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1203 2012 Fiat 500 Sport
four seasons long-term tests

2012 Fiat 500 Sport - Extreme Downsizing

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

#Fiat, #500
2012 Fiat 500 reviews to date

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.

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
Did you drive the same model I have? FIAT 500? I average 40 miles per gallon, and have 27,000 miles on it. The driving position is fine and I have never had to refill the washer fluid. Oh well.
Geez, is that your guys best shot? I've been driving a Prima (Sport) for a handful of months more and a couple thousand more miles - in the wilds of Kansas - and have a whole different take. Rather than your vacuous list of minor nit picks.For one, I'm 6'3" have a sunroof and my head never touches. Second, I get 33 to 35 MPGs and fill up less than once a week. I've never had to add windshield fluid in nearly a year.But who really cares about any of that anyway? That's how you guys test and rate cars? Really?The handling is great, the performance more than adequate, the reliability has been excellent. It's been great on the highway on long trips and darts around town in the most fun way possible. And I can park it ANYWHERE.Equipped as mine came, it was $4,000 plus less than a comparable MINI, has more backseat room and a 50 percent larger trunk.How about a little more about the actual car and driving and less about your staffer's quirks in the next update?

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