2012 Fiat 500 Long Term Road Test - Comfort

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

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

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Ergonomic Issue

March 30, 2012

Fiat 500 interior lead.jpg

This is the Fiat 500's interior.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Doesn't Do Anything

March 30, 2012


This is the driver seat-height adjustor lever that Magrath broke the first month we had the Fiat 500. Or, actually, this is the replacement lever.

Near as I can tell, our experience with this car wouldn't have been any different if we'd left the broken lever as is, because the lever is useless for adjusting the height of the seat.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Chamber of Commerce Photo Day

March 19, 2012

Okay, so my Saturday might go down as a bummer-day quadfecta (which I believe comes right after the trifecta): Non-stop rain, finishing my taxes, paying bills, and doing all the laundry. I feel better for doing it, but the next day was my reward -- and here it is my friends. L.A. rarely looks this spectacular and the freeways are rarely this empty. All were taken on the way to Casahashi to watch a recording of the Formula One season opener. Also, I know I've already showed you how decent the freeway ride in this Fiat 500. Well, I take it back. All of it. Maybe it has loosened up over time, but it now feels like all spring and no damper.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 13,802 miles

See full article and comment.

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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Small Grievances from the Road

February 22, 2012


Seven-hundred twenty-two miles of solo driving provides ample time to reflect on a car's faults, not to mention my own faults, and the faults of my close friends and family. But today I'll just tell you about a couple issues I noticed in our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport during my Vegas road trip with a detour through Death Valley.

The first concerns the sun visors.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Shocking Long-Haul Comfort

February 17, 2012


Here's something I didn't expect from our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Serious comfort over 9 hours of driving. Nine hours. That's how long it took me to make it back from Vegas using back roads, stopping for photos, stopping for lunch, stopping for coffee and detouring onto California Highway 58 after Highway 14 closed near Mojave (overturned 18-wheeler, a Cal Trans officer told me, which was sad news but not surprising -- it was 38 degrees and windy and a wintry mix was falling).

If you'd told me before the trip that I'd last that long in the Fiat without getting all kinked up, uncomfortable and generally grumpy, I wouldn't have believed you. But this car turned out to be a great pick for 450 slow miles -- at least in the comfort department. Seriously.

See full article and comment.

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

February 14, 2012


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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Going on a Road Trip

February 08, 2012


This Sunday I'll be going on a "business trip" to Vegas, where I'll be driving a couple cars we haven't tested before. I could have requested our Audi A8 or BMW X3 for my journey, but why go with a safe, boring choice? And so I'll be taking our long-term Fiat 500.

This car doesn't have the best highway ride -- it's not harsh per se, but it is bouncy over the expansion joints -- and the wind noise is pretty significant at 70 mph. So we'll see how long it takes for this stuff to annoy me, or maybe it never will. The seats in this car are pretty cushy for a microcompact and seem like they might be road-trip-worthy.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Mirror, mirror

October 31, 2011

I understand why the mirror has the extra fish-eye bit on the end, but I'm not entirely happy with it--particularly when I'm driving due West in the morning. It's nearly impossible to escape the sun with a convex mirror.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 9,333 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Seat Height Adjuster No Go

October 11, 2011

misc 028.jpg
Apparently I had our 2012 Fiat 500 right after a tall short-torsoed editor because its driver seat was a bit too high for my comfort so I tried to use the seat height adjuster to fix this. But when I pushed down on it, nothing. When I pulled it, nothing. Not wanting to have a repeat of what happened when we first got the Fiat, I just left it alone and moved my seat closer to the pedals.

So I read the owner's manual to see if I was doing it wrong and sure enough it said that the lever needs to be pumped upward to raise the seat height and downward to lower it. I tried doing this instead but still got nothing. Hmf.

In a past Fiat post when we had Tweeps (Twitter people) test-drive the 500, one of them complained about the adjuster, too: "The seat height adjuster didn't seem to raise or lower the seat at all and felt cheap."

So now I'm wondering if any other Fiat 500 owners have experienced this issue. I mean, we just got this fixed.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Surviving the Desert

September 15, 2011

fssd_6.jpg I drove the 2012 Fiat 500 on the first leg of our fourth-annual Fuel Sipper Smackdown comparison test. This portion of the trip took us through Death Valley, where temperatures soared past 110 degrees. I'm not much of a cap wearer and I hadn't thought to bring one for this trip. I was going to be cooped up in a car all day and I wasn't driving a convertible, so what was the point? But after a few hours under the Fiat's mesh "sunshade," I was feeling like an ant under a magnifying glass. I reached into my bag and grabbed the first thing that would provide me with shade. This t-shirt wasn't the most elegant solution, but it worked.

Sunroof issues aside, the Fiat 500 was a pleasant car to drive on a road trip. It was not only capable of handling the desert heat, but also of putting up some impressive fuel- economy numbers. The 1.4 liter engine struggled a bit on some of the steeper grades, but it eventually made its way through Death Valley and the rest of the trip.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Sun Blocker

August 29, 2011

Fiat 500 sunroof insert.jpg

I signed out the 500 for the weekend and knowing that temps would hit triple digits and that the Fiat's transparent sunroof shade was about as effective as a screen door in a submarine, some Yankee ingenuity was in order.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Do the Parents Fit?

