By on September 10, 2012

A couple tweaks have finally pushed the Fiat 500 to the magical 40 MPG mark – but only on manual-equipped version.

While automatic transmission 500s stay rated at 27/34 mpg city/highway, the manual versions get a bump to 31/40 mpg, up from 30/38 mpg. According to Fiat, the new rating comes from a taller final drive ratio and some undisclosed aerodynamic tweaks.

With 40 mpg becoming the de facto “round-number-fuel-economy-rating-that-sounds-good-in-ad-copy”, it was essential that Fiat avoid the embarrassment of being 2 mpg short. Oh well, at least it’s not 40 mpg CAFE…

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27 Comments on “Fiat 500 Finally Gets The 40 MPG Brass Ring...”

  • avatar

    With some thrifty driving, I was already able to average over 40 MPG with the ’12 model. Not hard if you hyper-mile it just a tad.

  • avatar

    After the embarassing initial launch missteps, the 500 appears to be finding a niche for itself in the market. Seems like a sharp, fun little car that has a lot of “personality”.

  • avatar

    I’d consider the Fiat, I love the size (buying a smaller car is almost like buying a larger garage) but I was put off by the fuel economy. If I buy something that small, I want MPG braggin’ rights.

    Fuelly reports average about 34mpg. The Toyota Yaris averages about the same, more some years, and it’s more car and more utility probably for about the same money, perhaps less. For what you get, the Fiat just isn’t all that practical.

    Not everything has to be about practicality, of course, and my wife thinks it’s cute, so perhaps we’ll get one someday.

    I’m suspicious of Fiat retuning the car for fuel economy. Did they make it impossible to accelerate a little on a level surface or maintain speed on a slight incline in top gear?


    How much hper-miling is that? I’m not buying a car to work at hyper-miling it. I do drive so as to minimize my braking (I don’t rocket into situations where I’ll need to lay on the brakes) but that’s about it. I do hit the EPA score driving like that and I’m satisfied with it.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s pretty much what I’m talking it about. Not super crazy hyper-miling llike shutting it off on hills and whipping turns at the speed limit, just minimizing brake inputs as much as possible by planning out stops, limiting hard accel as much as possible and coasting down in high gear as much as possible to shut off fuel delivery.

      People who are aware drivers and know how their vehicles work can easily coax over 40mpg out of the previous model. The EPA ratings better reflect the average (perhaps below average) driver who thinks their car has only 2 modes, acceleration and braking.

    • 0 avatar

      You have to realize that 2mpg on top of 38 is not so much and can be very easily achievable thru some aerodynamic dark magic. People need to remember that after a certain point, increased mpg yields fewer and fewer savings at the pump. Going from 8mpg to 10mpg is a 25% increase in fuel economy and over a vehicles lifetime can save thousands – going from 38 to 40 is a negligible improvement and won’t save so much.

      • 0 avatar

        THANK YOU. As carmakers continue to bump higher and higher fuel efficiency numbers, selling cars mainly on the basis of fuel mileage SHOULD become harder. Ain’t much difference between 38 and 40, even less difference between 48 and 50.

        Also, these ultra-efficient cars will likely be very sensitive to driving habits. We are seeing the tip of that proverbial iceberg with the Hyundai Elantra and Civic Hybrid mileage lawsuits. God help us when the owners of the “50mpg highway” 2020 Corolla decide to bury the throttle once a day, then scream bloody murder once their car only achieves 45mpg.

      • 0 avatar

        “2020 Corolla decide to bury the throttle once a day, then scream bloody murder once their car only achieves 45mpg.”

        Hehe and go zero to sixty in twenty seconds in the one cylinder engine CAFE will require.

  • avatar

    This rollerskate with a motor should be getting 50 MPG. I get 35 in my TSX.

  • avatar

    I am afraid that this preoccupation with the big ‘four oh’ of hi way mpg is doing a lot of damage to the ‘drivability’ of new cars today, esp. small cars. While manufacturers are tweaking aerodynamics and speccing low rolling resistance tires the main modification they seem to be relying on to bump epa mpg figures is sky high gearing. When you combine small engines, possessing little torque, with tall, widely spaced gears it becomes difficult to keep the engines in their power band and the ‘fun to drive factor’ (which has always attracted me to small cars) goes rite out the window.

    My wife recently purchased a new car (VW Golf TDI) and we test drove a variety of small cars looking for something that would be fun to drive while still saving her fuel$ on her moderately long commute. We test drove the Honda CRZ, Insight and Fit, the Mazda 3 and the VW TDI Golf and Jetta. All with manual transmissions (except the Insight). The car that made the most sense on paper was the ‘skyactive’ Mazda 3. We really wanted to like that car, but the ‘zoom zoom’ was hard to access with a 6 speed that was geared so high that you have to drive it as a 4 speed to get any power out of the engine and save the last to gears for high mpg cruising. We are both used to Honda Civic Si’s with close ratio gearboxes, so we found this very frustrating. She ended up with the Golf TDI, which also has tall gearing, but with enough torque that the engine manages to still be responsive in typical driving.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      You are the inverse of the people who complain that their manual car pulls 4,000 rpm at 75 mph in top gear.

