Hits, Misses - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Hits, Misses

March 09, 2012

Fiat 500_badge.jpg
I hadn't been in the 500 for awhile, and started missing it ever since that Super Bowl commercial. I vowed I'd grab the keys at the next opportunity. I remember not liking it much the first time and needed to remember why. I recently signed it out for an evening, but before calling it a day, I drove Jacquot to retrieve the Camry from service.

Josh mocked my initial attempts to praise the half-pint, but then I saw the futility. Where's my seat recliner? Left, lean, look, reach. Huh? Oh, right. It's on the inboard side of the seat.

It's stuffy in this car. Where are the window controls? Aside the shifter, of course. Perfectly logical place. Man, this late afternoon sun is bright. Adjust the sun visor. Why won't it snap back into place? Oh, the open receiver tab faces the windshield, so you first have to clear the tab, then pull it back to snap into place. Makes sense.

Finally parked at home, grab my backpack off the floor. What's it stuck on? Ah, the seat slider of course, which extends out about two feet from the bottom of the seat. Handy.

It's easy to be flip about the 500. But despite some of its baffling details, it’s hard not to like it. It's eager. It buzzes and whines when you spur it, but it'll move for you. It'll dart into that gap between stopped traffic and the right-hand turn lane you want. The shift action is nice.

It's less suited for highway travel, though. Likes to wander at highway speeds and requires constant steering adjustment, like piloting a Zodiac in small swells. I wonder how much more contact patch we can fit in those wheel wells.

The 500's limits make me like it even a little more. It's purpose-built for the city. Great on the tight streets and parking around the office, much like the Sonic. Good enough acceleration to mesh with the stoplight rhythms, and small enough to weave around buses and fixie bikes. An errand car.

That may sound like faint praise, but cars like this actually motivate me to hack away at the to-do list. Bank, post office, market, deserted industrial park; even though I'd probably opt for a Mazda2 before the 500, this is the kind of car that could help you get things done.

Fiat 500_seat recline.jpgVW sold Fiat a surplus experimental seat design.

Fiat 500_windows.jpgBecause the transmission interface is where we naturally look for window controls.

Fiat 500_captain armrest.jpgWin: captain's armrest. Especially in this class.

Fiat 500_visor.jpgPush me, pull me: sun visor takes a minute to figure out for the first time. While driving.

Fiat 500_seat slide.jpgDon't catch your ankle monitor on the way out.

Fiat 500_climate.jpgHey, it's the 500 ascending and descending the Rubicon.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

  • Full Review
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  • Long-Term (810)

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