Errand Boy - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Errand Boy

August 04, 2011


Well, if you’re expecting some sort of pocket-size GTI, then you’ll just have to wait for the Abarth. Just saw an ad on the back of this week’s Autosport and there are three of them in Britain, all in pretty zippy specification. The U.S. version will be introduced at the L.A. auto show.

But there’s no sense acting all surprised that the Fiat 500 isn’t exactly the driver’s car of your dreams. It’s more like a Nissan Cube than a Mini Cooper, and it looks silly when it’s posing on a rural road instead of on a city street. When it comes to driving fast, it steers a little too quickly, reacts a little too much when you get into the brakes, and the suspension calibration has more springing than damping.

Instead this is a car that just takes you places. And this is way more relevant to the way real people really live than some wacky quasi-Italian hot rod with a stinger exhaust. (Abarth’s signature is the scorpion, you know.)

And the Fiat is pretty great at taking you places. It’s small, so you can park it anywhere, even those sneaky downsize parking slots that fill shopping mall parking, which are designed to meet the letter of building code requirements for an adequate store/parking space ratio but are strictly smurf-size (the automotive equivalent of classifying ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches).

The 500’s seating H-point is high and the doors are tall and broad, so it’s easy to slide in and out when you’re dashing around on errands. The rear hatch comes up quick, there’s enough room to throw in a couple things behind the second row seat, and you don’t have to jump into the air to get hold of the upraised hatch and close it again.

Finally the visibility is great and the steering effort is light, and if these things aren’t important to you, then you’ve never cruised a crowded parking lot, whether it’s the hardware store or the grocery.

Basically the Fiat 500C has lots of utility, even though it lacks lots of driving drama. But this is exactly what you want when taking the long way home means running five errands along the way, not taking a detour to hammer through a few of your favorite corners.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 6,850 miles

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