2012 Fiat 500 Long Term Road Test - Performance

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

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  • Pricing & Specs
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2012 Fiat 500: Smarter Than the Sonic

April 30, 2012

fiat 500 sport button.jpg

Generally, we like the Chevy Sonic around these parts: It's got a good motor with great mid-range and it in no way rides like a small car.

Of course, we've got our gripes, too. I think the interior is taaaacky and we're almost universally convinced that the electronically controlled throttle is a huge downer. It tries to do the thinking for you and, at low RPM, refuses to act when you instigate throttle tip-in. Want to quickly get the engine from idle to 1,200? It takes a KICK, not a tap. It's very much like driving our Fiat 500 without the sport button pressed. (Which is a lot like driving a slower Mini Cooper S without the Sport button pressed.)

This is all our Sonic really needs to alleviate the silly throttle manipulation issues. Sure, fuel economy will suffer as a result of having precise control, but your happiness is worth more than a few bucks in gas. Put one in, Chevy.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Oh Yeah, I'm Doing It Wrong

April 20, 2012


One thing that I've noticed about our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport since it was new is that you can't be in a hurry going into Reverse gear. Getting to the gate requires you to pull up on a ring and then slide the shifter way over to the right and down. Not difficult. But if you are in a hurry, I've found this shifter more susceptible than most to grinding. Not good.

I'm a chronically impatient person, which is bad. Even when I think I'm not hurrying and being deliberate about getting the clutch all the way in and moving the shifter exactly into position for Reverse, well, I'm still hurrying and I still occasionally get the graunch.

Pausing just a little longer with the car stopped usually helps, as does reclutching. But most often what I'll do is give it a little throttle on my way into reverse -- that gets it in there smoothly every time.

Obviously, I'm not pointing out a flaw in the Fiat, but a flaw in myself... frankly, I've only talked to one other driver who has ever had this problem in the 500. In other news, I'm seeking the nomination for the 2012 Least Favorite Edmunds.com Editor award.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,917 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Throttle Response

April 19, 2012


I've been driving our 2012 Fiat 500 for a couple days (though not on this particular road), as it has suited my mood and my needs -- manual gearbox, small exterior dimensions, doesn't get mad or confused if I chuck it into a corner just because.

However, I wish the car had sharper throttle response. Press the pedal at a stoplight and you just get nothing at first; then, you jab it harder and off you go. This is totally something I get used to when I drive the car for more than a day (and undoubtedly a normal owner would, too), but I wish the Fiat would respond more like the Honda Fit and Mazda 2 when you give it gas. None of these are quick cars, but the livelier throttle calibration in the Honda and Mazda makes them more fun for me. Makes for easier heel-and-toe downshifting, too.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,902 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Heel-and-Toeing

April 02, 2012

Fiat 500 pedals.jpg

I've driven cars that are easier to heel-and-toe than the Fiat 500. It's a combination of two things: First, the pedal placement could be better, as the throttle pedal is spaced a bit further away from the brake pedal than optimal.

Second, the Fiat's brakes are touchy on initial application. So while it's no big deal to heel-and-toe downshift the 500 when you're braking hard, it's when you need to slow down just a bit, but also want to accomplish a downshift (like when you're approaching a stoplight), that you notice the pedal placement and non-linear brakes. It's not as second nature as it should be.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 14,546 miles.

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IL Track Tested: 2012 Fiat 500 Sport vs. 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

March 27, 2012


Our recent full test of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth revealed a wickedly fun little car that made way-cool noises. It also stood in stark contrast to the 2012 Fiat 500 Sport that resides in our long-term fleet. Yes, it has Sport in its name, but on the "Sport" scale it's badminton to the Abarth's short-track speedskating. And in terms of spokesmodels, J. Lo is no Catrinel Menghia.

But back to cars. The Fiat 500 Abarth has 160 horsepower. The 500 Sport has 101. The Abarth has sticky summer tires, while the 500 Sport has long-life all-seasoners. How stark is the difference on the track? Read on.

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2012 Fiat 500: All I'm Gonna Say Is...

March 09, 2012



Had this one last night, and I signed out our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport this weekend for good measure. But I can already tell that if I was set on buying a Fiat 500, the Abarth is more my style (read: fast). Cuz, you know, I wasn't sure before.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Fiat 500: Respect?

