so cool doing it that the other driver forgets to shoot you, and you make your appointment. That’s what the 500 Sport is for.

So the 500 comes off as a great-handling, semi-fuel-stingy commuter with a good helping of fancy flourishes and retro lines that will likely be lost on Americans with sub-encyclopedic car knowledge. Build quality seems many, many orders of magnitude better than the Fiats of a generation ago. The price? As tested, $19,000. A grand of that was for the sunroof and the automatic HVAC system, but even without those not-quite-essential options, the 500 Sport costs a bit more than a Honda Fit sport hatchback and a few grand more than the Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris. Things get even more interesting when the Scion IQ hits the showrooms. Would I buy a 500? Maybe… but I’d want to visit the Mazda showroom first.

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89 Comments on “Review: 2012 Fiat 500 Sport...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m digesting the review, but my initial comment would be “Wow, you’ve out-Kareshed Michael Karesh”.  I like it, more than I’ve liked a review on TTAC in a while.  Well done!
     
    About those naked seat tracks: you might not know this, not being from the salt belt, but the salt-crust-cum-sandpaper muck you track in will make those rusty as all-hell in no time.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Another nice few points about this car:
      The step-in is great, unlike the Mini and most compacts (but not unlike, eg, the Yaris)
      The controls aren’t totally gonzo.  Yeah, the tach is odd, but everything else is pretty user-friendly.  Contrast to the Mini: the tach is normal, everything else is an ergonomic trainwreck.
       
      I think it’ll sell well.  It’s a personal car, but without much of the compromises a car in this class has (no back seat or cargo space like the Smart, a brickboard ride, idiot control layout, contortionist entry/exit).  It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’ll do at least as well as the Mini if not better)

    • 0 avatar

      Psar

      About the naked seat tracks. I go a lot to RIo. And Rio being Rio, saind in and on the car is a 365 day a year thing. I’ve seen many badly rusted cars there (fiats and others). But that part? Never.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So Murilee, any predictions on how the materials will hold up sitting in a scrap yard waiting for you to harvest them in 2045?  This isn’t a dig on Fiat, I would ask this about any car Murilee reviewed given his normal drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the underhood stuff will do pretty well. Fiat went several notches above bargain-basement on things like electrical connectors. I suspect that interior and trim components will wear out fairly quickly, though not as quickly as the stuff on, say, an Aveo.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t really get that Murilee. Here in Brazil, hellish sun, tropical downpours, interior bits and trims (though worse than in 500) usually last the life of the car. the interior bits in Fords are the ones that seem to suffer more from sun.

      I guess you’ll be disappointed.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    When the Abarth arrives, it will be hard to keep me out of the showroom, even though I shouldn’t and I know it will be a mistake.

  • avatar

    a Murilee review?!  yay! I hope this is not a rare event!

    as for the lack of engine personality, I wonder how that will change with the Abarth. maybe in a year or so, a Sport 500 owner will simply upgrade the intake/exhaust and open it up a little. there’s gotta be some good noises hiding in there.

    • 0 avatar

      Inspired by comments to my review that led me to wonder whether I had employed the sport button, I returned to the dealer to give the car another whirl. Among impressions this time around:
       
      –it’s not much of a problem that the tach is hard to read (as MM notes) because the needle doesn’t move quickly
       
      –the engine sounded worse than I recalled from my first test drive, and worse than the typical four these days; “clatter” seems appropriate; this Chrysler-owned car might have been abused, so it might not be typical
       
      –the clutch that felt like it was about to go was new, and likely due to abuse
       
      –the “sport” button makes the engine seem more responsive in fairly casual driving; push it, and with or without the button there’s far more bark (see earlier note) than bite
       
      –the “sport” button definitely adds weight to the steering, and makes it feel tighter, especially when changing lanes at 40+ MPH; steering feel still isn’t anything special
       
      –the seats that caused me discomfort are in the Sport and Lounge, but not the base “Pop” trim, so among the three I’d go for the latter
       
      –if we can assume that the engine clatter and the clutch that didnt grab at all until the very, very top of its travel were due to abuse, then this second test drive did improve my perceptions of the car, but not by much; I remain very willing to give the 500 the benefit of the doubt, and have requested one, preferably a Pop, for a week
       
      –reliability? I’d love to have some reliability stats for this car–just a matter of how soon we get enough owners involved. The 500viva forum recently offered to help. Details about the Car Reliability Survey here:

      http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php
       
      –I’m very interested in reading MM’s impressions of the Mazda2; though its engine feels about equally weak, I found the ride and handling far better than the 500’s

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Michael – The 500 has been on sale in Europe for 3 years (I know it’s a “different” model) – could you use that to help understand the reliability of the US spec car

  • avatar
    fredtal

    nice review, but you haven’t changed my mind about Fiats that is wholy based on the junk we had 30-40 years ago. 

