2012 Fiat 500: Freak Out
May 03, 2011
My first experience with this little red car was the night before the Long Term Introduction photo shoot. My immediate impression was that this thing is small. Yes, I love driving our Raptor, so the transition to this thing is rather stark.
My second impression was that the interior was fun. But that fun is only surface deep.
I was warned before I got into the car about the lack of driver seat height adjustment. The lever to raise/lower the seat had been snapped in two by a previous driver. That has me worried about the F.i.a.t. reputation (Fix It Again Tony) and this thing is assembled in Mexico. Not that I think all Mexican products are crap, there are plenty of other fine cars on the road assembled there. But I mention it because my girl has a Jetta assembled south of the boarder and the doors whistle above 65mph. The same car also had a transmission replaced with >15k miles on it. Does the fault lay with VW or Mexico? Not sure, but it does add a drop of concern to my mix.
A fore mentioned concerns plus the fact this thing is basically a first run vehicle do raise some red flags in my book. But I have to admit it, our 500 is fun to drive around. Maybe it's the novelty of it. Maybe it's the funky fun design of the thing. My girl said it reminded her of a clown car at the circus. Yeah it is a little silly looking, but I'm surprised that I even like to looks of it. No I don't need my head examined, plenty of others were freaking out over this compact alternate at gas stations, parking lots, and on the freeways. Whether you like it or not, it does have appeal.
I heard one person saying this thing doesn't make sense. It's too expensive, it's too small, it doesn't offer great economy, nor is it a performer. Sure, you might win on all points, but want and need are two different things. What about folks who buy a heavy duty off-road machine like the Raptor and it never sees dirt? People buy more often than not with their heart, not their brain.
Let's be honest, it's never going to win a race or be a great economical performer in it's current configuration. But it does offer people a stylish alternative to some of the boring compacts out there. That fact alone is going to give this thing a toe hold in the US market.
Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography