The retro movement in car design has been going strong for the last several years, buoyed by the success of such cars as the MINI Cooper and the Chevrolet Camaro. The movement’s newest member is the Fiat 500, a tiny Italian car that harks back to the original 1957 model. The new Cinquecento (which is Italian for 500) has managed to keep the classic look even as it has grown larger and been updated for modern drivers. The American 500 is a lightly massaged European model with what Fiat calls necessary tweaks for American customers: a stronger suspension, wider seats, and more cupholders. Inside you’ll find modern technology with a retro feel: behind the two-tone dash is available Sirius satellite radio and a voice-activated Bluetooth-linked infotainment system. Under the hood is Fiat’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir engine, which is good for 101 hp. That may not sound like much, but the engine only has to move about 2400 pounds, so the 500 has relatively brisk performance and returns decent, if not stellar, fuel economy. For drivers who don’t want three pedals, the optional six-speed automatic can be manually shifted, and it has a sport mode that adds a little bit of spice to the driving experience. Although the 500 is designed to seat four passengers, rear legroom measures just under 32 inches, which means space is tight. The benefit is that, at 139.6 inches, the 500 will fit into almost any kind of parallel parking spot.
Trim Levels: Pop, Sport, Lounge
Body Styles: Coupe, convertible, 2+2-passenger
Engine: 1.4L I-4, 101 hp, 98 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Passenger Volume: (coupe/convertible)
85.1/81.6 cu ft
Cargo Space: (coupe/convertible) 9.5/5.4 cu ft
The Fiat 500 is all new for the United States, having been released in March 2011 as a 2012 model. Bear in mind that the current 500 is a lightly tweaked version of the European 500, which debuted in 2007. A new “500 by Gucci” edition has been customized and trimmed by Italian fashion house Gucci.
Front, knee, side, and side curtain air bags; stability and traction control; a tire-pressure monitoring system; and ABS are standard. Hill-start assist is standard on all Trim Levels, and audible rear park assist is optional on the top-of-the-line Lounge model.
All: 27-30 mpg city/32-38 mpg highway
- Chic Italian styling
- Peppy engine
- OK economy with automatic
- Premium fuel recommended
- Lack of rear legroom
A little slice of Italy.
- Mini Cooper
- Scion iQ
- Smart ForTwo
- Volkswagen Beetle