    • 0 avatar

      give yourself a chance. This ain’t your grandpa Luigi’s Fiat. They have come a long way. In fact, they are just as good as anyone out there. Now, if besides good reliability you want some fun and a different kind of motoring thant the Nippo-German-American experience most folks in NA have had all their lives, Fiat wants you.

  • avatar

    Enjoyed this review a lot, it’s been interesting to read reviews now that US-spec versions are getting into the hands of testers.

    I have Fiat-history as well, having owned a 128SL and 124 Spider in the 70’s.  My 124 experience (with a ’74) was actually very good: no particular issues, ran and sounded great, Pininfarina styling, not rusty or rusting at 4-5 years old, and with a 5-speed, Weber-carbureted DOHC engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, seats and ride comfy enough for several longer trips.  Probably 70,000 miles that I put on with nothing besides some maintenance/wear items. 

  • avatar
    findude

    Nice review.  As is my reaction to other Fiat 500 reviews, it seems that the take-away is to stick with MINI.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Sorry, I find nothing ‘Sport’ about this vehicle.  Pass.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    How does this thing compare with other vehicles in the same price range like the Civic or Focus? Seems like it will be cross-shopped with anything in that range. I can’t imagine buying this thing over a Civic if I were in the market for a tiny car.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I think it will be cross shopped against the Mini most often, Fiesta and Mazda 2 maybe. I bought a Fit instead of the Civic after back to back test drives because I found the Civic too “soft”, Americanized, actually almost boring.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Not a lot of people are going to cross shop this with a Civic. The Civic is 2 sizes bigger (and doesn’t have a hatch, the POS). And a Civic with the standard features of this Fiat is going to cost more as well. Next, someone is going to say that you could buy a 2 year old Impala for the same money.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my friends is cross-shopping it with a Mini and a Miata. He wants to be able to park easily in Boston, and so I think the Fiat, the shortest by at least 5, maybe 10 inches (we went through that a couple of weeks ago, and I can’t remember the numbers precisely) is going to win. I am going to send him the link to this review.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      @David: He may want to wait for the Scion iQ, if parking is his priority.

      • 0 avatar
        Ulpian

        You either want a 500 or you don’t.  In Europe none of the cars mentioned, except maybe the MINI, is considered a competitor.  The Toyota (Scion?) iQ is a two seater (they pretend three) with zero luggage space and it has a vile interior with a horrid long gearstick, and it is simply not selling here at all since it is useless.

        Oh, and criticising the head RESTRAINTS because you can’t rest you head on them while driving is silly, they aren’t intended to rest heads on, merely to act as a backstop when being whiplashed.

        Sorry, but these things obviously aren’t understood in the US. Moreover, it does share a lot of design DNA with the original, if you look, and has nothing at all in common with any Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      confused1096

      srogers: I thought it was a valid question since the reviewer owns a Civic. Also, both cars are very small.
       
      nikita: I’d actually take this thing over a Mini–not that I can fit into either one (I’m very tall). Most 5 year old Minis I see, the interiors have not aged well. Never thought of the Fit. That car is probably this thing’s boogie man. Similar size and Honda has a solid reputation for being reliable.

  • avatar

    You crazy Murilee! Yo mama crazy, too, redlinin th’ paleolithic fiats! Sheesh!

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Great review!
     

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The reason the old Fiat 500s were rare in the US is because as far as I know, Fiat never officially sold the 500 here – the smallest car in the range in the ’50s and ’60s was the 600. Of course, when was the last time anyone saw a 600 on American roads (other than a lovingly-restored, propped-lid Abarth)?
     
    Having owned an ’84 CRX for ten years made me realize the joy of driving something tiny and fun. I could easily do a simple U-turn on a two-lane street and there were lots of parking spaces open to me that almost nothing else besides a Spridget or Fiesta could grab. The new 500 is over four inches shorter than my old car – it must feel like being a minnow amongst whales.

    • 0 avatar

      I was hoping the 500 would drive like a CRX. Not even close. You site pretty high up, so the car seems quite a bit larger than it actually is. Good for the average American, not so good for those of us who feel that smaller is better. A CRX was much lower and much more agile.

