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2012 FIAT 500

Overview
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2012 FIAT 500 Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.2

Do you like sipping espressos at sidewalk cafés while chatting above the erratic screams of passing motor scooters? If you answered yes, oui or si, Fiat has a car for you and is bringing it to the States. The Italian automaker is returning to the U.S. after a 27-year absence – a move facilitated by its new relationship with Chrysler – this time as the small-car brand under the Chrysler umbrella. On one hand, it's easy to call the 2012 Fiat 500 an Italian Mini Cooper: They're both small cars with big personalities, they both have storied pasts dating back to the late 1950s and neither has been a true player in the U.S. market until their most recent incarnations. But take a quick spin in each, and a peek at their window stickers, and you'll see just how different they are.

You'll Like This Car If...

Combining European style and heritage with a starting price of $16,000, the 2012 Fiat 500 bridges the gap between the sportier, pricier Mini Cooper and the more pedestrian Toyota Yaris. If you like the big personality of the Mini Cooper but would gladly sacrifice some performance for a more comfortable highway ride and a lower price, you'll find the Fiat 500 worth a look.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you're not smitten by the style of the 2012 Fiat 500, you can get more car for your money in something like a 2012 Honda Fit, 2012 Ford Fiesta or 2012 Mazda2, all of which offer more doors, more room and more standard power.

What's New for 2012

Available in coupe, cabriolet or high-performance Abarth form, the Fiat 500 is more affordable than a Mini Cooper and more gregarious than a Toyota Yaris. Simply put, the 2012 Fiat 500 offers a new mix of economy and style.

Driving the 500

Driving Impressions Whereas the Mini Cooper is an undersized action hero - as in The Italian Job – the Fiat 500 is more likely to land a part in a festival-favorite romantic...

comedy. The Fiat is definitely fun, just not in a sideways, airborne, car-chase kind of way. But never to be outdone by its closest rival, the Fiat 500 series offers a new performance-tuned, 160-horsepower Abarth edition, which plans to give the sporty Mini Cooper S a run for its money. A big part of the appeal is in how the coupe and cabriolet models combine the advantages of a tiny car with comfortable accommodations and a relatively smooth highway ride. The steering, brake and shift controls all have a quality feel, and the optional 6-speed automatic surprised us with its responsiveness. In fact, given the car's unhurried nature and the fact that its manual transmission offers one fewer gear and superior fuel economy, the automatic will be the preferred choice for many drivers. The 2012 Fiat 500 is tiny and quirky until you drive it. Then, it's tiny, quirky and respectable.

3-POSITION SOFT TOP
In a conventional convertible, succumbing to an overwhelming urge to drop the convertible top at highway speeds requires an undesirable trip onto the shoulder. Capable of operation at speeds of up to 60 mph, the 500c's power-retractable soft top welcomes sudden high-speed cravings for sun exposure with open arms.

ECO:DRIVE
Plug a USB memory stick into the Fiat 500's glovebox-mounted USB port and the car will upload onto it a variety of trip details including carbon dioxide emissions information. Plug the memory stick into your computer and you'll get personalized tips on how to improve your driving efficiency. In the long run it will prove more novel than useful to most drivers, but it's a cool idea nonetheless.

2012 FIAT 500 Details
Interior

The 500 is roomier up front than you might expect, and just as tight in back as it looks. If you plan on transporting more than two adults on a regular basis, we'd point you toward one of the 500's 4-door competitors. The interior style lives up to the promise of the quirky but fashionable exterior, and we found the materials, build quality and seat comfort impressive for a car with a $16,000 starting price. As the athlete of the group, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth offers a pair of aggressively bolstered front seats, exclusive red seam stitching and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel. The optional Bose audio system sounds just okay – better than the base system, presumably – and we couldn't navigate via artist or song title while using the USB interface, so we just skipped to the next song.

Exterior
2012 FIAT 500 photo

The 2012 Fiat 500 is a modern interpretation of the tiny, rear-engine original that first went on sale in Europe in 1957. While the new model is almost two feet longer than the original, it's still seven inches shorter than today's Mini Cooper. Additionally, the iconic sloping rear end is a big part of the 500's personality, but it doesn't do much for rear headroom. The 2012 Fiat 500 is available in four distinct trim levels – Pop, Sport, Lounge and Gucci, with the 500c convertible offering all but the sport trim. Each model grade is easily distinguishable by unique wheels and fascias, though the Abarth edition is likely to attract the most attention on account of its raucous exhaust note and optional high-contrast accents.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2012 Fiat 500 and 500c Pop include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 15-inch covered steel wheels, a 5-speed manual transmission, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker audio system with a USB port for portable music players. The range-topping Abarth variant includes a Bose premium audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, Abarth-tuned suspension, and a leather-wrapped dashboard. Standard safety features include seven airbags, hill-start assist to help prevent vehicle rollback on steep inclines and seemingly all the other advancements we're seeing on new cars in this price range and beyond.

Optional Equipment

Whether you opt for a coupe or convertible, a fully loaded 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge includes a 6-speed automatic transmission, leather seats, heated front seats, power sunroof, rear parking sensors, dash-mounted TomTom portable navigation system, Bose audio system and auto climate control. The 2012 Fiat 500 Sport is differentiated by a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch wheels and a variety of aesthetic touches including red brake calipers and a subtle rear spoiler. The mighty Abarth offers larger 17-inch wheels, 2-tone leather-trimmed seats and your choice of either white or red body side stripes.

