New Car Reviews

2012 Fiat 500 – Exploring the Cabin

Months in service: 5 / Miles to date: 11,677

Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Update: Winter 2012 Array Miles to date: 11,677

There’s more to the Fiat 500 than stylish sheet metal and a tiny footprint. It also has an attractive interior.

A shiny plastic dashboard panel, color-matched to the rosso paint, runs the length of the dash. A concentric gauge cluster cleverly combines the speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges, and trip information under one shroud. An unusual, asymmetrical shift pattern is etched into black plastic trim on top of the big chrome shift knob. The front seats and the 50/50-split folding rear seats are covered in smooth, gray fabric that reminds us of hockey pads or ski pants. All four head restraints have a unique, circular design.

Italians, it seems, can make a lot happen in a small cabin.

So can deputy editor Joe DeMatio, who took the 500 on a run to Costco. DeMatio chose our smallest Four Seasons car over his Toyota Tundra to see how much freight the Fiat could haul with its rear seats folded flat. Stacking up boxes of food, wine, dog kibble, paper goods, and bottled water and juices, he managed to fit his whole cartful into the 500, although it was a good thing he didn’t have any passengers along.

The Fiat’s cargo capacity was put to the test again when another driver headed to Lansing, Michigan, for Christmas dinner. He folded down the rear seats before stuffing the cargo area with two suitcases, a couple of backpacks, a clutch of gifts, and an antipasto platter. Then he and a fellow six-plus-footer hopped in front for the drive to grandma’s house.

So the 500 has a surprising amount of cargo room, but how about people room? Senior editor Eric Tingwall and three friends climbed into the 500 on their way out to dinner one evening. “Everyone would have benefited from a little more legroom,” he admits. Still, no one’s knees were touching their noses.

We do have some minor quibbles about our Fiat’s interior. First, the steering column tilts but doesn’t telescope, which is a problem for taller drivers, especially. We also wish the passenger seat was adjustable for height, like the driver’s seat is. Those who’ve been behind the wheel have appreciated the extra headroom.

There’s plenty to appreciate here, actually: we like the 500 not just for its cuteness and its smallness but also its usefulness.

Come back to next month to see how the Four Seasons Fiat 500 is holding up at the half-year mark.


  • 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