I've Got My Work Cut Out for Me - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test
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2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: I've Got My Work Cut Out for Me

February 14, 2012

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If you've read any of my previous road-trip blog entries (boring riveting as they are), you know that I'm always late getting out the door, so the outbound leg of the trip usually under-delivers on the mpg front. So it was with the 2012 Fiat 500. I left for Vegas late, and although I haven't fueled up yet since arriving here, one look at my Eco:Drive results (next page) tells you I probably didn't do that well. No matter, I plan to make up for it on the trip back, and my goal is a passing grade -- 60 or better.

A couple of you asked for a detailed report on the cabin noise situation at highway speeds. And at 65 mph and up, the primary noise source is wind noise off the mirrors (they're big, I guess because of the relatively big blind spot on the driver side), followed in order by engine noise and road noise -- and to my ears, those two sometimes swap places depending on what's going on. That is, on level terrain when you're not trying to pass, road noise is more prominent.

During sustained acceleration up the many steady grades on Interstate 15, you definitely hear the 1.4-liter engine working. It's not an unpleasant noise -- this is a respectably smooth, sweet-tempered engine, but it works hard to keep this car moving. A downshift to 4th was often necessary on these grades, but not as often as I would have thought: Fifth is geared tall enough to keep the engine from screaming (2,900 at 70 mph, and 3,400ish as I recall at 8x mph), but there's still room to accelerate just a bit in-gear.

Overall, the Fiat 500 is on the louder side of the spectrum for a subcompact -- and keep in mind that's to my ears only and not based on an objective comparison of our 70-mph decibel readings. I find the Chevrolet Sonic, (2012) Hyundai Accent and Mazda 2 to be more serene. I'd probably add the Ford Fiesta to the serenity list, but I haven't driven one in a while. In our testing, the Mini Cooper returned similar decibel readings (to the Fiat's), and I feel like you're trading wind noise for road noise; the Mini has a lot less of the former but more of the latter, thanks to its run-flats. But the Mini seems quieter overall, because its direct-injected (n.a.) 1.6-liter engine never has to work anywhere near as hard.

I wouldn't call the Cinquecento intolerably loud on a road trip. A Miata is far, far louder, as is an Evo of any generation. It's all about expectations. I'd take it on a road trip again and I wouldn't go insane (at least not because of the noise from the car), and I probably wouldn't experience hearing loss because of it.

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Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,307 miles

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (6)
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

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