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2012 FIAT 500

Overview
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2012 FIAT 500 Review

By

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
8.4
Out of 10

Based on 107 Ratings for the 2012 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.6/10
    Quality
    8.4/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.7/10
  • Comfort
    8.1/10
    Styling
    8.6/10

Perfect sports car to tow behind RV

By on Saturday, December 06, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,600

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Fun to drive!"

Cons: "It is small and not good for more than 2 people"

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

"My choice of the Fiat was initially made because it was a small car that could be towed behind my RV. Since then, the car has completely won me over. I attended the Abarth experience at the Fontana Race Track, and since that day I no longer miss my Harley. This car has true racing capabilities, yet most of the time it can be driven in a sensible manner and achieves great mpg's. It is always a pleasure when I pull into a parking lot and easily find appropriate parking for the small car. The ride is rougher because of the race tuned suspension, and the exhaust noise is a bit much when I want to carry on a conversation. Nevertheless, I have begun to love the little car, and I find my Lexus just sits in the garage. I guess I never grew up; I love the sports car aspects of the Abarth!"

12 people out of 18 found this review helpful

Fiat: The Little Car that Can…

By on Friday, November 28, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Good MPG, Fun, Easy to do your own maintenance"

Cons: "Othe drivers don't like to be behind a Fiat"

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

"It has been almost 2 and half years since purchasing my 2012 Fiat 500 Pop. So far, the capabilities have been impressive and including the value for the money and how easy it is to find parking, due to its small stature. Unlike other small cars that I have driven that felt as if I was riding on top of a noisy beehive when cruising the highway, that is not the case for the Fiat, engine noise is minimal and so is road noise if the surface is smooth. The features of the Fiat are impressive. The last new car I purchased was my wife’s “luxury car” in 2005 without blue tooth, 3.5mm audio jack, tire pressure monitor, a USB port that can be used to charge a phone, manipulate your portable music player with steering wheel mounted controls or plug in a thumb drive to record and monitor the efficiency of your driving habits. That was all included in the base model, no extra options added, and speaking of value, the price I paid for the Fiat new is almost three thousand dollars more than what I have spent in the total repairs and maintenance of my wife’s “luxury automobile” since 2005. Economy is better than predicted by the EPA; my daily commute average has been 38.6 mpg (according to the Eco Dirve data I download on a regular basis by inserting a USB “Thumb-Drive” in to the USB Port in the dash, which can also be used to play music or charge a cell-phone). On a 175-mile road trip to visit family, the Fiat averaged 38.8 miles per gallon and despite the small 1.4-liter engine; I was able to make it up some steep mountains at highway speeds, requiring downshifting into fourth gear when the speed dropped below 70 mph (about 2,900 rpm). There are many things the car can do, get me around comfortably, (I'm 6’1”) when driving by myself, and if necessary I can carry a real person behind me at the expense of some comfort (only two, the Fiat is a four seater). The fun factor with the manual transmission makes this car a joy to drive, I don’t care to go fast in a straight line, but going around corners and down shifting into second gear pulling the car around the corners has been, to put it mildly, fun and assuring that this car is sure footed and nimble. After a couple of years of driving the base Fiat, I can only think of three things that I can say negatively about the car. First, do not plan to win any drag races with the Fiat, unless you are racing against a hybrid or another smaller and less capable car. Secondly, road noise is pervasive on rough roads. Finally, my last complaint are the other drivers who do not like to be passed by a Fiat (even when I’m doing the speed limit!) and will speed up to pass you. I say to them “don’t be crass, this little capable car can really go this fast.”"

8 people out of 11 found this review helpful

LOVE THIS CAR!

By on Thursday, November 20, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000

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: "Everything. This is a great car."

Cons: "None, really."

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

"It's zippy, it's reliable, and I can park ANYWHERE. The design is spectacular, everything is within reach and easily visible. Very fuel efficient, as well. I haven't had any issues with this car, despite others telling me it's a bad car or I shouldn't have bought it. I couldn't be happier. It's really fun to drive, easy to shift, and steering is a charm. It handles very well. There are only a couple things I would change, and those are very minor. i would have the windshield wipers be more of a variable speed, and I would add a mirror to the passenger visor. That's really it. It's tiny, so the noise is louder than other cars, but it's also lighter. So there is the tradeoff. If you like small cars and being able to park anywhere, definitely consider this Fiat."

