Hidden Controls - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test
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2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

2012 Fiat 500: Hidden Controls

November 13, 2011

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Several of our 2102 Fiat 500's controls take some getting used to, and some seem almost intentionally hidden -- even the ones we all use quite often. Resetting the trip meter is a bit frustrating until you learn its unique location on the end of the windshield wiper stalk. It's labelled, but only in a manner the front passenger can see.

The dash-mounted volume and tuning buttons for the stereo are particularly galling in that they are styled to look like protruding twist-knobs at a glance, but they're really just buttons. I've reached up to crank up the volume (and we all say crank for a reason) with a twisting grasp already pre-loaded on more than one occasion. Psyche!

Thankfully, and to a caertain extent secretly, Chrysler's corporate standard steering-mounted audio buttons sit hidden on the back face of the main steering wheel spokes at 9 and 3 o'clock. Thery're not marked in any way, but they are there if you hunt around.

At the head unit, the volume controls (such as they are) are on the left and the tuning controls sit to the right. This matches every single car stereo I've ever owned, every two-stem radio I've ever removed from a car and every aftermarket stereo I've ever bought from Crutchfield and installed myself.

Compared to this the steering wheel buttons seem backwards: the volume one is on the right at 3 o'clock and the tuning/preset scan one is on the left at 9 o'clock. In more than one Chrysler product of recent vintage -- and now this Fiat -- I've accidentally changed the station when I wanted to up the volume.

At least they're there. And I suppose I'd eventually get used to it if this was the only car I drove every day. But I still don't see the point of swimming upstream of 50 years of standardization: left = volume, right = tune.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing


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