February 28, 2012


A couple days before my trip to Vegas, one of you asked me to report on whether or not other motorists show respect for the 2012 Fiat 500 out on the open road, in this case, Interstate 15. Today, while driving around Los Angeles in our NSX, I remembered that I never answered this question.

Not surprisingly, I found the motorists on I-15 short on patience -- and especially with regard to our 500. A typical scenario went something like this: The Fiat and I are in a line of cars in the No. 1 lane trying to pass a truck in the No. 2 lane (there are only two lanes in either direction for long stretches on the 15). Finally, the (often slow) car ahead of me would complete its pass, and I'd pedal the Fiat a little to work up my speed so that I could complete my pass more quickly. This usually earned no credit with the motorist directly behind me, who in spite of the increase in speed, would move ever closer to the 500's bumper and (sometimes) dance around behind me as if to say, "You're the real problem, Little Car! You're slow and lame and your lack of power is the direct cause of all traffic jams on this road."

Elsewhere, though, it's a totally different story.

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2012 Fiat 500: I'd Recommend It

February 27, 2012


When people find out that I work at Edmunds they usually ask me for recommendations on cars. And I tailor my answer to what their stated needs are. But it seems that lately I've been recommending the 2012 Fiat 500...a lot.

Let me preface this by saying that I'll only recommend it to folks who aren't car guys for obvious reasons that we've already stated in previous Fiat 500 posts. But when one friend said he was thinking of trading in his manual transmission daily driver for an automatic because he hated dealing with the clutch in rush-hour traffic, I couldn't help but bring up the Fiat's light clutch. Another friend asked about cars with great fuel economy and I pointed out how our Fiat is usually in the top 4 of long-termers with the best average mpg. I don't remember the last time I've recommended one car more than others so often. But then again, I could just be partial to the Fiat's cute looks.

So yeah, if you're not a car guy and are just looking for a great city car with decent fuel economy and high smile-inducing factor then you can't go wrong with the Fiat 500. And nope, this post isn't sponsored.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,990 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Abarth to be Abargain?

January 20, 2012


Pricing was recently announced for the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Base price is $22,700 (with destination) and that looks to undercut a similarly-equipped Cooper S ($24,550 with center armrest and Bluetooth/USB/iPod connection options) by nearly two grand.

The Cooper S does have more power (181 hp versus 160 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque versus 170) and an extra gear to work with (6-speed manual versus a 5-speed manual). But it also weighs a little more (2,668 pounds versus 2,533 pounds). And as I'd mentioned in my previous 500 blog, the Fiat holds a significant pack mule advantage.

Comparing some spec chart numbers is all well and good, but I can't wait to see how they compare from a seat 'o the pants perspective.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 11,430 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Awaiting the Abarth

December 30, 2011

fiat 500 abarth.jpg

As long I remember to put it into Sport mode (noticeably sharpens the throttle response) and don't mind winding it out (actually sounds pretty good when you lean on it), our 500 is peppy enough for me. It's kinda fun to fling through corners too, it sticks and despite its tallish stance doesn't lean over much.

Apart from the somewhat too-high seating position (even when the seat is cranked down) and too-light-for-me steering, I rather enjoy blasting around in the 500 Sport. So I'm really looking forward to the Abarth with its tuned suspension and exhaust, upgraded brakes and substantial (60 percent!) power boost -- 160 horses to the non-Abarth's 101. As we noted in our L.A. Auto Show coverage of the Abarth, Fiat will unleash the beast sometime in the first half of 2012. Looking forward to that one hitting our road test schedule...

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2012 Fiat 500: I Get You

December 30, 2011

Fiat500 046.jpg

Some editors dislike our 2012 Fiat 500. I, on the other hand, really appreciate it for what it is: a great, little city car. I always grab its keyfob off the key board willingly and with a smile on my face, looking forward to its easy shifting and its park-ability, especially when I have to get to an event in car-crowded Hollywood or Downtown. Plus its cute looks never fails to garner smiles from my fellow drivers. A feat in itself.

The 500 actually makes me happy to drive around town. When I've had a car with more power like say our Evo X MR or GT-R, I'd just end up frustrated by the stop and go traffic. It's pure torture to be behind the wheel of a car with so much potential and then not be able to use it."I want to have funnn!" But, the Fiat has just enough get up and go to pass slower drivers if you want to plus why are we in such a hurry all the time anyway?

