2012 Fiat 500: Shocking Long-Haul Comfort
February 17, 2012
Here's something I didn't expect from our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Serious comfort over 9 hours of driving. Nine hours. That's how long it took me to make it back from Vegas using back roads, stopping for photos, stopping for lunch, stopping for coffee and detouring onto California Highway 58 after Highway 14 closed near Mojave (overturned 18-wheeler, a Cal Trans officer told me, which was sad news but not surprising -- it was 38 degrees and windy and a wintry mix was falling).
If you'd told me before the trip that I'd last that long in the Fiat without getting all kinked up, uncomfortable and generally grumpy, I wouldn't have believed you. But this car turned out to be a great pick for 450 slow miles -- at least in the comfort department. Seriously.
See, the Fiat is no fun on Los Angeles freeways, because they're pretty much all made of grooved concrete slabs, and with its short wheelbase, the little car just bounces around over everything. But it's a different story once you get out of the city and out on the highway. Lots of asphalt out here and the ride smoothes out considerably. Compliance is good, and although the 500 gets unsettled over really gnarly patches, most of the time it's decently controlled and not annoying.
Then, there are the seats. This is a city car. So there's no reason it should have good seats, right? After all, the seats in other city cars (Smart Fortwo, Prius, Insight) are flat and get uncomfy quickly. But not the Fiat's driver seat.
The seat is well shaped, with functional lateral bolstering, and thick cushioning. Not once did I get uncomfortable. My back never got sore. Never got dead butt.
Before the trip, I figured I'd have to use cruise control a lot so I'd be able to move my legs around. And while I used it plenty, it wasn't because my legs were cramped. This is a small car, but the driver footwell is quite wide and, thanks to the shape of the center console (it gets narrower as it extends away from the dash), I had ample room so that my right knee wasn't always pressed up against it.
Now I'm not saying this would be a comfortable car if you're 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, but if you're average size (5-foot-10, 160ish), you'll do fine.
I think somebody asked about visibility from the driver seat... as in, can I see traffic lights if I pulled up to an intersection and I'm first in line? I don't have this problem, but I'm not the best person to answer this question, because I'm more legs and than torso -- so I don't sit up that tall in most cars and the windshield usually ends up being at the correct height.
Final thoughts and ramblings on the 722-mile road trip coming soon.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,744 miles
Second interior photo by Kurt Niebuhr