The Fiat 500 heralds the Italian automaker's return to the U.S. market, and so far things seem to be going well. Though many will draw comparisons between the 500 and the Mini Cooper, in truth the two are very different cars. Where the Mini is about performance, the 500 lures buyers with an attractive price and miserly fuel efficiency. Those wanting more power can opt for the 500 Turbo or the high-performance Abarth, while those seeking to pay nothing for gas can opt for the all-electric 500e. Being Italian, the 500 of course comes with a variety of designer trims, colors and equipment, all aimed at helping this small car make a big splash.
You'll Like This Car If...
The Fiat 500 is hip, happening and a must-have for style-conscious city dwellers. Not as pricey as a Mini Cooper, but far more fun than a Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit, the 500 serves up a big dose of Italian attitude in a little body.
You May Not Like This Car If...
The 500's styling isn't for everyone, and if its size is just too diminutive, you can get equally good or better fuel economy with a diesel car or hybrid. Other inexpensive but slightly larger alternatives include the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 and Honda Fit.
A new 1957 special edition is added, bringing a retro look that defined the original car. Other changes include a new Ivory interior color, new wheels and a revised passenger seat that sits an inch lower to the floor.
Driving the 500c
The 2014 Fiat 500 employs a lightweight body to maximize its 101 horsepower, which is a good thing because flat-out speed isn't the 500's strong suit, at least in non-turbocharged...
... form. What the 500 does well is deliver a comfortable ride, go-kart-like handling and a sense of style and fun absent in most small cars. From the centered steering to the firm brakes to the smooth shift controls, everything about the 500 looks and feels of quality. The 500's 6-speed automatic is surprisingly efficient and responsive, but we still love the feel of the manual in this car. It just feels more European. Those seeking more power may want to split the difference between the base car and the tautly sprung Abarth model by opting for the 135-horsepower Turbo trim. Or, if distance driving isn't a concern, the 500e's electric motor and battery pack can carry you up to 87 miles on a single charge.
INTELLIGENT POWER CONVERTIBLE TOP Unlike conventional convertibles, the 500c employs a dual-layer retractable soft top that slides on a track leaving the metal door frames and C-pillars in place. The top can be deployed at speeds up to 60 mph and takes just 15 seconds from start to finish.
Eco:DRIVE Using a USB port hidden in the glove box, the Fiat 500 can upload a variety of information to a memory stick including carbon-dioxide-emissions data and trip information. When plugged into your laptop, the data can be used to help you learn how to drive more efficiently.
2014 FIAT 500c Details
The Fiat 500 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 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth offers aggressively bolstered front seats, exclusive red stitching and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel.
The 2014 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. For 2014, 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 2014 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 2014 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.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel-drive 2014 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. Most of the 500s offer the choice of a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, but the turbocharged engines get only the 5-speed manual gearbox. 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.
Permanent magnet electric motor (500e) 111 horsepower 147 lb-ft of torque EPA city/highway fuel economy: 122/108 mpg equivalent EPA range on a full charge: 87 miles
The 2014 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 2014 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.
Cons: "Screams when I start it, leaks oil and transmissio"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I was in love with how cute this car was when I first spotted it. I've had the car almost 4 years and it's already had three major repairs as well as a few recall issues. There is nothing good I can say for this car or the customer service that comes with it. Seriously do not purchase one of these."
"This little car is great for parking. It's small, easy to maneuver. Gas mileage is good, getting around 38mpg over the 3+ years I've had it. The downside is it's noisy and bumpy so you don't want to take it on long trips. It's also horrible in the snow, there's no traction."
Cons: "Tiny back seat, long throws between gears on shift"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I've had my 2012 sport for about a year now and love it. It's been reliable and the small size is great in the city. The engine doesn't have the pick up up of some cars, but then, I knew that going into a tiny car with 101 hp. Would definitely buy again"