2012 Fiat 500 Sport – Extreme Downsizing

Months in service: 6 / Mileage to date: 13,030

Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Update: Winter 2012 Array Miles to date: 6

Smallness is a key aspect of the Fiat 500’s attractiveness, the same way no one would think a Papillion the size of a mastiff was cute. But spend half a year with a car this petite, and you’re bound to notice the nitpicky inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with extreme downsizing.

Here’s managing editor Amy Skogstrom: “The driver’s seat height adjustment doesn’t go high enough. Even at its highest position, I feel like I’m sitting too low.”

And senior web editor Phil Floraday: “I can’t get the driver’s seat low enough to keep my head from hitting the headliner.”

Floraday’s no giant; Skogstrom’s no dwarf. Both fall under the category “average height.” Still, it seems the driver’s seat isn’t high enough for some drivers. For others, it can’t be adjusted low enough. Either way, none of us at Automobile are effusively praising the 500’s driving position. But, hey, it’s more comfortable than sitting in the passenger seat, which has no height-adjustment at all.

Another issue? The car’s wee, 10.5-gallon gas tank, which seemingly needs another shot of premium fuel every other time you back out of the driveway.

But the trouble you’d never see coming? A ridiculously small washer-fluid reservoir. The Fiat confidently trudges through snowstorms and across slush-covered roads, but the car’s flat face means an always-dirty windshield that needs constant cleaning. If your use of the blue stuff is too liberal, a starving reservoir motor begins to whine, forcing you to pull over and top it off. If the Fiat had a “low washer fluid” indicator light, which it doesn’t, we can only guess it would be on all the time.

“The Fiat 500’s novelty has quickly worn off,” concludes Floraday. “But maybe I’ll be better able to live with the 500’s compromises in Abarth trim.”

We’ll see soon enough. This month, a scorpion-badged model will be making its way to Ann Arbor for a short stay at 120 East Liberty. Senior editor Joe Lorio has already driven the Abarth, and had a few thoughts on the subject:

“It will be interesting to see how the Abarth affects the rest of the 500 lineup. The people at Fiat hope that the Abarth’s performance image will rub off on the 500 as a whole. Maybe. One thing it’s more likely to do, however, is make the 500 Sport superfluous, because the Abarth is such a far superior performance model.”

Check back next month to see if we agree.


  • 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