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2012 FIAT 500

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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
8.4
Out of 10

Based on 139 Ratings for the 2012 - 2016 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.5/10
    Quality
    8.5/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.7/10
  • Comfort
    8.3/10
    Styling
    8.8/10

Worst clutch ever!

By on Friday, June 3, 2016

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

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
6/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Good mileage, attractive, easy to find parking"

Cons: "Inferior parts"

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

"Had to have the clutch replaced TWICE in less than 4 years - dealership confirmed both times it was not a result of anything I did. However, it was not under warranty, as the clutch is a "wear issue". I've driven a standard car for 33 years and NEVER had a clutch replaced before this. I love the looks of the car and I enjoy driving it, but it is apparently not made to last. Several other parts have also worn out prematurely. First dealership was unable to diagnose a non-starting issue and they botched the first clutch replacement. Thankfully I was able to deal with a different dealership thereafter."

3 people out of 5 found this review helpful

a great drivers car, not a lounge on wheels

By on Monday, May 9, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,600

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive, tiny terror"

Cons: "it really is a car for one or two people"

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

"My 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth makes me smile every time I drive it. Get the manual transmission, it's a great match to the power of the engine and amazingly engaging to use. Rear seats are for only very short trips. Cargo space quite good with the rear seats folded down. I'm showing my age, but this car reminds me of all the great little european cars that years ago were available in the U.S. A great ride doesn't have to be about status always."

11 people out of 16 found this review helpful

A tiny race car!

By on Friday, May 6, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Fun car, great on gas"

Cons: "Cost to maintain, availability of parts,"

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

"I've owned and driven Mercedes, BMW's and Volvo, I was on a search to replace my old Volvo C30 and I stumbled across my Fiat while I was looking at a Mini.This car handles amazing, I bought it in a manual this car is loads of fun to drive you can really feel the road and it responds well. The bit of power that you get from the turbo is nice especially in Houston traffic merging and darting and zipping between places is a breeze. Sadly after my old mechanic passed away finding a new mechanic to even to basic maintenance on this car has been a pain in the butt Most people haven't even heard of Fiat be prepared to find your own parts/oil otherwise an average of $80 for an oil change. This car compared to my Volvo which sat lower has a little bit of road noise and you can feel bumps as well but nothing too extreme. Cargo space isn't too bad but you cannot purchase anything too long otherwise it won't fit of course. I am 5'10 and my dad is 6'9 we both fit comfortably in the car with out any issues. Do not buy one of these used as they don't hold their value too well, Great commuter car and great road trip car for a small group."

5 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Awesome City Car!

By on Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Fun to drive in the city!"

Cons: "You feel every bump! LOL"

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

"I bought my FIAT because living in the city you have a lot of parallel parking, smaller roads and you have to be quick to cut in if you want to get anywhere! With the amount of potholes in DC, I do feel the bump in the car, but I love the interior and my sun roof, it's just such a fun car on the interior and exterior! I have loved owning my FIAT for every second. I have not had any issues with my car (knock on wood) and I love how it speeds up pretty quick and I can whip in and out of anywhere! Highly suggest!! I only have to spend $25 dollars max every 1.5-2 weeks and I drive it for work and all over on the weekends!"

8 people out of 12 found this review helpful

Cute Little Car

By on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,444

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "really good on gas, fun to drive"

Cons: "maintenance is a pain"

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

"I've not had any problems with this car mechanically. The cosmetics issues were covered under warranty, so that's been fine as well. I love my little car!"

5 people out of 7 found this review helpful

Thought I miss my Escort, Nah, Fiat is Awesome!

By on Friday, January 22, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 360,000

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: "Super Fun to Drive, Good Gas Mileage,"

Cons: "N/A"

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

"I have had this car for a little over a year now, and I just love it. It runs super smooth and I get great gas mileage (mine is a manual transmission). I just putz around town in mine and it is great for that. This car is definitely a commuter car, nothing more. I have driven it on ice and snow, since the past couple winters have been rough. I have to say this car does very well on ice and snow. My car prior to this one did not have the Bluetooth and the auxiliary jack for the music, so this has been a pleasure to have and I really enjoy it! Has a nice sound system as well. I totally recommend this car to anyone who is looking for a good solid commuter car."

17 people out of 19 found this review helpful

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