      • 0 avatar

        And I am that person.

        I’m partial to having first gear be long enough to get me through an intersection, second be close enough to it that I can pull away without burning out my clutch, third and fourth be still fairly close, and fifth (or, nowadays, sixth) be sky-high for highway cruising… close-ratio around town, get up to 40 or 45 (cruising) or 55-60 (hard acceleration) and drop it into your cruising gear. My ancient Volvo 240 (M47 five-speed) seems to do okay, as did my mother’s New Beetle; my friend’s fifth-gen Civic feels as though it needs a sixth gear above 65.

        I enjoy a sweet close-ratio ‘box as much as the next guy, but there’s no reason that top gear can’t be an exception.

  • avatar

    At first I thought this car would be a big failure on the market, but I am starting to see a lot of them. However, the $99 lease deals may be the factor, which makes it a “loss leader” for Fiat in order to unload them. Time will tell. The Mini seems to have staying power in the US market, again based mostly on the cuteness factor.

    The AT version doesnt have to get 40mpg EPA, just some version for marketing reasons to get folks into the showroom. Then the buy the AT and dont even notice. Isnt it the same with the Chevy Cruze?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I just saw that. Some nasty fine print there.

      $3299 due at signing. About $7000 overall if you include the usual fees and local taxes, plus higher insurance rates for the right to drive this thing… 35,000 miles?

      At $1000 due at signing it would be a helluva good deal. About equivalent to what Toyota is doing with the Corolla at the moment. Unfortunately, this particular offer is designed for the math challenged and high mileage fearing crowd.

      I’m willing to bet that Fiat will still clear the MSRP even if they eventually bring a base 5-speed Pup to the auction.

      Clever deal. Kudos to the bean counters.

    • 0 avatar

      Last I heard, manual sales were something like 50% of the cruze eco. There may have been reasons for buying the auto-eco (trim levels were pretty good, IRC), but the manual sales were higher than you would expect selling directly to the best and brightest.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    Hyundai was running the $199 Sonata with the smallest print for the $2k down. Now it’s $159 with over $3k down. Infiniti’s 24 month lease and ford’s leases are also with heafty amount down.

    Honda had more real $200-250 per month deals with zero down this year.

    If you drop more then base $ on a lease and crash it totaled you loose the down payment. If you rolled more into the payment and totaled the car the Gap insurance takes over. Sign and drive or maybe tax/tags/fees down. That’s it.

  • avatar

    Part of Fiat’s agreement with the (U.S.) government for the sale of Chrysler to Fiat was that they provide a high mileage (40mpg) vehicle for sale in a specified time frame, which they have done.

  • avatar

    My parents economy with their AT 500 has been better than the EPA’s earnings and they aren’t real hypermilers. at least 30 mpg in the city and averaging around 36-37 on the highway (even going through mountains). As I recall, the reports on Truedelta showed most people getting in the upper 30’s even with city driving, high speed on the highway, mountains, etc.

  • avatar

    Would someone explain to me why my 550 lb Kawasaki 900 only gets about 45 mpg?

    • 0 avatar
      Del Camino

      MC’s are aerodynamic disasters. Talk to a Fat Boy rider about mileage. Add some ape hangers and you’re in F150 territory.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Partly because a motorcycle is about as aerodynamic as a barn door (the terrible drag coefficient offsets the smaller frontal area), and largely because it simply wasn’t designed for economy in the first place.

      It’s pretty likely that the engine is set up to run rich in the interest of protecting itself. Careful rejetting can change that, but beware of side effects. It’s also pretty likely that the engine’s best efficiency points are high in the RPM range, far from the load and speed range seen during normal puttering around.

      If you want economy, think small … I have a little 2011 Honda CBR125R, and it uses about 2.5 – 2.8 L/100 km, even with me thrashing on it (which is the only way a 12 hp motorcycle can be ridden). A little engine like that will have its best efficiency point much closer to normal operating conditions.

      • 0 avatar

        Not always true since my 09 650 Suzuki V Strom gets 55mpg no matter how I ride it – over 60 mpg when cruising lightly at low rpms with my Harley riding friends . And Honda has a new mid size bike the NC700X that gets 65 mpg with some test riders getting over 70 mpg . Motorcycles in the past didn’t get all that great mpg , but that is now changing .

  • avatar

    My 1991 Honda Civic LX Sedan Auto got 40mpg. In 1991.

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