Under the Hood

The front-wheel-drive 2012 Fiat 500 is motivated by a small but sophisticated 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 101 horsepower, while the Abarth slaps a turbocharger onto the standard mill for an additional 59 horsepower. Fiat says regular unleaded is okay for the naturally aspirated version, but recommends 91-octane premium fuel. We like the automatic transmission and its extra gear, but it results in about a 10 percent reduction in fuel economy. Although the 500c cabriolet offers the 6-speed automatic gearbox as standard fare, Abarth models are limited to the 5-speed manual.

1.4-liter inline-4
101 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
98 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/38 mpg (manual), 27/34 mpg (automatic), 27/32 mpg (cabriolet)

1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
170 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 mpg

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2012 FIAT 500 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.3
Out of 10

Based on 119 Ratings for the 2012 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.5/10
    Quality
    8.4/10
  • Reliability
    8.7/10
    Performance
    8.6/10
  • Comfort
    8.2/10
    Styling
    8.6/10

2012 Fiat 500C Pop (custom)

By on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Fun, handling, mpg, dependability, cute."

Cons: "Small cup holders for front passengers"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I purchased my 500C Pop used, and I am the second titled owner. It had just over 12,000 miles. Mine was originally a "program car" for a dealership in Florida. It is custom because, though it is the Pop trim, it has several unique dealer options and changes. I have the cloth Lounge seats, dark window tint, the RV Towing package, hood spear, door sill plates, heavy duty front and trunk mats, and burl wood appliques on the dash, steering wheel and mirror adjustment surround. When we pulled in at the dealership in my 97 Grand Marquis, our first thought was that there was no way I would be able to transition from such a large car to such a small looking car. After driving this car, it has more room than it looked like it would have for two grown men in the front. We have read that the back seat is only suitable for small persons or groceries that you can seatbelt in, but when my coworkers and I go out to lunch, they insist on me driving my fun car, and I regularly have 4 adults, including one man that is like linebacker build that rides in the back seat. My car is still under warranty and I have only had a couple minor issues that my dealership handled. This is my daily driver with the manual 5 speed transmission, and I get 40-41mpg combined city/country mileage. Mine has the standard sound system, which is unbranded Alpine, and it is awesome. I LOVE the convertible top and how versatile it is with being able to have it open like a sunroof, open for the rear passengers, or open all the way, and being able to open or close it at highway speeds. I thought the visibility might be a problem with the top open all the way, but the mirrors and back up sensors are good, and I've had no issues. I have the "Rame"/Copper color with a black top. It constantly turns heads and is very striking. The original owner did not rotate the tires, which should be done at every 5,000 mile oil change, so I have recently replaced the tires and did a 4 wheel alignment. The dealership in GSO is the place to have all that done; free tire rotation with the purchase of the tires, and the oil change is reasonable. This is the most fun and enjoyable car I have ever owned. For what looks like a really small car, the space is well planned, and I have surprised myself and lots of others at how much I can pack into it. I highly recommend this car, so much, that my husband purchased a 2013 Fiat 500c Lounge just 3 months after I bought mine."

Will always own one

By on Monday, April 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,050

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
9/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"Great little car-I own three convertibles but it seems like every time I go some place, I grab the keys to my Fiat. Gas mileage great, very comfortable and gets a lot of glances. Love it!"

3 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Small but amzing

By on Saturday, April 18, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Good MPG, easy to parking, fast"

Cons: "small backseat"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I own a 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, manual transmission of course, and it's fun! The abarth is totally different than others Fiat 500 models. This car is insane! if you like to have a fancy and quick car, this is a perfect fit! I haven't had any issue so far. Honestly i was skeptical at the beginning, but after the firts test drive I just fell in love... I do not recommend this car if you do not have very good driving skills."

Worst mistake I've ever made

By on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
4/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "It's a cute care"

Cons: "Screams when I start it, leaks oil and transmissio"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"I was in love with how cute this car was when I first spotted it. I've had the car almost 4 years and it's already had three major repairs as well as a few recall issues. There is nothing good I can say for this car or the customer service that comes with it. Seriously do not purchase one of these."

7 people out of 10 found this review helpful

Great in town, on dry days

By on Thursday, March 19, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
5/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "fun to drive around town on dry days"

Cons: "horrible in snow"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2

"This little car is great for parking. It's small, easy to maneuver. Gas mileage is good, getting around 38mpg over the 3+ years I've had it. The downside is it's noisy and bumpy so you don't want to take it on long trips. It's also horrible in the snow, there's no traction."

20 people out of 29 found this review helpful

Bought it because it was cheap- Love it!

By on Saturday, March 14, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Stylish, saves gas, spacious front seat"

Cons: "Tiny back seat, long throws between gears on shift"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I've had my 2012 sport for about a year now and love it. It's been reliable and the small size is great in the city. The engine doesn't have the pick up up of some cars, but then, I knew that going into a tiny car with 101 hp. Would definitely buy again"

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?