August 17, 2011

Fiat500rearseat 002.jpg
This weekend my parents were in town but I forgot they were visiting and had signed out our short-termer Fiat 500C. Oops. So I ended up having to shuttle them around town in the backseat of the small car. Surprisingly, even though Mom and Pops (both 5'5") are about 160-170 pounds each they fit nicely back there. They still had elbow room and comfortable-enough legroom even with the front seats allowing enough room for the front passengers. Then again, my folks DO have short legs.

Since that was the drop-top 500 I wanted to see if it was any different from our regular 500 in terms of rear space.

See full article and comment.

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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Don't Buy the Sunroof

August 02, 2011

Craned Neck 500.jpg

When I climb into Fiat 500, I look like this. Yes I'm tall, but it's quite rare that I find myself into a car's roof like this. Now, this is a result of two things. The first is the tall seating position, which creates more than enough legroom. The second is the 500's sunroof (optional on our Sport model), that robs a few valuable inches of headroom. I fit without any problem in 500s without the sunroof.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: No Skimping on the Seats

July 25, 2011

Fiat 500 seats.jpg

Take a look at these chairs -- plump and shaped to properly support one's legs and torso. With their generous padding (especially under the knees), they make the Fiat 500 comfortable on longer drives as I discovered during a cruise up the coast.

However, a few of the taller staffers feel that the 500's seating position is just too high (even with the adjuster cranked down). At a towering 5'-5", I'll admit that was my initial feeling too. But after I'd logged some miles in Luigi, the seat height seems spot on. In a little runabout like the Fiat 500, sitting up and seeing over the stubby hood just adds to the car's nimble feel when you're dicing with city traffic or swinging it into a small parking spot.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Not Too Cute

June 23, 2011

2011 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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: A/C Might Not Be Fully Up To The Task

June 16, 2011

fiat_500_air.JPG So Dan's been driving around in 110-degree heat in the Cruze. I haven't encountered anything that high in the Fiat, only mid-90s. Even so, the 500's air-conditioning has seemed pretty mediocre on hot days so far. I've had to set it at the lowest temperature and the second fan speed to keep up. Warmer temperatures might be a problem. But this is just my initial impression. We'll know more come full-on, swamp-butt summer and more opportunities for opinion.

Incidentally, I'm not very fond of the 500's A/C button. It's a push toggle with the fan button to activate. But the illumination for the snowflake icon is white, so it's very hard to tell whether A/C is actually on or off. (It's on in the photo.) It'd be better if the light was a different color.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Long Distance Drive

June 03, 2011

fiat_500_highway.JPG I put about 250 miles over five hours in our Fiat 500 yesterday. This could very well be its longest trip so far. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the way the 500 drove on the freeway. For this class of car, the ride is pretty comfortable. I was also expecting a lot of fore-and-aft chop due to the short wheelbase, but that never materialized. Wind and road noise are elevated, but they're certainly not excessive. The bar-stool-like driving position is awkward, but after the five hours I have to admit I was still comfortable. (The folding armrest on the right side of the seat helped.)

There were really just two downsides in my opinion. One, the 500 is susceptible to cross winds, a likely result of its profile and light weight. Also, it won't come as a surprise that there's not a whole lot of power from the 1.4-liter engine. So either drive it like you stole it, or just relax and enjoy the scenery.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500: Roof Screen Is Good for Something

May 20, 2011

fiat500roof 008.jpg

Since it was a gorgeous day, I decided to open up the sunroof of our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport. Yeah, I dislike the fact that there's only a screen instead of an actual sliding panel to cover your head, especially on oppressively sunny days, but I do like how the screen, when the sunroof is open, makes me feel less exposed to the elements, bees, etc.

I had to drive with the windows down a bit instead of merely cracked a smidge to prevent that interior air thump but not a big deal. And the screen doesn't reverberate with the wind, so that's something of note.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Freeway Ride

May 19, 2011

LA Freeway-1600.jpg

Click through to watch and hear our new 2012 Fiat 500 Sport on the infamous 405 South in Los Angeles: Although the tire thump is a little loud, the car shows decent damping characteristics.

See full article and comment.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Fits Me to a T

May 10, 2011


Last night I drove our Fiat 500 Sport for the first time.

Today I want to buy one.

I've had terrible lower back problems for the past couple of years, and I after a few miles even the most plush seats in super luxury cars can make me squirm uncomfortably.

Not so with the little Fiat. It was as if the seat was fashioned out of a weight-absorbing sling, while the seating position allowed me perfect access to the pedals, steering wheel and center-console controls.

Can't tell you the last time I did my 100-mile round-trip commute in such comfort.

Crazy, no? I hardly believe it myself.

Better drive it again tonight, just to make sure...

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 2,436

See full article and comment.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests