This car has me more excited than just about any car I have driven in ages. For one, the price, you can’t go wrong with three different trims all under $20,000, more on that later. Two, it’s a drivable and practical automobile that looks, well, Italian. Italian, that’s right and that means sexy.
On a recent trip to California to drive the 2012 Fiat 500 I took a few hours to wind my way up and down the southern California roads to see how “she” handled. I was not disappointed. I spent most of my time in the Fiat 500 Lounge trim, which is the top of the line option and complete with a glass sunroof and amenities that made me want to continue my drive all day.
Competition is the Mini Cooper or the Toyota Yaris, neither have the edge that the Fiat offers and in 14 colors no less, how will you ever be able to choose?
“Take every moment and live it to the fullest,” is what the Fiat 500 is screaming.
With quite a number of differences in the 500 from the U.S. to the European market, you can bet safety has been checked and rechecked. The new 2012 Fiat 500 features an all-new air bag system to offer protection for its passengers to meet all U.S. regulatory requirements. Its seven standard air bags include: driver and front-passenger advanced multi-stage air bags, driver’s knee air bag, full-length side-curtain air bags and standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags.
Reactive head restraints, which activate during a rear impact, are another innovation helping minimize injuries by reducing the gap between the head restraint and the passenger’s head.
There is also a standard electronic stability control (ESC) for improved braking performance in wet or panic conditions. Behind the scenes, the ESC system intervenes by integrating key chassis control systems including electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), anti-lock brake system (ABS) and traction control systems (TCS) to control all four wheels in response to steering input. Overall, there are more than 35 available safety and security features on this car (active turn signals, auto dimming rearview mirror, the list goes on).
Under the hood you get a 1.4-liter engine with state-of-the-art MultiAir technology reducing emissions while improving fuel economy and power. The MultiAir in-line four-cylinder engine also has 101 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 98 pound-feet of torque.
The Fiat 500 offers two sophisticated transmissions uniquely designed for improved efficiency and driving fun. A six-speed automatic transmission with easy shifting and excellent fuel economy, and there is a ‘Sport’ mode — through advanced powertrain management, ‘Sport’ mode enables quicker gear changes, a unique throttle map for improved engine responsiveness and allows each gear to be held for longer periods near the redline.
An upgraded five-speed manual transmission features new gear ratios for the U.S. market, allowing the new Fiat 500 to deliver improved fuel efficiency and quicker off-the-line acceleration too.
The Fiat 500 exterior “Captures the original Cinquecento’s iconic looks and smart packaging in a contemporary, no-nonsense design, the new 2012 Fiat 500 is artfully blended with technical, cultural and creative aspects in a vehicle that is exactly right for the times,” says Roberto Giolito, Head of Fiat Style.
The new Fiat 500 also respects the original Cinquecento innovative shape and function and evokes all of the emotions and memories that make any icon rise beyond traditional categories or paradigms. Even more importantly, the new Fiat 500 delivers exclusive Italian design and innovations to the American market.
Another talking point, the glass roof, a nod to the past with design references from the historic model. The famous canvas roof of the past has been replaced by a four-season-friendly glass roof. For a near seamless and harmonious design with the windshield, the sunroof (available in a fixed version or powered) delivers a linear and luminous roof design while providing additional highlights of the pillars’ two arcs. Like the original Cinquecento, the new Fiat 500 with power sunroof maximizes outward visibility so its passengers can enjoy the beautiful world around.
Inside is just as cool with a blend of clean lines and well-placed features also inspired by the historical model. Through the available leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Fiat 500’s single concentric instrument cluster features the speedometer, tachometer and trip computer in a distinct and effective manner. In fact, the Fiat 500’s instrument panel continues the perfect blend of modern simplicity and the upper instrument panel is designed to convey a sense of refinement and elegance and features color-match exterior accents for added detail.
While every trim level is cool; Pop, Sport or Lounge, there are a few differences to point out.
The Pop trim is the basic with 15-inch steel wheels with chrome-accented wheel covers and all-season tires, seven standard air bags, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, speed control and reconfigurable Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with trip computer.
Up a notch and it’s the Sport where you will notice a firmer ride and more responsive handling. It also comes with a manual transmission, 16-inch aluminum wheels and a liftgate-mounted roof spoiler for a sporty appearance.
The top of the line Fiat 500 Lounge features premium amenities (in addition to the Fiat 500 Pop features) including the all-new six-speed automatic transmission with driver-selectable gear changes, front- and rear-fascia chromed accents, chrome mirror caps, fog lamps, fixed glass roof, 15-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires, premium cloth seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and BLUE&ME Handsfree Communication technology with USB port.
I can’t say enough for how excited I am to welcome the 2012 Fiat 500 into the American market. Something for everyone and as Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America concludes “This car is broad ranging. What that means, grandma, baby boomer or just the hippest young millenniumer we know, come one come all since the field is open for cool, ala living la vida loca.
Least You Need to Know: The 1.4-liter engine with state-of-the-art MultiAir technology reduces emissions while improving fuel economy and power. The Fiat 500’s 1.4-liter engine features four valves per cylinder and is the world’s first mass-production engine to incorporate innovative Fully Variable Valve Actuation (FVVA), also known as MultiAir.
Miles per Gallon: Information not yet available.
Cost: The Pop starts at $15,500, the Sport trim at $17,500 and the Lounge is a low $19,500.
Rita Cook is a writer/editor with over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 12-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am and is on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings. Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and spends much of her time on the road traveling and working on books such as her latest release this April about Fredericksburg, Texas published by Channel Lakes Publishing.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.