2012 Fiat 500 – Four Seasons Update – October 2011

Months in Fleet: 2 / Miles to Date: 5544

Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Update: Fall 2011 Array Miles to date: 2

Cuddly puppies turn into hyper dogs, and fumbling toddlers grow up to be angst-ridden teens. The erosion of cuteness is inevitable.

A car whose appeal is based on looks, driven day-in and day-out by automotive journalists, is not likely to be an exception to that rule.

In last month’s update, we wondered whether the novelty of the Fiat would wear off sooner rather than later, and we’re already beginning to see a lot of distain towards the A-segment, apple-shaped, Italian immigrant.

Assistant editor David Zenlea says the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine barks like a perky little lapdog, straining against its diamond studded leash. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio hates the car’s mesh sunroof shade.

Even the defender of all things 500, associate web editor Donny Nordlicht, is becoming disenchanted with the Fiat. “You really need to keep the little four-cylinder on boil to get going, even just around town,” says Nordlicht.

Senior web editor Phil Floraday, who probably will never be charmed by the Cinquecento, has predicted this fallout since day one, and stands by his belief that the two-door is nothing more than an accessory to a stylish outfit. “Fashion changes every season and those in the know wouldn’t be caught dead in last season’s trends. It’s too bad this test lasts longer than one season.”

Leave it at that, and things don’t look too good for our littlest Four Seasons car. But despair not, Fiatphiles. The 500 keeps working to make us (at least some of us) fall in love with it.

After taking his kids in the Fiat to the annual “Mopars at the Pond” auto show, copy editor Rusty Blackwell thought the wee coupe functioned well as a chic shuttle for his family. “It has an abundance of handy storage cubbies for small items,” says Blackwell. From bananas in the door pocket to an umbrella, stroller, and folding camping chair in the trunk, Blackwell managed to make his family fit, although he probably won’t be trading his 2001 Cadillac for a 500 anytime soon.

Creative director Kelly Murphy falls more in love with the little car every day, and not just because it’s on his favorite show — The Jersey Shore. “I have to confess that I’ve even thought about selling my own car to get one of these. I have already built my own 500 three times on the Fiat website. But I’m trying to show enough discipline to wait for Abarth,” says Murphy.

Office factions have not formed yet, but it seems like the Fiat is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of car. Maybe the Abarth will turn us all into lovers, but it won’t be shown in the States until the Los Angeles auto show in November. Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.


  • 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