By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
Many didn’t expect a small Italian subcompact to do well in the U.S., but the 2015 Fiat 500 coupe and soft-top cabriolet have confounded the critics. Smaller than the Mini Cooper and Ford Fiesta, the 500’s primary attraction are its playful attitude, impressive list of colors and features, attractive price and good fuel economy. Of course, those not interested in cute also have a friend in the 500, that being the performance-oriented Abarth model. Even environmentalists have a seat at the table, thanks to the all-electric Fiat 500e. Now, if only we could get more car companies to see the wisdom of adding color and cleverness to their most affordable models.
The 2015 Fiat 500 coupe and convertible are unknown commodities, meaning they have yet to earn the track record of cars like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Mazda2. The 500’s diminutive size might also exclude bigger drivers or those who need room for additional passengers.
KBB Expert Ratings
For 2015, the 500 Abarth receives a new 6-speed automatic transmission, while all but the base 500 trim are outfitted with a new 7-inch easier-on-the-eyes/visually sharper TFT instrument cluster (replacing the old analog unit). Streaming Bluetooth and an additional USB port are also new this year.
The 2015 Fiat 500 subcompact coupe doesn’t weigh much, which is why its engine only needs about 101 horsepower to move it along. While top speed and rapid acceleration aren’t...
... the 500’s strong suit, the 500 can scoot about with relative ease and its go-kart like handling make even the shortest drives feel like a sporty adventure. The 500’s steering is precise, the brakes are strong and the manual transmission is so good, it might actually spark a movement back to the days when everyone knew how to stir their own gears. Those who don’t care to live in the past will find the 500’s 6-speed automatic equally enjoyable. The 160-horsepower turbocharged Abarth steps up the 500’s game by a notch or two, while the all-electric 500e makes the perfect urban commuter, capable of traveling up to 87 miles on a single charge.
INTELLIGENT POWER CONVERTIBLE TOP
The convertible Fiat 500c employs a rather unconventional power top. Instead of folding to expose the entire cabin, the 500c’s top rolls back on a track leaving a protective metal frame in place. The top can be opened in just 15 seconds at speed up to 60 mph.
Dr. Dolittle could talk to the animals and now your 500 can talk to you. Using a flash drive, the 500 can upload data about everything from CO2 emissions to trip information. When plugged into your laptop, the data can be used to help you learn how to drive more efficiently.
The 2015 Fiat 500 subcompact is roomier up front than you might expect, and just as tight in back as it looks. 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 $17,000. As the athlete of the group, the Fiat 500 Abarth offers aggressively bolstered front seats, exclusive red stitching and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel.
The 2015 Fiat 500 is a modern interpretation of 1957's tiny, rear-engined original. 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 limits rear headroom. The Fiat 500 is available in a stretched 4-door model that alleviates many of the coupe’s shortcomings. The hatchback offers Pop, Sport, Lounge and Turbo trim levels, while the soft-top 500c comes in Pop and Lounge. The Turbo, Abarth and 500e electric are their own packages. Wheels, fascias and body trim differentiate the models.
The 2015 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.
A fully loaded 2015 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 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 2015 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. Fiat tunes this engine to three power levels: The base hatchback and cabriolet get 101 horsepower (naturally aspirated), the Turbo makes 135 horsepower and the Abarth, also turbocharged, crank out 160 horsepower. The 500e electric is rated for 111 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. All of the 500s now offer the choice of a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. We like the automatic for its extra ratio and responsive shifting though it does cut fuel efficiency by more than 10 percent. The 500e uses a single-speed automatic.
1.4-liter inline-4 (500)
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 (500 Turbo)
135 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
150 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 mpg (manual), 24/32 mpg (automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Abarth)
160 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
170 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 mpg (manual), 24/32 mpg (automatic)
Permanent magnet electric motor (500e)
147 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 122/108 mpg equivalent
EPA range on a full charge: 87 miles
The 2015 Fiat 500 lineup starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $17,000 for a hatchback Pop and climbs to just over $32,500 for the California-only 500e electric. However, incentives and tax credits can trim that price substantially. These can total as much as $14,000, according to Fiat. The 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop starts at just over $20,000 and can top $35,000. 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. Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price should reflect real-world transaction prices close to MSRP, so be sure to check them out before you purchase. Five-year projected residual values for the 500 fall considerably short of the Mini’s, but remain slightly higher than the Ford Fiesta’s.