      • 0 avatar
        Ulpian

        It’s meant to be a uselful car with easy access, not a sports car.  The ‘sport’ nomenclature is merely trim-descriptive, nothing more. The CRX was an absolute pig to get into because it was so low, whereas the 500 is a real joy in this department and the easy acess is one of its strengths, to be celebrated, not criticised.

  • avatar
    nikita

    The beginning of this review brought back memories of putting myself through school in the 1970’s wrenching on European cars, mostly VW’s, but a couple of Fiat owners were regular customers, a 124 Coupe and 850 Spyder. Nice cars to look at and the 124 was a blast to drive. My stock VW easily outran the 850. Both were unreliable, mostly electrical problems.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Enjoyed reading the comprehensive review, and appreciated all the photos…clearly not a car for everyone, but I’m glad there’s an interesting, unique choice in the marketplace for those looking for a tossable, affordable and efficient runabout.

    Hope the long-term reliability and durability proves decent, and am waiting on a review of the upcoming Abarth, to see how it compares to the Mini Cooper S.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Competent but small and not very sporty engine, teamed up with a racy (by North American standards) suspension?  You find that an odd combination?  In my experience that describes 95% of small cars sold in Europe.  The only surprising thing is that Fiat / Chrysler didn’t bother to Americanize (i.e., ruin) it for this market! 

     

  • avatar
    snabster

    What puzzles me is the difference in ride quality:
    Karesh:  “Sadly, and unlike the Ford, what was achieved with the handling was not achieved with the ride. Even the smallest bumps dramatically upset the diminutive FIAT’s composure. The lightly loaded rear end never passes up an opportunity for a game of hopscotch. Granted, I drove the Sport variant, but if the ride is so unsettled that carving a clean line through a less than glass-smooth curve becomes a challenge, then there’s really no point in making the suspension so firm. Of the many cars in my memory bank, including the thoroughly unrefined Mazda Protege5 I own, this one rides the worst. ”

    Martin:  “First of all, I was impressed by the 500′s composure on potholed, flooded, washboardy roads in bad weather conditions. While touring the junkyards of the East Bay (where I found this ’52 Buick Super), I subjected the 500 to the decaying infrastructure of East Oakland.

    It doesn’t insulate you from the bumps like you’re Frank Sinatra floating in an Imperial with a French 75 in your hand, but it sure as hell doesn’t jar your cerebellum loose from its moorings when you discover that little puddle is really a foot-deep pit. You feel and hear the rough roads through just enough insulation to keep from being beaten up, and there’s never a sense that you’re about to be hurled into the weeds.”

    Expectations?  Tires?

    • 0 avatar

      Snabster,
      It all depends on what you had before the test drive. Karesh had black coffee, probably that burnt stuff from skcubratS. Murilee, well, I’m not even certain he knows for sure what he was smoking. If he started the test drive in San Fran, there’s this stuff they put in the air, your feet don’t touch the ground, and your wheels glide over the potholes.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      One was driven in California, where what counts as a ‘bad road’ is roughly equivalent to what counts as ‘freshly paved’ where Micheal is from…

      My last work trip to MI I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee for a rental, and I totally understood why so many people seem to own them there…. I’ve been up paths in the Maine woods that are smoother than suburban Detroit streets. Harsh climate, heavy traffic, and no money to fix anything.

  • avatar
    p161911

    So the 500 should be 2.5 times better than the Chrysler 200.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Murilee’s been driving around a 45 year old Dodge van.  Anything newer and smaller will ride like a dream and corner like mad.  That his review of the ride on poor surfaces was generally “it’s ok” means Karesh probably nailed it for someone who is used to driving machinery made this century.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Every single review I’ve read for the US spec car so far is for the 500 Sport 5-spd.
     
    I would really like to read a review of the 500 Pop or Lounge trim level that is equipped with the automatic transmission.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Murilee doing reviews again? This is getting better and better! That legendary Audi R8 vs. Honda comparo is one of my all time favorite pieces.
     
    Speaking of Fiat 500, it’s honestly one of the first new Fiats in my lifetime that I can honestly say “Yes, I could see myself buying that”. If I had to go out and buy a sub-20K new car today, that would be on the short list.

