Not Too Cute - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Not Too Cute

June 23, 2011

2012 Fiat 500-cute not chirpy.jpg

When I got our Fiat yesterday, the first thing I did was show it off to my friend Dana, a fortysomething teacher, jewelry maker and gourmet cook. She gravitates to small, sporty cars: Her recent auto history includes her current 2004 Mini Cooper Hatchback and before that, a Honda Civic del Sol. That's why I thought she'd like the Fiat.

I was wrong.

She loved it. As in full-tilt, take-my-breath-away, oh-my-god-it's-so-cute loved it. We drove around for a few minutes and she cooed as she ran her hand over the red dash panel. She perched in the passenger seat, found it comfortable, stretched a bit to check the full legroom and had me put the car in Sport mode. More fun, we decided.

In addition to liking the Fiat's looks, she thought it rode more smoothly than does her Mini. She liked its height--an important factor for a small car on the truck-heavy Long Beach Freeway, a route she uses a lot. Looking up the stats later, I saw that the Fiat offers a hair's-breadth more height, front headroom, legroom and cargo space than does the current Mini.

"It's cute," she concluded at the end of our drive, using the word that will send thousands of potential male buyers running away from this car. "But it's not the kind of cute that some morning I'd walk out, look at the car and decide I hated it."

"So there's such a thing as too cute?" I asked.

"Yes. The Beetle is too cute. This is cute, but not chirpy."

There you go. A marketing slogan that Fiat is welcome to try out with an audience that's already predisposed to pinch the cheek of this car and take it home.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @4,004 miles

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