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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 134 Ratings for the 2012 - 2016 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.5/10
    Quality
    8.4/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.7/10
  • Comfort
    8.3/10
    Styling
    8.7/10

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."

I love My Fiat 500 Lounge

By on Sunday, October 25, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000

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: "Economical, comfortable,easy to park, Strong engin"

Cons: "none"

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

"My Fiat 500 Lounge has given me approximately 300 Miles per tank and my Gas Tank fills up with 10 Gallons. Economical, I have a Sports button so when I need more power I just press the SPORTS Button and my car turns into a super Fiat, I just don't keep it all the time or uses more gas. My Fiat seems to get better, the sound system is BOSE and it cant get better than that. It's comfortable I feel very safe while driving it and love my blue tooth with voice command, Call mom and I don't have to worry about picking up cell car just calls mom. I am so grateful for my FIAT."

14 people out of 20 found this review helpful

I love it!

By on Saturday, October 24, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Efficient, fun to drive, great car for the money"

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

"I have no complaints. I get good mileage, although I do have the standard transmission. It picks up speed very quickly and is easy to pull out into highway traffic. I like that it has a cigarette lighter..not because I smoke, but because I can charge my phone. The sound system is just fine. With a small car, I can't imagine how much louder you'd want it...like with a Bose. And, of course, I can always find a parking spot!"

3 people out of 5 found this review helpful

This car has been surprisingly good!

By on Friday, October 23, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000

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
8/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Surprisingly good MPGs Fun to drive Great brakes"

Cons: "I wish it has a "washer fluid low" warning."

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

"I have had this car for 3+ years now. I drive it on country roads to work, 11 miles each way with 2 traffic lights. I never get bellow 44 MPG (I have a Sport 5-speed). I have gotten over 50 MPGs as an average for the whole tank. I can drive 450 miles per tank and spend less than $30 to fill it up. Yes, I get premium, it can take cheap gas though. I have a lightweight 4X8 utility trailer. I tow with the Fiat about once a year. I get looks, but probably because I can still drive 65-75 MPH towing a washer and dryer. I can't really notice it is there, though I have not done anything crazy. The car still gets around 40 MPG while towing a washer and dryer. The brakes are superb. I have 4 cars and 2 motorcycles. I usually drive the Fiat to work and around town. I find it very easy to get in and out of, it is very easy to park. Though the worst thing is that I usually get a HUGE truck or SUV that parks next to me because I use less space. So they crowd me. Since day one this is all it has has done: *New instrument cluster (before I picked it up new). *I broke the steering column cowling with my knee when getting in, Fiat changed it free of charge. *One rear shock absorber had the rubber bushing break, it clunked, fixed under warranty. *I a rattle in my doors at around 30K miles. The dealer tightened the window regulators and put locktite on them. The noise is gone. 4 oil changes, I am about due for another. All the repairs listed above were conveniently done during regular service, so there was no loss of use. I still have over 95% of my brake pads at 33,000 miles (why use the brakes, they just slow you down?), my tires are about done though. I suspect that at 40,000 miles they will be completely down to the TWI. I wish it had a light that came on when the washer fluid is low, like my other cars. I don't like running out by surprise."

7 people out of 11 found this review helpful

I am in love with my first bought car!

By on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive, cute exterior ,functional interior"

Cons: "cheap parts"

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

"I love this car, yeah some aspects are cheaply made, but thats in ALL cars these days. for example the air vent was broken by an air freshner.However, it drives so nice, its extremely fuel efficent, you can see every angle around you when driving, and honestly i am in love with my fiat!!"

4 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Unreliable - 3rd major repair within 2 years

By on Friday, October 02, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
2/10
Quality
3/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Fun little car"

Cons: "Unreliable, tires are not a common size so pricy"

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

"I traded in reliability for fun. It sure is fun to drive, but with 3 major service issues within 2 years (bought it brand new) it is NOT worth the trade. I have had 2 major oil leaks and a clutch failure (in addition to other parts that had to be changed as well - can't even name the parts that were replaced). Granted - it was still on warranty for the oil leaks, but the clutch and other parts were not covered. And each time they need to access ANY leaks, the entire transmission had to come out, so that's one week in the shop. Additionally, I have a high pitch whistle/squeak coming from the A/C system and a rattle on the side where turbo is, to which I was told "sounds and rattles are normal wear and tear and are not covered by warranty". Can't wait to pay it down so I can trade it in. I come from Europe where Fiat has been known to be unreliable for many years and sadly, that has not changed with their new USA venture. Tires are not a common size and type so there were only a couple brands to choose from and quite expensive. No more Fiats for me."

14 people out of 28 found this review helpful

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