  • avatar

    Since I’m not likely to write a review of this car anytime soon, I’ll use this opportunity to add a few thoughts.
    My feeling on the ride quality is that it’s as good as a car that small could be. The short, narrow footprint means it can lose its composure a bit on rough roads, but the suspension tuning itself seems well-executed.
    In terms of handling, again, I think the small footprint hurts it. It’s light and well-suspended so you can throw it at corners with ridiculous abandon and it loves you for shaking it by the scruff of the neck. Unlike a MINI, however, it’s relatively narrow track makes it feel less poised for fun, so it doesn’t beg you to throw it at every possible corner in everyday driving. It’s a great-handling car, it just doesn’t communicate the fact well outside of incredibly sharp turns (like whipping into a parking spot).
    The engine is a big “meh.” If you thrash it and work the ‘box to keep momentum up, it’s old-school fun (especially on tight curves). Again though, in normal driving it fails to communicate enthusiasm or impress by any metric (especially fuel economy, given the competition) other than smoothness and unobtrusiveness. An autobox version will be quite sedate.
    The upshot? I’d save for a MINI. Better power, and a more planted feel thanks to its square footprint yield a better freeway experience and inspire more hoonery. Also, I’d drive the Mazda2 before I bought. But if you already love the 500, you won’t find many deal-breaking turnoffs in the drive… even if you get forced into the back seat for a trip or two.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess it’s a matter of defining “small.” The Mazda2 and Fiesta are one size class larger and have another 7.4 inches of wheelbase, so perhaps a direct comparison isn’t fair. But the Mazda rides considerably better than the 500 while the Ford IS a Chrysler Imperial in comparison (in my opinion they’ve overly prioritized ride quality).
       
      Also bear in mind that Detroit roads tend to be worse than anything you’ll find in California. In many cases they’ve layered patches over patches, resulting in a very uneven road surface.

    • 0 avatar

      Ed, yes it’s a small car. Rev it with old school abandon and be happy. It doesn’t have the same hardware as Mini and doesn’t charge you for it. A mini witht the level of hardware of the 500. Who’dwin? In my case, I find Mini too hard, sitting too low, wheels too big and I hate that pizza on the dash. so my money is on 500. Maybe I’m too old, but car like Mini that must be driven hard to be fun is boring. I like cars like 500 (or focus, Fiesta meh!), when you want to you can get sporty, when you don’t, ride is supple enough to rest my tired body after long day.

      To each his own

  • avatar
    anchke

    This review is a great example of serving as the reader’s eyes and being informative while still generating read-to-the-end appeal. Well done.

    I think the Fiat 500 is more a city car than a commuting car, at least in my neighborhood. Most of my commute requires decent merging and 40-75 performance, then jam on the brakes, then accelerate to 75 again, then repeat. Plus the weather from Nov.-Mar. is rugged. I don’t think the 500 could handle it.

    It’s competence as a local runabout seems limited by its inability to carry home much more than a smallish supply of groceries and consumables. It might hold a couple tennis rackets, but sets of golf clubs are doubtful. Right? (Reviews of the 500 skirt the issue of how much stuff you can cram in it.)

    $19,000. Okay, there’s a new 5-door Focus at the local dealer with an msrp of #17,500. And if you’re going to spend $19,000, why wouldn’t you at least consider adding a couple grand and seeing what else was out there, new or coming in off lease.

    FYI, I once owned a Fiat 12 (?), the sedan with suicide doors. I give it credit for starting like a trroper, even when the temp was below zero. However, the heater only worked when the outside temp was above 70. Also, the seals to the clutch and brake pedals had disappeared and replacements weren’t available. So for many months of motoring I wore oversize  boots and several pairs of wool socks and my feet were still frozen. Scoff if you like, but: a) I’m spending my dough on the comfiest car I can afford, and b) them that don’t like it can leave me alone. 

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      $19,000. Okay, there’s a new 5-door Focus at the local dealer with an msrp of #17,500. And if you’re going to spend $19,000, why wouldn’t you at least consider adding a couple grand and seeing what else was out there, new or coming in off lease.

       
      Well shoot, for a few ticks over $20,000 you could get a Focus SE hatch with a stick shift and winter package.  Sounds like that would help you in the “rugged weather” (heated seats and mirrors) and carry plenty of stuff while getting good fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar

      The 500 and Fiesta are within a few hundred dollars, with the advantage going to the FIAT before adjusting for features and to the Ford afterwards:
       
      http://truedelta.com/comparisons301/500-vs-Fiesta-price-comparison.php

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      For that money, get an Impala and ride easy!

