New Car Reviews

2012 Fiat 500 – Four Seasons Update – December 2011

Months: 4 / Miles: 9796

Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Update: Winter 2012 Array Miles to date: 4

Things that are fun usually aren’t completely safe: playing with fire, messing with Sasquatch, skydiving, hanging out with West Coast editor Jason Cammisa, and bull fighting are all prime examples.

As we enjoyed the free-revving fun of the Fiat’s engine during the last few months, we should’ve kept “what’s fun isn’t always safe” in mind. The other Italian-made loafer had to drop eventually. It did earlier this month when we learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had tested Fiat’s subcompact and given it a dismal three-star safety rating out of a possible five stars, an interesting outcome after it was named a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awhile back. Well, three out of five isn’t that bad, is it? Well, actually, it’s the lowest, worst, bottom-of-the-barrel rating for any 2012 model tested so far. Ouch.

Our confidence was somewhat shaken. Paranoia began to creep into our minds, the fear of imminent side-impact death settling in any time we got behind the wheel. Some of our staff began to notice uninspired safety solutions implemented on the 500 to solve problems that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, like a big, driver’s-side B-pillar blindspot. “Try to glance over your shoulder before a lane change to the left and all you see is black plastic,” states senior editor Eric Tingwall. “Fortunately, Fiat has compensated with a sliver of convex glass on the driver’s side mirror. It’s a nice consolation prize, if not quite as elegant as not having such a blindspot.”

To restore faith that the Fiat was indeed a safe, reliable foreigner trying to make its name in the states, we sprang into action. With winter ready to begin its onslaught any day, we called up Tire Rack, our official wheel and tire sponsor, ordered a set of Pirelli Winter 210 Snowcontrol Serie II tires, and had them mounted before a friend of the magazine took the 500 on a road trip to Memphis. There the A-segment hatch received its first scheduled maintenance, done just a few miles shy of its 8000-mile service date. $65.45 later, Gossett Fiat of Memphis had changed the oil and oil filter, and done a full 23-point inspection of our Four Seasons 500. No red flags were raised, although the passenger footwell carpeting did come adrift during the drive down south. The dealer simply glued it back down, free of charge.

The Fiat is functioning just as well as the day it arrived in late August, and time has lessened our wellbeing woes. Truth is, we’re as happy as a litter of pups with two tails when we get to sprint around Ann Arbor in this fun little car, even if the Feds say it isn’t as safe as a Volvo. Check back next month to see if we survive January.


  • Body style: 2-door hatchback
  • Accommodation: 4-passenger seating
  • Construction: Unitized steel body
  • Base price: (with dest.) $18,000
  • As tested: $19,850


  • Engine: 1.4-liter MultiAir I-4
  • Displacement: 1.4 liters
  • Power: 101 hp @ 6500 rpm
  • Torque: 98 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
  • Transmission type: 5-speed manual transmission
  • Drive: Front-wheel
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 30/38/33 (city/hwy/combined)


  • Steering: Power rack and pinion with electric power steering column
  • Lock-to-lock: 3
  • Turning circle: 30.6 ft
  • Suspension, front: Sport-tuned shock absorbers and springs
  • Suspension, rear: Sport-tuned shock absorbers and springs
  • Brakes f/r: Vented disc/solid disc
  • Wheels: 16-in. aluminum wheels
  • Tires: Continental ContiProContact
  • Tire size: 195/45R16


  • Headroom f/r: 37.6/35.6 in
  • Legroom f/r: 40.7/31.7 in
  • Shoulder room f/r: 49.4/46.4 in
  • Wheelbase: 90.6 in
  • Track f/r: 55.4/55.0 in
  • L x W x H: 139.6 x 64.1 x 59.8 in
  • Cargo capacity: 9.5 cu ft
  • Weight: 2363 lb
  • Weight dist. f/r: 64/36
  • Fuel capacity: 10.5 gal
  • Est. fuel range: 346 miles
  • Fuel grade: 91 octane (premium unleaded)


  • standard equipment

    • 1.4-liter MultiAir I-4 engine
    • 5-speed manual transmission
    • Four-wheel antilock disc brakes
    • 16-in. aluminum wheels
    • Electronic stability control
    • Power windows w/one-touch-down
    • Power locks
    • Remote keyless entry
    • Speed control
    • Hill start assist
    • Tire pressure monitoring system
    • Rear window defroster
    • Rear window wiper/washer
    • Sport suspension
    • 12-volt auxiliary power outlet
    • Air conditioning
    • Driver height adjustable seat w/memory
    • Bose premium audio system
    • Leather-wrapped sport steering wheel
    • Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
    • Auxiliary audio input jack
    • Tilt steering column
    • Front floor mats
    • Chrome shift knob
    • Halogen projector headlights
    • Power heated exterior mirrors
    • Fog lamps
    • Rear spoiler
    • Chrome exhaust tip
    • Red brake calipers
    • Tire service repair kit


  • Safety and Convenience package
  • $400
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Security alarm
  • Compact spare tire
  • Safety and Sound package
  • $200
  • Sirius XM satellite radio w/one-year subscription
  • Power sunroof $850
  • TomTom navigation w/BLUE and ME $400