2012 Fiat 500: As if a ForTwo and New Beetle Hooked Up and Had a Baby
June 06, 2011
The Fiat 500 is all-new (for America, anyway) and comes after a 27-year absence for the company. You might think that the driving experience would be pretty novel. It is. But if you've spent any time with a Smart ForTwo or VW New Beetle, you'll also find some similarities.
Like the Smart, the 500 is petite in the way that only a European city car can be. If you've got a passenger, hopefully you won't mind sharing personal space. Also like the Smart, people are always staring at you when drive it, as if you warped in from Veridian III. They're also always staring down, because they're invariably driving comparatively gargantuan Chevy Suburbans and full-size pickups.
The staring can get awkward (maybe I should just flip them off; would that be the Italian thing to do?), so instead I just keep my eyes ahead. Here, the 500 reminds me of the New Beetle. It has a deep dashboard and rounded greenhouse evocative of the Beetle, and the climate controls are similar. Oh, and there's that whole cute vibe thing going on.
Thankfully, the Fiat 500 seems to have avoided getting most of the bad genes. There's no herky-jerky transmission from the ForTwo or the possibly claustrophobic feeling from the Beetle's high beltline. There's also the 500's backseat, which beats the ForTwo simply by existing and isn't too far off from the Beetle's in terms of roominess.
Finally, the 500 is more cheerful than either one. Not something you'd expect from the spawn of two Germans.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,503 miles