12 MONTH CAR REVIEWS: 2012 Fiat 500 - Four Seasons Update - November 2011

November 21, 2011
2011 Fiat 500 Front Left Side View In Field
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Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Update - FALL 2011 (3 OF 3)
Months in Fleet: 3 / Miles to Date: 7106
If you've been following our Four Seasons Fiat 500's assimilation into our fleet, you read last month that the cutesy car started stirring up some pretty negative comments.
The seating position is too upright. The steering wheel doesn't telescope. The engine's bark far exceeds its bite. All the little Fiat's shortcomings and imperfections were beginning to wear on us, and our growing disdain showed no signs of slowing.
Then the calendar rolled over from October to November, and something unexpected happened: we fell back in love with our Fiat. The weather wasn't any warmer, the fact our Fiat was sporting a CarStache in support of "Movember" wasn't a huge deal, and Christmas was only a week or so closer. Our world didn't drastically change. We simply began noticing the things this car does right instead of focusing on its faults.
2011 Fiat 500 Front View
"I've grown to appreciate the substance beneath the facade of the modern Cincquecento," said associate editor Eric Tingwall. "Ride quality is surprisingly good for a car with a hyper-short wheelbase and torsion-beam rear suspension. Better yet, the engine is fun to rev, even if it is a bit weak."
Associate online editor Evan McCausland, who got behind the wheel of the A-segment hatchback for the first time since its arrival, was very impressed by the Fiat's steering feel: "The variable-assist rack has a tremendous amount of range. It's feather-light at low speeds -- like a simple flick of the wrist could spin the wheel -- and is very taut at highway speeds."
Jumping from place to place during a night on the town in Ann Arbor, deputy editor Joe DeMatio had to find street parking for the Fiat five separate times. "Squeezing into tight spots with ease definitely makes you appreciate this tiny, maneuverable car," he said.
And just when we thought November couldn't get any better for the little Fiat, senior web editor Phil Floraday, who had been the Fiat's biggest critic, admitted he is finally warming up to the 500. "Maybe it's because I just spent a week with our Four Seasons Mini Countryman, but I was very impressed with how much more comfortable the 500 is," he reasoned. "Even if that's the case, the Fiat's clutch seems much easier to use than I remembered, the thimble-sized car doesn't feel much slower than our turbocharged Mini, and Fiat gets full credit for creating a small car with such a composed ride."
There are parts of the 500 that could use a bit more work -- including its sloppy shifter, pointless mesh sunshade, and headrests seemingly made out of hockey pads -- but we're having a much easier time overlooking these minor issues as we begin getting used to the car and its driving feel.
October may not have been the best month for our 500, but November certainly turned a few more staff members into Fiatphiles.
2011 Fiat 500 Front Three Quarters View Panning
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

Long-Term 2012 Fiat 500 Reviews to Date:

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