  • avatar

    Great review! I’m glad to hear that it does well in the twists and turns, and like everyone else, I can’t wait to see what the Abarth version brings to the table.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    The Abarth version is going to have my attention, this thing looks like fun…

  • avatar

    Hey Murilee/MKaresh.  I did I review of the 500 Sport for the site I write for, which can be found here if someone wants to read another 500 review.  My review is less on the historical perspective and more about how the car drives.
     
    My overall impressions were pretty similar – alarming high levels of grip, tons of fun in the corners, not a lot of power, and god those headrests are awful.  I was more impressed with interior materials, and I DEFINETELY prefer the 500’s interior design to the pointlessly stupid Mini’s layout.  Can’t wait for the Abarth version either.

  • avatar
    stevejac

    I don’t know what I think of the 500 but I enjoyed your memories of the 128. We had a ’74 128 and it was a blast to drive, in the rare occasions when it would run. While it was a piece of junk (and we bought it based on a Consumer Reports recommendation!), only my 2 recent BMWs have been more fun to drive.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I wonder if having this car in a color other than “Camry” gray would have changed your (and bystanders’) opinion of the styling?  Terrible color for this car. 

    While I like the sport model wheels and all, pricing the 500 on the Fiat site leads me to think that there is little reason to step up from the base model (around $15k) and just put some wheels on it.  Better yet, the good chassis with softer higher-profile tires might lead to an even more pleasant ride.

    A close friend of mine who lives in England has a 500 with the smaller 1100 cc engine (or 1200, I can’t recall) that we don’t get here.  He’s a car nut with a Bentley, some classic MGs, and a Jag and he loves the car.  I’m eager to drive one myself.  My commute is about 70 miles per day, 95% freeway, so I’m curious how this car feels at speed in terms of comfort and noise level.  I currently use a 2010 Golf for this duty and it’s comfortable and relatively quiet though the fuel economy is mediocre at best. 

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    Nice review. Very well done. Love the detailed photos that support the copy. Too bad the new engine has been neutered. As far as 128’s go, mine was a ’73 SL. My first new car. Navy with a tan interior. The thing ate electronic fuel pumps like popcorn. Conveniently located just in front of the gas tank between the rear wheels for easy access, a new fuel pump only cost $30 bucks and I could replace one in about 3 minutes (two minutes of that was me beating on the offending party with a wrench). But I loved revving that little engine just to hear the sound it made (the surprising side affect was it’s meager power output). Lots of fun. Pretty good handling too given it was FWD. I remember that the steering wheel was perfect, smallish with a big beefy cushioned rim. Good times.

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    This review was incredibly fun to read. It’d be amazing for this site if important cars were reviewed twice – once by Mr. Karesh for the sensible, comparative, grounded take on the car, and again by Mr. Martin, for the nostalgic, goofy, humorous hoon take on it.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Much more enjoyable read than that dyspeptic review from David Koresh!
    Fiats Forever!
     

  • avatar

    Murille, thanks!Excellent review. Showed car’s strong points, but didn’t hide negatives. Gave lots of information plus Honest (I read it that way) impressions. Loved the pics.

    Do more pls.

  • avatar
    timothymcn

    Does the Abarth version have a different transmission? Maybe a short-throw? Or will it for the US market?

  • avatar
    brettc

    I definitely like its small size and based on your review, it sounds pretty fun. And I don’t know if I should be encouraged that they left the glow plug light in the owner’s manual or not (it’s the supposed low fuel light). There’s probably no chance of a diesel version being sold over here. But even if the gas engine is the only option, I hope they sell a lot of these and don’t drop it from the NA market any time soon. And hopefully the reliability is vastly improved. Every time I read about Fiat, I hear Dale Gribble from King of the Hill saying “fix it again, Tony!”.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    It will be interesting to see how well the 500 sells. I think it’s overpriced in comparison to the Fiesta & Focus, both of which I think are nicer cars.

  • avatar
    Rascally

    Black-flagged spider driver here. I had been waiting to see the new Fiat and It was cool pose with it for photos. As with the new Mini, I was disappointed with how large it was. As for spiders being awful cars,  compared to  REAL cars they sucked but compared to the competition from Britain They were miles ahead.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      As the former owner of a somewhat-clapped-out GT-6+, I take umbrage that that statement! That car taught me the following:

      — Cars like these need to be loved (I’m sure this goes for FIATs as well). You have to pay attention to what it’s telling you so that you stay ahead of the curve.

      — Lucas taught me quite a bit about the practical applications of Ohms Law.

      — Character in cars makes for great memories.

      — If you observe the first point, even a British Leyland product does not have to strand you. I *never* failed to get where I was going in that car. Never.

