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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

Hot on the heels of its hatchback sibling, the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio has begun rolling into the automaker's 58 sales "salons" currently located in 25 states (although both figures are set to rise substantially by year's end). Unofficially dubbed the Fiat 500c, this soft-top runningmate shares key styling and mechanical bits with its hard shell kin but adds unique sun-runner flair to the mix, highlighted by a cleverly-executed power-activated slide-back top. Available in Pop and more upscale Lounge trim levels, the diminutive 500c is set to square off against its primary foe, the Mini Cooper Convertible, armed with an impressive array of standard features, outstanding build quality and a very attractive pricing strategy.

You'll Like This Car If...

Cool, funky, fun and unexpectedly refined, the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio will impress those seeking a vehicle that delivers a polished and comfortable driving experience in either open or closed modes. An exceptional feature set coupled with a $20,000 opening sticker should help seal the deal.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Those who believe that hard-core handling and absolute quickness matters as much as being able to catch a few rays while on the go will probably be happier with a MINI Cooper/Cooper S Convertible.

What's New for 2012

Like its hatchback sibling, the new 2012 500 Cabrio draws on the original – and even smaller – 1957 Fiat "Nuova Cinquecento" for conceptual inspiration but overlays that canvas-crowned neo-classic vision with 21st century design and engineering upgrades.

Driving the 500
Driving Impressions

A truly smooth operator, the Fiat 500c matches sporty suspension tune with excellent ride compliance and isolation. While the Mini Cooper Convertible has a clear edge in acceleration and at-the-limit...

... handling, the 500 Cabrio dominates in comfort, refinement, and quietness as well as overall packaging. It also exhibits noticeably less cowl shake over uneven road surfaces. Only 53 pounds heavier than the hatchback, the 500c can easily keep up with traffic, although 0-60 mph sprints will take about 10 seconds with either gearbox. The 500c's well-sorted 6-speed SportShift automatic is a solid choice for those facing daily urban skirmishes, but its crisp-shifting manual transmission definitely imparts a bit more responsiveness – and fun – to the basic Cabrio experience. Both transmissions feature a "Sport" mode that modifies engine mapping and permits quicker shifting while increasing feel in the electrically-boosted power steering with the manual and letting automatic models hold a given gear longer under aggressive acceleration.

Intelligent power convertible top
The 500c's 1-button dual-layer power top cycles in just 15 seconds and can be deployed at speeds up to 60 mph. Its acoustically optimized materials and surrounding structure limits wind and road noise, and the folded top stack automatically slides up into an "easy-access" position when you pop the decklid.

Blue&Me hands-free communication system
Standard on all Fiat 500 Cabrio models, this SYNC-like hands-free system also relies on Microsoft-designed architecture and features a USB port and iPod control capability that permits quick, easy integration of all types of personal communication devices.

2012 FIAT 500 Details
Interior

Sharing the same look and feel of its hatchback sibling, the 500c's well-finished cabin mixes and matches elements in a uniquely Italian manner. While hard plastic remains the dominant trim element, the passenger compartment does boast distinctive instrumentation with a concentric speedometer/tachometer, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and well-formed, comfortable front buckets. Despite its subcompact scale, there's a surprising amount of space, especially up front. Although legroom and shoulder room in the aft quarters exceed that of a Mini Convertible, the 500 Cabrio's rear seat remains best suited for two modestly-scaled kids. However, folding its 50/50-split back ups cargo capacity from 5.4 cubic feet to 23.4 cubic feet.

Exterior
2012 FIAT 500 photo

Several changes set the 500 Cabrio apart from the hatch, the most obvious being its slightly longer windshield and more steeply-raked A-pillars that improve outward visibility while helping conceal an added torsional stiffener in the upper frame. Full-length roof rails effectively complement similarly unseen reinforcing elements used at the rear of the 500c's passenger compartment. The Cabrio's super-scaled power soft top features a color-matched functional rear spoiler and large, sightline-optimizing back glass element. Pop and Lounge variants differ in minor exterior trim details, with the former fitting 185/55 all-season tires on 15-inch steel wheels and the latter getting same-sized lightweight alloys.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Beyond its power-activated soft top, the bounteous standards roster in the Fiat 500c Pop is headed by a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, power window/locks/mirrors, keyless remote, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, multifunction steering wheel, "Blue&Me" hands-free communication technology, a reconfigurable Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with trip computer and the eco:Drive application, which can help you drive in a more efficient manner. Lounge trim brings a 6-speed automatic transmission, alloy wheels, upgraded interior cloth, automatic climate control, a Bose Energy Efficient Series audio system, additional exterior brightwork accents and fog lamps. Both share identical safety features, including antilock disc brakes, stability/traction control and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags plus a driver-side knee bag.

Optional Equipment

Fiat proudly boasts that buyers of the new 2012 500 Cabrio literally will have over 500,000 different ways to personalize their individual vehicles. Beyond choosing from 14 exterior colors, three top tones, 12 unique color/material combos for the seats, (and the 6-speed automatic transmission for the Pop variant) things like leather upholstery and a Tom-Tom navigation system are available on the Lounge variant while a host of custom exterior graphics packages and interior accessory items can be added to any Fiat 500c model.

Under the Hood

The front-drive Fiat 500c uses the same powertrain elements found in the hatchback, starting with a 1.4-liter SOHC 4-cylinder engine fitted with Fiat's patented MultiAir setup. This world-first Fully Variable Valve Actuation (FVVA) system replaces the conventional intake camshaft with a hydraulically actuated/electronically controlled alternative that permits instantaneous variation of the lift and timing events. MultiAir helps the engine make a modest but quite serviceable 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque while netting up to a 10-percent gain in relative fuel economy and similarly decreased levels of CO2 emissions. Paired with the 5-speed manual transmission, this sophisticated free-revver earns impressive 30/38 mpg city/highway EPA marks. Backed by the 6-speed automatic, it returns respectable 27/32 mpg numbers.

1.4-liter in-line 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 (auto)

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