Sure, it may not be the car for those who like canyon carving, but it's great for canyon cruising.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,953 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: It Doesn't Matter

December 13, 2011


Fiat will sell you an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission on the 500; it has a manual shift mode and shorter 1st through 4th gears (plus a shorter final drive). Nevertheless, on a car with almost no low-end torque, it does no favors to performance. We tested a 500C (the cabrio, so it was 100 pounds heavier), and it was over second slower through the quarter-mile (18.7 @ 73.6 mph vs. 17.5 @ 76.6).

However, even if the automatic somehow improved acceleration on the Fiat 500, there's no way I'd get it. Shifting is my greatest source of entertainment in this little car. The driving position is awkward in here, the throttle response is bit slow, the steering is sleepy, so I'm not going to get to do anything too fast. So then, I might as well occupy the mind getting my upshifts perfectly smooth and my downshifts tidy.

If you took this one activity (shifting gears) away from me, I'd never be able to drive the Fiat 500 -- I'd have absolutely no affection for this car. Know what I mean?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,636 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: In Repose

November 22, 2011


Italians are slouchy. I am one so I speak from experience. They lean on things constantly. Rent an Italian movie -- and I don't mean The Godfather -- but something from Antonioni or Bertolucci. You'll see Italian actors draped all over the set and looking spectacular. I'm not saying Italians are lazy -- far from it. But they are relaxed. By now you're wondering where all of this is leading.

The Fiat 500 is relaxed. It's perfectly content to sit in my driveway looking adorable. It's not lazy. It has no problem keeping up on the highway. Getting it going is the problem. It's very slouchy through 1st and 2nd gears. Trying to get the Cinquecento moving is like trying to wake my 10-year-old self up for school. I kept mumbling "five more minutes" to my very patient mother.

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: I Don't Like This Car

November 16, 2011


I've driven our longterm 2012 Fiat 500 numerous times now, so now it can come out -- I don't like it. I gave it the ol' college try several times and I've reached this conclusion every time. And I've found I don't like it even before it moves an inch under its own power.

I don't fit; it's as though the seat doesn't ratchet down far enough so I bonk my head on the roof near the door. I'm not that tall (6' 1"), either.

Go ahead, try to stick the key into the ignition. What are you waiting for? Right, the dash crowds the ignition slot, so it's always a bumfight between hand, key and dash.

Succeed at starting it and you're rewarded with the shrillest, most piercing seatbelt alert in the history of personal transportation.

Scramble for the seatbelt. Find it's snagged on the lower part of the seat plastic. Always. Every time. Open the door to un-snag the belt.

All this, and the actual driving experience is pretty ho-hum. Power is fine, really, especially once you really explore the throttle's reach (don't forget to hit the Sport button... every time). It's that the controls -- steering, clutch, shifter -- are all too light and feel artificial.

Fans of small, light cars deserve better than the Fiat 500.

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Virtual Countdown to the Abarth Landing in LA

November 08, 2011

The Fiat 500 Abarth reveal at the LA Auto Show is just around the corner, folks: November 16th! Of course it would be better to get to drive this turbocharged micro-car but right now I'll content myself by gazing longingly at it on the show stand. In any case, looks like Fiat is doing a great job of generating buzz around the car. Check out the Web page it built for the Abarth.

Being a social media user, I appreciate what the carmaker is doing here. Seemingly live Tweets populate the L.A. skyline (I Tweeted but it didn't pop up even after a page refresh, hm) while there are buttons to share the page with your Tweeps and Facebook friends. And the countdown clock casts an urgency over the whole page. 8 days, 2 hours, 37 minutes and 2 seconds, people! Only thing is that I wish Fiat included the sound of the car or more footage of it moving in its video.

Is this something you'd share with your FB friends?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Why Doesn't Ours Look Like This?

October 13, 2011


Look at that stance! Why doesn't our Fiat 500 look like this yet?

For those interested, this shot is one of many that Mazda has recently posted to Facebook promoting the new B-Spec racing series which also includes the Honda Fit and another one of our Long Term cars, the Mazda 2. Unfortunately, the Mazda 2 doesn't look nearly as cool as this Fiat.

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: The Miracle of Hill-Start Assist

September 26, 2011


It turns out that the best theft-deterrent you can buy for your car these days is a manual transmission.

Only about 8 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. are equipped with a manual transmission these days compared to 22 percent in 1985. And this means that fewer and fewer people each year know how to drive a car with a manual transmission.

So it makes you wonder why anyone would choose the five-speed manual transmission over the six-speed automatic for the Fiat 500. This goes double if you live in the suburb of L.A. where I do, which has hills kind of the way San Francisco has hills.