      — The SU carburetor tuning is best left to the experts.

      — In-line 6’s are wonderful motors. I splurged for an Abarth exhaust and the aforementioned professional attention to the carbs and the car was a real joy to hear and feel while on the throttle.

      BTW, the 500 “Convertible” is so freaking cute that it’s almost irresistable. We saw one at the NY Auto Show and despite its being done up like a pre-teen girl color and trim-wise, I really, really liked it.

  • avatar

    Great review Murilee – thanks, it’s fascinating to get an American perspective on these cars.
     
    ” the 1.4 MultiAir is just an unobtrusive, sensible powerplant. … I just wanted something more… Italian.”

    I can’t help feeling FIAT have missed a trick making their US debut with this “old-tech” MultiAir power plant, but their successors The TwinAir mills are only just being phased in over here in Europe and starting at the small end – I think launching with a 1.2l over there might have been a step too far…
     
    It’ll be really interesting to hear how much more Italian the newer (free-er revving, zippier and more economical) TwinAirs feel to you guys when they arrive over there… assuming the US 500 manages to blaze enough of a trail for them as is…

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    This is a car for girls headed to college.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Nah – just look at it.
      It is a girl’s car.
      One of my buddies mentioned seeing one this afternoon and he loves little cars like that. But even he agrees that this is a car for a girl. It just is.

      The MINI isn’t.
      The Fit isn’t.
      But the Fiat 500 totally is.
      It is a chick car.

  • avatar

    jesus fuck I thought these reviews were limited to 800 words.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Best review of a car I have read in quite some time.

  • avatar

    Question for reviewers: Where does this thing rev when cruising (~55-65mph, 100km/h)?
    I find stick shift vehicles almost universally, and for no good reason, make poor cruisers because they rev high. A problem that has forced me into the land of autos because I drive highway too much.

    • 0 avatar
      Buckshot

      Want low revs?
      Get a diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Or have manufacturers either choose enough gears, or simply match their auto and manual transmission ratios. The Cruze Eco does this fine. Its not that hard. And I had a diesel.
        Low revs is not an unreasonable request. Its better for fuel economy, better for noise levels and most cars simply need enough power on tap to maintain their velocities. 3200 rpm at 100km/h is not needed. If I need to pass I’ll shift down.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      I would wager that the Fiat at cruising speed is around 3000-3500rpm. My truck with a 5spd manual revs at less than 3000rpms in 5th at less than 75MPH and at 80, barley over 3000K, it redlines at 5000, the Fiat will go to 6900 before redline.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    MM, This is a fantastic review indeed!

    I have for the past year or 2 read up on both the US and Euro 500 and in either late Feb or early March, I finally did a test drive in the demo and found the car hella fun. It reminded me of my old 83 Civic hatchback with its 1500cc 4 pot motor putting out all of 63HP and it was a hoot to drive and this was in the 1990’s.

    The Fiat brings back much of that feel and fun and yes, you have to rev the piss out of it but that’s part of its charms BTW.

    I found the ride firm, but supple on less than fabulous roads in that it’s well damped but not going to totally admonish the road feel by any means and yes, some of the ride is due to its size and wheelbase and that’s part of its charms as well but again, it’s not going to rattle your fillings out either. I found that if you isolate the car from the outside world too much, you aren’t really driving as you can’t anticipate stuff nearly as well.

    I will agree the steering wheel could use more feel in transmitting feedback to the driver but it’s weight is fine otherwise and while the sifter isn’t crisp as some would like, I found it not nearly as vague as the shifter in a Yugo though, but once I realized the strong spring in neutral that had me in 3rd instead of 1st, I only did that once and I found the clutch easy to get used to despite having a heavy hydraulic clutch in my Ford Ranger and quickly discovered it’s very easy to feather and all and the sales woman was very impressed that I got the clutch so quickly. Once I became familiar with the shifter, it felt just right in its placement and the throws could be a little shorter but aren’t overly long either and could be a bit more precise but I had no issues with it. At least it wasn’t notchy like some cars.

    One thing to remember, if you are driving the demo’s, they are all pre-production cars and you’ll know this as they ALL have Michigan plates so some things may or may not be what you see on the actual production cars (the Rame colored demo I drove is missing the pull strap for the hatch) and what production cars you are seeing at dealers are pre spec production cars, IE, Fiat/Chrysler specing the cars themselves and shipping to the dealers, at least enough to get inventory to dealers ASAP then soon we’ll see the actual production cars where dealers and customers alike can spec their cars as they wish.

