By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/26/2012
The slick and sassy 500 is anchoring both Fiat's return to the U.S. market and the company's new role as Chrysler's small-car brand. It's easy to see the 2013 Fiat 500 as an Italian Mini Cooper: They're both small cars with big personalities and they both have storied pasts dating back to the 1950s. But they're very different cars, the 500 countering the Mini's superior power and sharper handling with a lower price, more comfortable ride and superior fuel efficiency. For 2013, the 500 comes in seven distinct model/trim configurations, including a convertible and two levels of up-power sport tuning, and offers a rich opportunity for personalization. No telling how Fiat's return to the U.S. market will play out, but the 500 is a great start.
Cool, funky, fun and unexpectedly refined, the 2013 Fiat 500 bridges the gap between the sportier, pricier Mini Cooper and the more pedestrian Toyota Yaris. If you like a little car with attitude, and hear the call of Italian style sensibilities, the Fiat 500 may be for you.
If you're not smitten by the style of the 2013 Fiat 500, you can get more car for your money in something like a Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta or Mazda2, all offering more doors, more room and more standard power.What's New for 2013
Launched just last year, the Fiat 500 line continues to grow. The standard 500 hatchback was quickly joined by a slide-open-top cabriolet, and then the up-power Abarth version showed up late last year. For 2013, a new mid-power 500 Turbo model fits between the cute hatchback and the aggressive Abarth.Driving It Driving Impressions
Whereas the Mini Cooper is an undersized action hero – as in The Italian Job – the Fiat 500 is more likely to appear in a festival-favorite romantic comedy. The lightweight, 101-horsepower Fiat is definitely fun, just not in a sideways, airborne, car-chase kind of way. A big part of the appeal lies in how the 500 combines 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. Obviously, the 160-horsepower Abarth model runs and drives a lot more aggressively, and the newly added Turbo model, at 135 horsepower, splits the difference in terms of over-the-road intensity. In any form, the 2013 Fiat 500 is tiny and quirky until you drive it. Then, it's tiny, quirky and respectable.Favorite Features
INTELLIGENT POWER CONVERTIBLE TOP
The 500c's dual-layer power top cycles in just 15 seconds and can be deployed at speeds up to 60 mph. The folded top stack automatically slides up into an "easy-access" position when you pop the decklid. Unfortunately, it also hampers rearward views.
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.
The Fiat 500 is roomier up front than you might expect, and just as tight in back as it looks. If you will transport more than two adults on a regular basis, we'd suggest a larger 4-door alternative. 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 starting price around $16,000. As the athlete of the group, the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth offers aggressively bolstered front seats, exclusive red seam stitching and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel.Exterior
The 2013 Fiat 500 is a modern interpretation of the tiny, rear-engine original introduced to Europe in 1957. Although larger than the original, it's still seven inches shorter than today's Mini Cooper. The iconic sloping rear end is a big part of the 500's personality, though it doesn't do much for rear headroom. For 2013, the Fiat 500 is available in seven distinct model and trim combinations: The hatchback offers Pop, Sport and Lounge trim levels, the soft-top Cabrio comes in Pop and Lounge, and the new Turbo and the Abarth are their own packages. Wheels, fascias and body trim differentiate the models.
The 2013 Fiat 500 and 500c Pop include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 15-inch covered steel wheels, a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, power window/locks/mirrors, 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, sport-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.Notable Optional Equipment
A fully loaded 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge includes a 6-speed automatic transmission, leather seats, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, Bose audio system and automatic climate control. The 500 Sport model 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 new Turbo model adds larger front brakes and more serious suspension tuning to go with its specific 16-inch wheels and identifying trim. The mighty Abarth offers larger 17-inch wheels, 2-tone leather-trimmed seats and your choice of either white or red body side stripes.
The front-wheel-drive 2013 Fiat 500 is motivated by a small but sophisticated 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine using Fiat's patented MultiAir technology, which varies intake-valve timing and lift. This engine is tuned to three different power levels in the 500 family: The base hatchback and cabrio models have 101 horsepower (naturally aspirated), the new-for-2013 Turbo makes 135 horsepower and the Abarth, also turbocharged, cranks out 160 horsepower. Those numbers may look modest but they only have to move some 2400 pounds of car. The turbocharged engines get only a 5-speed manual gearbox; the other models offer that or a 6-speed automatic. We like the automatic for its extra ratio and responsive shifting though it does cut fuel efficiency by more than 10 percent.
101 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
98 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/40 mpg (manual), 27/34 mpg (automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
135 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
150 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 mpg
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
The 2013 Fiat 500 lineup starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $16,200 for a hatchback Pop and will climb toward $28,000 for a fully loaded Abarth. The 2013 Mini Cooper has a starting sticker price of just over $20,000 and can top $35,000, a substantial difference. And Fiat includes a Mini-matching 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance and a 3-year/36,000-mile no-cost maintenance package. The 2013 Ford Fiesta Hatchback ranges from about $14,000 to $21,000. It's still a bit early to know exactly how Fiat's return to America will play out in the long run, but we expect the 2013 Fiat 500 to remain a hot commodity for the foreseeable future. Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price should reflect real-world transaction prices close to MSRP. Five-year projected residual values for the 500 fall considerably short of the Mini's, but remain slightly higher than those for Ford's Fiesta.