But there’s no scent of burning clutch material after driving the Fiat 500 around my town.

You can be stopped on a hill at an angle that makes you think the car is pointed toward the heavens like a passenger jet on takeoff, and yet there’s no roll back when you start doing that three-pedal shuffle to get going when the traffic light turns green. And no roll back means no fear of punching the grille of the car behind you, no desperate clutch slip as you struggle to engage the clutch just the right amount to build forward momentum without stalling the engine.

Turns out that the Fiat 500 has hill-start assist, just like so many vehicles do these days — full-size pickup trucks as well as small subcompacts.

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2012 Fiat 500: It's a Real Car

September 12, 2011


It's easy to be around the 2012 Fiat 500 for a while and start dismissing it as a toy without really realizing it. It's not fast. It's too cute (Late last week, I encountered another woman who even looked sort of like me also driving a Rosso 500 Sport, and we got all smiley-wavey). And its interior materials are cheap -- too cheap considering Fiat is building the car in Mexico, rather than exporting it from Italy.

But then, I got in the 500 after spending almost a week in one of its rivals, and I realized I like the 500 more than I've previously admitted. It has a solid, substantial ride, considering it's a true subcompact with a short wheelbase and presumably had its chassis tuned on a tight budget. And I really do enjoy working through the gears of its five-speed manual -- the shifter is reasonably precise and offers some positive feel going into gates, and the clutchwork is easy and fun.

Also, the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine actually has some personality -- a pleasing growl as you accelerate off the line -- which is more than I can say of most of the 1.4-, 1.5- and 1.6-liter engines I've been around recently.

Yep, this Cinquecento is a real car and if I had to buy something in this price range, I'd consider it for its driving characteristics alone.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,745 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: The Automatic Gets it Right

August 25, 2011

Fiat Automatic.jpg

In our First drive of the Fiat 500 we wrote, "The Aisin six-speed offers AutoStick for manual override and was responsive enough to quell any concerns we may have had about it numbing or damping the little car's verve. Actually, with closer ratio gaps the Aisin might just be better suited to all forms of driving. Still, the light clutch and positive shifter action in the manual-equipped 500 is a pleasure to use, and it isn't too onerous even in heavy traffic." Recently, I finally got to drive a Fiat 500 equipped with the automatic, and while all that above may be true, it failed to mention one thing this transmission got absolutely, undeniably right.....

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Street Racer

August 24, 2011


Try as I might, I can’t get exercised by the Fiat 500’s seeming lack of horsepower -- 99 hp. This might be because I once spent a summer racing a 55-hp Renault Le Car.

Of course hardly anyone could tell that I was actually racing the Le Car. It looked more like a demonstration run since it didn’t make any noise except for the squealing Kleber tires. There were a number of other Le Cars out there with me, though, and every once in a while one would roll upside down just to get people’s attention, kind of like a bad puppy.

But at least I learned then that underpowered cars are actually way more fun than the opposite, since you can drive them around at full throttle without attracting any attention from the fun police.

And there’s always the opportunity for shaming some other similarly motivation-challenged appliance. Like the green Datsun B210 that bit the guardrail at the Lime Rock uphill while trying to keep up. (Same place as pictured above, strangely enough.) Or the MG Midget that puked its expensive pocketwatch-like motor while trying to stay ahead at Pocono. (Could have measured our lap times there with an egg timer, actually.)

Really the Fiat 500 is practically a Formula 1 racer compared to that old Le Car, so I think twice before whining about its engine power.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Best Stick Shift for Beginners?

August 23, 2011

fiat500 034.jpg
My friend in San Francisco asked me if I could teach her how to drive stick while I was up visiting her this coming Labor Day Weekend. She was going to borrow a car from Zipcar for this very purpose. To make things go smoothly, I figured I should come up with suggestions of the best cars to learn how to drive a manual on.

Having driven our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport, I have to say that it would be perfect to teach someone about the wonderful world of manual shifting. Its shifter is so light, its clutch is responsive and most important of all it comes with hill hold -- not that I would put the student on a hill during their first lesson.

Plus, it looks so cute that no one would be too mad if you stalled out in the middle of traffic. At least that was my experience when I was learning to drive stick in the equally cute Mini.

Unfortunately, perusing through Zipcar's inventory I realized they don't have the 500. Damn. But they DO have a Mini. Hmm. Although I do hate the sharp-edged shifter.

