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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 128 Ratings for the 2012 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.5/10
    Quality
    8.5/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.6/10
  • Comfort
    8.2/10
    Styling
    8.7/10

2015 Fiat Sport 5 speed

By on Thursday, August 27, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,100

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: "Three words: FUN FUN FUN!"

Cons: "More power but they have turbo options."

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

"Took one for a test drive and fell in love with it. An easy way to explain it is if you ever wanted to drive a go cart on the street,then you have to check this out! We have a Red 2015 Sport and we love how it looks, drives and handles.It has the base engine with the 5 speed and it zipps right along.We are averaging around 40mpg with a mix of highway and around town driving.We call it our poor mans Italian Sports Car."

Outstanding gas economy, flexible

By on Monday, August 03, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Price, value, gas economy, fun to drive"

Cons: "Need to use dealers for repairs"

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

"Excellent economy: 45-48 mpg in Summer, 43-45 mpg in Winter. Has surprising room, can carry 2 people and a cello. Never been stuck in the snow with X-ice tires. Fairly comfortable on long road trips. Only complaint has been need to use dealer for even routine service, and several expensive repairs. While under warranty, the dealer provides excellent service with little or no expense. Out of warranty, repairs are expensive (not as bad as Jaguar, but more than Toyota). Features in the basic model are surprisingly extensive. But best of all, it is a lot of fun to drive: responsive, maneuverable, good acceleration with driver only, good brakes."

4 people out of 6 found this review helpful

My 2nd one and still LOVE IT!!!!!

By on Sunday, July 26, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Still fun and nimble, decent MPG nice looks."

Cons: "It won't fit in my living room."

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

"The 2015, pretty much like my 2012 with a few more upgrades like rear hatch spoiler and very minor interior do-dads. Overall the car is pretty much the same. I like it better then the Mini Cooper because you can actually enter and exit this car without hurting your back!! I am 6'-4" and this car still feels cavernous when driving, still amazed! Car has 8500 miles on it with NO issues at all. Has classic Italian ques inside and out. For a econo-boxer it's still fun to drive. Nimble, quick for a non-turbo 1.4 liter engine. It feels of greater quality then the Mini Coopers PLASTIC "I am going to break something" interior. Oh and did I say you can actuality get in and out of this car???"

8 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Sweet Car

By on Sunday, July 05, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
Not Rated
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
Not Rated
Styling
Not Rated
Comfort
Not Rated

Pros: "fun to drive, gorgeous, easy parking, reliable"

Cons: "passengers are squished"

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

"I bought this car new two years ago and like it more and more. I was worried about reliability, but it hasn't had any problems. Aside from oil changes it has only needed a headlamp bulb replaced, which was covered under warranty. Gas mileage is great but it runs better on supreme which negates some of the fuel savings. It is very very fun to drive (I recommend a stick shift) and feels good and safe on the freeway. Squeezing grownups into the back seat is funny but doable. Good car for one person with occasional passengers."

19 people out of 34 found this review helpful

Purchased Used

By on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,598

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Responsive, Smooth, Stylish, Tight, Spacious, FUN"

Cons: "Winter, Clearance, Wait-time on Certain parts,"

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

"Avoiding Dealership information- I paid slightly more than market value to buy local and that is the only reason why I put the value at a 7/10. I live in a colder climate and my only issues were electrically based and in the winter. I have no reliable information that it's the cold climate that caused it's malfunctions but that is my opinion. Fiat's brand stood behind their product, unlike the dealership and I will purchase my next vehicle from them again! I'm unbelievably happy with my car. The steering is very responsive and unlike the Mini Cooper it shifts aren't choppy. Very responsive, easy drive, turns on a dime! Not loud, and very spacious for being such a little car. I had 5 adults comfortably seated in the car. The interior is sharp. My only slight criticism, again comes from winter driving, when it gets really cold (-10 or below) you can't read the digital speedometer, even with a longer period to warm the car up. It's surprisingly stable on icy roads, and has more weight to it than I expected as well. The only thing I caution people with good winters (like myself) when you have a spring melt- Potholes or ice craters will be terrible on your car unless you drive very cautiously. There isn't a great amount of clearance on this peppy little car- you will rub if there are snow trenches. If that doesn't bother you, this is a fantastic buy! I don't want to leave out that it's great on gasoline. There are times when I'm driving 55/60 mph down the highway that the mileage gets above the projected average (between 74 and 95- because there were no stops if the speed was around 70 mph it was more like projected). On a 6 hour trip (415 miles) I stop once for gasoline. I'm not uncomfortable, it's a very pleasant ride. Blue&Me sometimes gives me trouble when it's really moist outside, but I've brought it up to Fiat but the diagnostics can't seem to catch it- but besides that- I will buy a Fiat next time. ^.^ Outstanding customer service."

21 people out of 42 found this review helpful

In 50 years of car ownership, this is in my top 3

By on Monday, June 15, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000

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: "Fun, fuel efficient, reliable."

Cons: "No negatives."

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

"I have owned foreign and domestic cars of all sorts - sedans, convertible sports cars, minivans, etc. This car is comfortable, safe, and fun to drive. I hope to keep it long term and would replace it with another one."

7 people out of 13 found this review helpful

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