Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiat 500 has cute part down, and more

This review originally appeared in the October 2012 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California.

Sacramento, California ­–  Let me start by saying that I have never been big on cute cars.

OK, the New Beetle and its ancestors are nice, but I could have done without the on-board bud vase.  Just saying!

But when a 2012 Fiat 500c Lounge Cabrio rolled up for me to drive, well, it’s just a cute car.  No getting around it. You’d say the same thing if you went to a dinner party and the hosts’ 10-week-old kitten hopped up into your lap and went to sleep.

Fiat 500c equals cute.  Got that?  Fine.  Let’s get to the basics.

The Fiat 500 came to U.S. shores in various flavors for the 2012 model year, and my tester ranked as arguably my favorite, because you can drop the top.  Let the sun shine in, Italian style.

And Italian style with a 1960s flavor is what you get on the inside and outside of this two-door, four passenger model.  Before we go on, let me warn you that anyone trying to stuff even a pre-teen into one of the two back seats qualifies as a sadist in my book.  VERY tight quarters back there.  Fine with me, because I can jack the driver’s seat all the way back to accommodate my 6-4 frame.

Now, back to style: Ooh, it’s the classic Euro compact look on the exterior.  Rounded and dare I say sexy lines.  Inside, you’re transported back to the early 1960s with a no-nonsense dash with color-coded metal accents.  Absolutely beautiful.

Please keep in mind that my tester was the most expensive of the Fiat 500 lot, starting at $22,500.  You can get a basic 500 for $7,000 less, but you won’t get the impressive lineup of standard goodies that came in my Cabrio ride.  And mine was dressed up with numerous goodies that took the bottom line to a hefty $26,400.

One of the extras was a TomTom navigation system that could be snapped on top of the dash.  Nice little extra, but the thing was bulky and frankly interfered with the view out the front.

Other nagging things Fiat needs to work on: The automatic temperature sensor tied to the cooling system was registering a good 8 degrees on the high side in my ride.  And for some reason, the SiriusXM Satellite Radio system info center ALWAYS registered “unavailable.”

On the positive side, the tester had good fuel mileage numbers of 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

This Fiat was a fantastic city performer, capable of zippy sprints and agile moves in tight parking spaces.  On the highway, while it locks in nicely at 70 miles per hour on the cruise control, you really have to keep your foot in it to maintain that speed without the cruise.

And because of its small size, my Fiat did not get respect from fellow freeway motorists in my week with the car.  It was almost as if they assumed my Fiat was in the way because it was so small; numerous times, I had trailing cars try to cut me off even as I was halfway into a lane change.  So, driver beware, if you plan to take this 500 into urban commuter traffic.

Otherwise, it’s a car you can fall in love with.  And I noticed that females of all ages seemed to instantly fall in love with it.  Again, just saying!

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