    I am going to be heading to the Fiat dealer here just north of Seattle again today to check out the car even more as it’s on my very, very short list after my blitz to Fry’s for an external hard drive for backups (long story involving a Trojan virus)

    I drove the Fiesta and found it fairly sporty, even with the Dual Dry Clutch auto sans sport shift, the Honda Fit didn’t feel nearly as sporty and it’s automatic is slow to respond to downshifts (without paddle shifters) and that damped it’s sporty pretensions, the Fiat had the most sporty feel of them all I felt and have since decided to stick with, well, a stick in my next car as I was getting tired of holding the clutch in the truck during slow rush hour commutes as it’ll buck like a bucking Bronco when the rpms drop to oh, 1500 or less, which is OFTEN even in 1st or 2nd gear, tiring for a heavy clutch if you ask me, but I’ve changed my tune now that I have revised how I shift the silly truck. :-)

    BTW, read up on the Euro 500 and its stablemate, the Panda, both have fared well in use as being reliable and well put together with switch gear that doesn’t go bad quickly like in the past and the cars seem to be very well put together overall. The current Panda was introduced in 2003, the Euro 500 in 2007 as an ’08 model, though the 1.4L motor sold there in both is the non MultiAir 16V version.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Count me as one not particularly enamored of the Multi-Air system as it is actually used. They had the chance to make an Atkinson cycle engine of this thing at low throttle openings, but did the exact opposite, so far as I can deduce. The Atkinson cycle is what Toyota uses in the Prius and extends the inlet valve opening beyond BDC and into the compression stroke. Far as I know, the Prius gets great mileage on the highway, when the engine is essentially running all the time.

    The Fiat Multi-Air system instead shuts the intake valves early on the air inlet stroke at small throttle openings. So the small amount of air inhaled has to expand to full cylinder volume before it is finally compressed on the compression stroke. All this time it also absorbs heat. Not a particularly efficient way of going about things. I wonder if that’s the reason why mileage isn’t great, and why you have to rev the kazoo out of this thing to have any fun, because then the system reverts to normal valve timing.

  • avatar
    Kiwi lad

    Kia Ora from down under in Auckland, New Zealand.

    Great to read a review on Fiat’s 500 from the USA.

    For those not familar with Aotearoa, we boast a population of just over 4 million, we’re not blessed with your multi lane freeways, petrol costs an arm and a leg, well around US$6.54 per gallon and our maximum speed is limited to 60mph! That said, it is a breath takingly beautiful country that offers so much in such a small package – a little like the Fiat 500 really!

    On that notre, New Zealand’s association with the 500 started back in ’58 and as a young 15 year old my first love was a red Red 1967 Fiat 500 Bambina. Some 40 years and 85 vehicles later I now find myself once again drawn to the charms of the Fiat 500! 

    How could you not want to own this stylish, cute and wonderfully nostalgic remake of the original 500 knowing that every journey will be a grin inducing event! 

    Here in NZ, my Sport model features a 1.4 16v 100hp engine under the bonnet (hood) matched to a 6 speed manual transmission (or the dualogic auto) which makes it a rewarding drive on our narrow twisty and mostly dual carriage roads.

    This is the most fun car I have owned in years and whether it’s town and around or on the open road the fistey little twin cam snarls and begs to be revved all the while delivering between 42 – 45 mpg.

    It also attracts much curb side cred too and no one young or old can pass by with out a smile or taking time out for a closer inspection.

    On the occassional run with four up, passengers have been surprised by it’s comfortable red leather seating and the easy of getting into and out of the car.  In addition this baby has a boot (trunk) bigger than the Mini and it’s comes standard with Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and you can play your favorite ipod tunes hrough the sound system! Plus and its a big plus, passengers can be comforted knowing it scored Europe’s highest 5-Star NCAP Safety Rating!

    The 500 also won Europe’s 2008 Car of the Year award and was designed by Ferrari’s Frank Stephenson (also responsible for BMW’s Mini)!

    So there you have it, the Cinquecento, one of the greatest cars Fiat has made in decades and one of the best small fun cars money can buy!   

    And speaking of value for money, my Fiat 500 is currently up for sale if anyone is contemplating migrating to New Zealand. My new 500 Abarth Esse Esse is due next month!  
     
     

  • avatar
    Patz

    Hi everyone,

    I’m actually an italian and a GM Europe employee, which drives a particular point of view from my side.