8 people out of 16 found this review helpful

DO NOT BUY A FIAT!

By on Monday, November 03, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,700

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
7/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
Not Rated

Pros: "Fun"

Cons: "Horrible quality that ruins the fun"

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

"Here's my story: I just graduated from college and got a nice job, and I wanted a nice car to reward myself after 4 long and hard years in college. I thought a Fiat 500 Abarth was perfect - I don't need a ton of space, I wanted a car that was fuel efficient and fun. So I bought a 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth - fully loaded - in June 2014. And it is fuel efficient and fun. By the end of July I noticed the side skirts were coming unglued and there was a funky noise in the door when I was driving, and when I shut the door with the window partially open. I took to the dealership - fixed! Not quite, the door still made noise when I was driving, the window started ticking, the dealership still had to order and install the side skirts, also new noises developed in the rear of the car, the sunroof, and the dash. I took a few weeks after that first repair - when the side skirts were ready to be installed - and mentioned the new noises along with the stuff that needed to be fixed a second time. They said it was fixed, and it was for about 10 miles - then all the problems reappeared. The new side skirts were coming un-glued, the noises in the door and window were back, noises in the rear of the car, noises in the sunroof, and now water in the taillights - yay! Took it back to the dealership, they found that the rear seat frame was crooked (takes care of the noise coming from the rear), the taillights were replaced, they used foam tape to fix the noise in the dash, the screws that held the window were loose, the glass was replaced a second time, the side skirts were re-glued, the sunroof was re-aligned, and they found that the water shield inside the door was missing! They took 16 days to fix (got to drive a nice rental that smelled like a garbage truck), and I picked it up last week. Now the taillights still have moisture in them, there is a new noise coming from the a-pillar (yay!), and the original noise from when I shut the door is back. Please, please, please go buy yourself a Toyota or something else with quality. You may be bored, but you won't have $30,000 of regret in your garage."

6 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Great car with lots of personality

By on Sunday, November 02, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Fun to drive, good gas mileage, personality, style"

Cons: "Could be better MPG's highway, needs 6th gear."

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

"I was tired of the expense of sports cars and wanted something with personality if I was going to get an economy car. My wife hated the Abarth and I hated the seats in it. The naturally asperated models had too little horsepower. The 500T was brand new and they just got their first two on the lot. The only option I don't have on it is a sunroof. I love the car! I get between 28 and 30 mpg in the city and in the low 30's on the highway (although the mid 30's can be achieved if you don't mind staying around 65). The car is surprisingly comfortable, the Beats audio sounds good, and it is a blast to drive. You can buy other cars cheaper, but none have the personality of the FIAT. Also, you will get lots of questions about it and lots of lookers. Especially with me being 6'2", 230 lbs. The Abarth is known for it's exhaust, but the Turbo has a great sounding exhaust also. It is aggressive without being as loud as the Abarth. The only complaints I have are that I wish it had a limited slip differential because it is easy to make the traction control flash when given gas while cornering somewhat aggressively (inside wheel wants to spin), that it could stream music via Bluetooth (fixed for 2015), and I wish it had a telescoping steering wheel, and the factory navigation is such an after thought (and not worth the extra cost). Otherwise I love it and it is one of my most favorite cars I've owned. And that is coming from a string of cars that cost twice as much. Oh, the 5 speed is fine for around town, but seems a bit low for highway. And I still look for 6th occasionally after 27,000 miles. Oh, and we had heavy snow (for NC) and the car went everywhere I wanted it to without any problems. Even around stuck cars."

4 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Fun to drive and good mileage.

By on Saturday, October 25, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000

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
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: ". Sounds great. Gas miileage. Fun ."

Cons: "no local dealer. handles quirky at times."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7

"The Fiat gets a lot of attention wherever you go. It is fun to drive although it can feel a little unsettled when first entering a curve aggressively, but it holds well once planted. It sounds great and makes you feel like you are going faster than you are. I can get 43 MPG on highway if i keep it at 60 MPH or I can get 25 MPG when driven hard in Sport Turbo mode around town.. I average 30 MPG and normally get 38 MPG on highway trips. The white wheels are impossible to keep clean. I sometimes wash them everyday."

9 people out of 21 found this review helpful

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