2012 Fiat 500 Sport: An Enjoyable Diversion, But...
June 02, 2011
I can't decide how I feel about our long-term 2012 Fiat 500. I haven't warmed to it like Kelly has, yet I'm intermittently drawn to it. Partly, it's the size of the car, because I end up choosing it on nights when I know parking's going to be a problem (not shown above).
But equally, it's the car's personality. The 1.4-liter engine doesn't give you much torque to work with, so you end up beating on it a bit just to get around in city traffic and on the freeway. Fortunately, both the revvy little engine and the chassis are up for that. Abrupt inputs don't upset the chassis, and the electric steering is pretty decent -- pretty quick ratio with better feel than I expected.
Yet, the Fiat feels a bit more like an appliance than I'd like. For me, it's a noticeable step down from a Mini Cooper.
Although the ride is reasonable, as Chris has shown, it's not as composed as the Cooper -- and there's not much anyone at Fiat could do about that given the 500's shorter wheelbase and narrower track. I also prefer the Mini's firmer overall suspension tune (less body roll, more aggressive damping) when going through corners. Plus, I really like the Mini's direct-injected 1.6-liter engine. And the driving position is far better for me in the Cooper because there's telescoping steering wheel adjustment.
Of course, a base Mini Cooper equipped the way I want it (Sport package, Sport suspension, Convenience package) would cost almost exactly $3,000 more than our long-term Fiat 500 ($19,200). That's not an insignificant difference, but for me it would be worth it.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,173 miles