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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.
Favorite Features

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
8.7
Out of 10

Based on 84 Ratings for the 2012 - 2014 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.8/10
    Quality
    8.6/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    8.8/10
  • Comfort
    8.3/10
    Styling
    8.8/10

A Mini Light

By on Saturday, April 12, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive, small size for that 3rd garage space"

Cons: "road noise"

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

2012 Fiat 500 Sport

"We had a 2009 Smart car as our 3rd car for shopping trips and weekend excursions. When the Fiat 500 came out, I instantly wanted one to replace the Smart car. My wife told me in no uncertain terms that I could not buy a new car until she replaced her car which had over 100,000 miles. The day after we got her new Camry hybrid, I traded the Smart for a Fiat 500 sport automatic. My wife tried not to like the Fiat, but now loves it like I do. It has been reliable and unlike the Smart, it does fine on regular gas. I have driven it twice on trips from Ohio to Maryland and it was fine on the interstate through the mountains. It is the perfect extra car. The non-turbo engine is a bit weak, but revs happily with a good sound. The Bose audio is good, but there is considerable road noise at highway speeds. Handling is fun and the turning radius makes parking a breeze. Changing the oil is tough in that the oil filter is in a very tight location, although visible."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

2012 Fiat 500 Sport

I have the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio. Very fun car!

By on Saturday, April 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,400

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Unbelievable gas mileage"

Cons: "Quick little car, however, not enough power for me"

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

"I own a 2013 BMW M5 (F10) and a 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth. I have owned a Ferrari F430 Berlenetta Challenge, Aston Martin Vantage, Mercedes E55 AMG, BMW M3, etc. etc. Even with my experience owning all my previous vehicles, I have to say, that this a a very, very, fun car. The exhaust is sound awesome and the gas mileage is absolutely incredible in conjunction with it's sportiness. My Abarth was a little pricey, coming in at 31,850 plus the additional 7,500 for the dealer modifications. However, I received a dealer rebate of 3500 and a manufacture rebate of 4500 for a total of 8000 in savings! The rebate were great! The factory and most Fiat dealers, offer the rebates (although depending on the price of the vehicle,the rebates may fluctuate)."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

Lots of Fun

By on Saturday, March 29, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,200

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
5/10

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

"2012 Fiat 500 Sport with 5 speed manual: Pros: Great exterior/interior styling, excellent gas mileage (36/37 mpg in town and 40 to 44 on the highway), peppy around town and fun to drive - not a lot of power but it's fun going through the gears to get the most of what's there, smooth shifting/good clutch action, strong brakes, will fit in most any parking space, very reliable - only issues in 2 years of ownership have been a front strut replacement and a new chrome top on the gear shifter - both repaired free of charge under warranty, can hold a surprising amount of cargo for such a small car, people smile when they see it - everyone likes it. Cons: Not a good car for extended highway trips - loud at speed, takes concentration to keep in a straight line, stiff suspension makes rough roads tiring over long distances, moves around over high speed bumps; poor interior lighting; poor radio controls; heater and ac are slow to do their jobs; blind spots at rear; cup holders too small. Bottom line is to know why you're buying the car. Can't beat it for in-town or sporty driving but take long trips in something else."

3 people out of 5 found this review helpful

worst car I have ever boughten

By on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,448

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
2/10
Reliability
1/10
Quality
2/10
Performance
5/10
Styling
3/10
Comfort
1/10

Pros: "gas mileage"

Cons: "won't start electric problems"

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

"Horrible will not start hardly ever the transmission is slipping my dealership has to replace all the electric wiring the only good thing about this car is the gas mileage I wouldn't recommend this car to anyone"

1 person out of 8 found this review helpful

A car that truly makes every drive enjoyable!

By on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Good value, great style, solid warranty, MPGs"

Cons: "No standard spare tire, depreciation"

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

My 2012 Fiat 500 Sport (black stripe) and my new 2013 Abarth

"I bought one of the first Fiat 500s made for the U.S. in March 2011. The car has been a joy to own and every drive in it makes me smile. I like the distinctive styling, the standard equipment level, and some special nice touches -- e.g. the "hill assist" that stops a manual transmission car from rolling backward on a hill. The car is truly fun to drive, yet it gets great MPGs -- I recorded 41.2 for a roundtrip from DC to NC. The styling is holding up well after several model years and the car is just downright practical with its big hatchback and room to seat four adults. The only item I rated less than 10/10 is reliability. The Fiat 500 does not come with a standard spare tire, just a can of fix-a-flat. The first time I got a flat that sufficed; the second time I was stranded in an awkward situation. A spare is available from the dealer which would remedy this one notable complaint I have. That's the only time I have not loved my Fiat in three years and 32,000 miles. I have recommended the car to friends and those who bought one love theirs too. I liked my car so much I bought the ultimate Fiat, the Abarth, to upgrade an already perfect car."

5 people out of 6 found this review helpful

My 2012 Fiat 500 Sport (black stripe) and my new 2013 Abarth

Small, but perfectly formed!

By on Monday, February 24, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Gas mileage, room up-front"

Cons: "back seats a squeeze (used often?)"

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

"Bought new just over 2 years ago and coming up to 33,000 miles now. Main reason for the purchase was the gas mileage - we have the basic manual version, and get on average 44 mpg commuting into DC. If careful, we can get an average of 50 mpg on trips to the Atlantic shore. Space up front not a problem - and when necessary we can fit a couple of people in the back (but only when necessary!). No major problems. Lots of interest - and people smile when they see us!"

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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?