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1110 2012 Fiat 500 September Update
four seasons long-term tests

2012 Fiat 500 - Four Seasons Update - September 2011

Months in Fleet: 1 / Miles to Date: 4348

2012 Fiat 500 reviews to date

Our Four Seasons Fiat 500 now has 4348 miles, thanks to long runs down south to the Carolinas, up north to Canada, and out east to Boston, plus a lot of quick trips around Ann Arbor. The 500 has been a popular choice, but that doesn't necessarily mean our feelings for the Fiat has been all puppy love. Not everyone has fallen for its Italian charms.

Senior web editor Phil Floraday, for one. Floraday argues that there's no reason to choose something as small as the 500 over a larger car like the Volkswagen Golf. "I can't understand the appeal of A-segment cars in the U.S. when fuel is cheap and there's no tax on engine displacement, like there is in some markets. Why live with something this slow and small when C-segment cars are about the same price, give you more room, and actually accelerate?"

Jake Holmes, associate web editor, agrees with Floraday, and not just because Phil is his boss. "The Fiat 500's novelty will soon wear off, both for our staff and the American buying public," says Holmes.

Luckily for our Fiat, that's far from a unanimous opinion. Jake's peers, associate web editors Donny Nordlicht and Ben Timmins, are smitten by the car. Nordlicht says, "The Cinquecento is absolutely adorable. It's as though it's saying 'Ciao!' every time you stop to turn and look at it -- which you're bound to do because it is very much a piece of Italian art." Timmins agrees: "Every time I looked out the door at the little red nugget in the parking lot, I smiled. The Golf could never do that to me."

We've also discovered the obvious: our Fiat is small. It is not best used as a people mover. Managing editor Amy Skogstrom tried to get her mom, who has to stretch to reach the five-foot mark, to jump into the Fiat to go out to dinner. One look at the back seat of the 500, and she said she wasn't willing to be that cramped. Skogstrom tried coaxing her, but it was a no go and they had to take her stepfather's Lincoln MKZ.

The Fiat's cargo hold, though, has turned out to be plenty big. We've shoved everything from luggage and laundry to camping chairs and an umbrella stroller through the Fiat's wide-opening hatchback, and we have yet to run into any issues with the 9.5 cubic feet of space.

The Fiat has been mechanically sound and is still a long way from its inaugural service, at 8000 miles. Our rosso Cinquecento did, however, suffer a stone chip to its windshield less than a week after we took delivery of the car. The glass began to crack almost immediately. Unfortunately, we found out the windshield is on backorder. We put in a request for the glass at a local repair shop on September 7; nearly four weeks later, we're still waiting. The shop recently told us Fiat should have some available to ship in mid-October.

Will we have a new windshield sometime soon? Will our Fiat continue turning heads? Will the novelty of a cutesy car wear off soon? Check back next month to find out.

2012 Fiat 500 Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
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
Packages & Options
  • 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
Having driven and ridden in 500s in Italy, I would only buy one as a third car for quick errands or to loan to a needy friend. It's too small and too slow for US Interstates and freeways. Watching them on autostradas in Italy was frightening!
Better buy a Mini. A basic Mini is fun to drive if you keep the revs up,just don't drag race. As to parts availability, I'm in the Caribbean, and even here they get anything you need in a week, if not available locally. Also, seats 4 persons for say 20 mile drives, I'm 250 lbs and fit back there. The Fiat 500 is not for America. The Chrysler designed Alfa Romeo (Hornet)to be sold here in 2013 is another animal, my only hope is that Chrysler does not end with a watered down Alfa. Italian cars need to be like Berlusconi's companions, beautiful and hot.

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