    Some background on my experience about this car.
    – My brother owns since three years a 1.2 69 Hp sport 500
    – I drove on a test track an 1.4T 135 Hp Abarth 500

    Well, about reliability. My brother experienced a rattling exhaust support (replaced under warranty), a broken seat lever mechanism (adjusted with a minimum effort) and some issues with the bluetooth software, in 3 yrs and about 35k kms. But his car is actually one of the first ones build and delivered (I know that the exhaust supports have been changed in production, and the software is improved time by time).
    It’s just a perfect thing for city driving, and for European roads at all as well (er, maybe not for the German ‘autobahns…)
    The 1.2 engine is very good even if not really fast, fuel economy is at small-diesel level. It’s real fun to drive in narrow and ‘snake-shape’ roads, much more than any sport sedan, due to its short wheelbase.
    The car has a huge appeal to young drivers (also girls loves that), and in Europe is market-placed much below the Mini, but much higher than the other direct competitors in its size (the Fiat Panda, the Ford Ka, VW Lupo, Kias and Hyundais…) – let’s say, it’s a kind of premium-mini. It’s not really a competitor for the Mazda 2 or the Fiesta in there, even if prices might be similars if not higher than those two.

    Then let’s go for my Abarth experience…
    I’ have been driving last year a couple of laps in a normal-spec 135 Hp abarth. Let’s start with the bad part – steering feeling is something too ‘artificial’ for a ‘sport’ car.
    Then…it’s PURE FUN. Just touch the pedal, and you get pushed forward as fast as you wouldn’t imagine; brakes are perfect, and speed in the corners is just-gorgeous. Cannot imagine how the 160-hp spec (‘essesse’) behaves.
    It’s a kind of toy for guys who already have a commuting car (or a good car for travelling around) and want to have something real fun in their garage, without wasting a lot of money.

    If any questions, just ask me further – I’ll be OK to respond.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Very cute car.  Hopefully, it’ll nullify Fiat’s awful reputation and become a best seller.  Wonderful review.  Keep those reviews coming!

  • avatar
    shinydonut

    Anyone able to help identify the white car behind the 500 in around the 12th picture down? I originally thought maybe it was a modified 124 but the tail just doesn’t seem right. Thanks in advance.

  • avatar
    Patz

    It should be an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, from the late 60ies

  • avatar

    $!9K for that Fugly POS? Unbelievable ! I had a Fiat 124 Spider waaay back around 1972 and it was totally cool. Oh and it was around $3K.

    But this ????

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Sounds like you have NO idea what this car is all about and have probably never driven one so your comments are WAY off base.

      I’ve driven the sport and even with 101HP, it scoots mighty fine thankyouverymuch and is hella fun too.

      And besides, your comment doesn’t make any sense for you say your 124 Spider was fun, but call a modern Fiat a POS? Get real…

      Besides, the Ford Fiesta and other cars of the B class cost about as much if not a bit more than this little guy so price is not bad and it’s very well loaded up, even if you buy the base Pop sans any extra options.

      I’m working on buying one so there.

  • avatar
    stephengray

    I find it strange Fiat was to bring their “fuel efficent” techonology to Chrysler. The automatic’s mileage of 27/34 is not that great for a car this size. The 5-speed manual is better at least. But if Hyundai can get 30/40 out of bigger cars, I find this lousy. I am sure some poeople that find this car a novelty will buy it anyway. For others, the reason to buy a tiny car is for exceptional mileage and this it does not get. Another big negative, Fiat’s site says premium fuel.

    That Hyuandai Elantra is looking better and better but it doesn’t have the charm of the 500, I will give you that.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Actually, I’d not rely on the EPA ratings too much for the real world mileage, once broken in is MUCH better.

      Typically, the car is getting, on average, around 36-38mpg US in the combined cycle with the city mileage being more like 32, highway closer to 40-42mpg with mostly normal, but not overly spirited driving.

      Even the automatic gets higher than the EPA ratings but don’t recall exactly what without looking them up.

      The biggest problem is its Cd which becomes an issue above 70mph.

  • avatar
    Miguel M.

    Important Warning. I am the owner of Fiat 500 Prima Edizione # 211. This is just to let you know how terribly disappointed I am with the low quality of the FIAT 500 and terrible service of FIAT USA. I cannot even sell the darn piece of junk, because they will not fix it despite being under warranty. I have been waiting for nearly 6 months for a replacement of part which was defective from the very first day (the passenger seat!) and, after 4 visits to the FIAT OF MANHATTAN dealer, they have been unable to repair it. Total incompetence and lack of proper service.


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