In any case, any other suggestions on what's a good car to learn how to drive stick on? I also think, even though Zipcar doesn't have it, the Miata. Love that short gearshifter!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,122 miles

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2012 Fiat 500: Go Ahead and Nail It!

August 22, 2011

Fiat 500 pedals.jpg

See that pedal on the right? Don't be scared. You can drive it down into the carpet.

Those of you that have ridden a sportbike know that you can rarely, if ever, pin the throttle in any gear: even in first, you're just going too fast for the street. (The test track is another matter, of course.)

Same for most road cars. Burying the throttle is usually reserved only for first gear or the track. Try wide-flat-out in most cars on the street and you will probably end up in jail. I tried it once in our Mustang GT 5.0, in first gear, and I barely touched the bottom before I had to back out.

But there are no worries about this with our long-term 2012 Fiat 500. You can bury the accelerator with impunity in first, second, and even third gear. This can be done not only on the highway, but on surface streets! And if you're merging or passing, you have to do this so you won't get left behind or squashed. It's an odd sensation, really.

And a reminder of how underpowered (101hp) this little arachide is.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 7,100 miles

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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.

Instead this is a car that just takes you places. And this is way more relevant to the way real people really live than some wacky quasi-Italian hot rod with a stinger exhaust. (Abarth’s signature is the scorpion, you know.)

And the Fiat is pretty great at taking you places. It’s small, so you can park it anywhere, even those sneaky downsize parking slots that fill shopping mall parking, which are designed to meet the letter of building code requirements for an adequate store/parking space ratio but are strictly smurf-size (the automotive equivalent of classifying ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches).

The 500’s seating H-point is high and the doors are tall and broad, so it’s easy to slide in and out when you’re dashing around on errands. The rear hatch comes up quick, there’s enough room to throw in a couple things behind the second row seat, and you don’t have to jump into the air to get hold of the upraised hatch and close it again.

Finally the visibility is great and the steering effort is light, and if these things aren’t important to you, then you’ve never cruised a crowded parking lot, whether it’s the hardware store or the grocery.

Basically the Fiat 500C has lots of utility, even though it lacks lots of driving drama. But this is exactly what you want when taking the long way home means running five errands along the way, not taking a detour to hammer through a few of your favorite corners.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 6,850 miles

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2012 Fiat 500: Word to the Wise

August 01, 2011


As you can see in this photo taken by Kurt Niebuhr, the Fiat 500's five-speed manual transmission has its Reverse gate situated way off to driver's right. There's also a pull-up ring to "unlock" the R gate. And you need a deliberate hand and, often, a teensy bit of throttle to avoid a slight grinding as you ease into reverse.

This arrangement is slightly unusual among U.S.-market econoboxes, and upon leaving the car with a valet at a local Italian restaurant on Friday night, Michael Jordan and I realized some preliminary instruction might be prudent.


... was what we heard 5 seconds after turning to our back to the car. I rushed back over, eyes wild, and ostensibly, the loud unhappy noise was the result of the valet not having pulled up the ring, maybe? Although (perhaps flustered by the sight of my waving arms), he also seemed not to be pushing in the clutch pedal and I had to remind him to do that, too. Eeek! He apologized immediately.

Still, when we picked up the car after dinner, I said, no, no, no need to bring the car around for us, we'll drive it out from here. It was a small lot, and the car was sitting 50 feet away, so no one raised a fuss.

And this incident reminded of why I usually try to self-park, street-park, whatever-park cars I really like (even if it means walking an extra 10 miles to a Vegas hotel room). Any other valet avoiders out there? Surely, you must be aching to share stories of incredible efforts you've made to keep your car out of the valet lock-up.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,318 miles

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2012 Fiat 500: Welcome to Glendora Ridge

July 26, 2011


For a couple of reasons, I found myself on Glendora Mountain Road (you know, the famous driving road) and subsequently Glendora Ridge Road on Saturday afternoon... in our long-term 2012 Fiat 500. Part of it was that I wanted to get a sense of the car's handling, part of it was that I'm not right in the head, and part of it was that I was meeting some friends up here and just happened to be driving the the Fiat for the weekend.

In the little car's favor are very good steering feel and surprisingly somewhat sticky 16-inch Continental tires.

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2012 Fiat 500: Turning Circle

June 27, 2011

fiat 500 wheel.jpg

Aw, look at that petite wheel. If the Fiat 500 were a dude, he'd wear a size 5 shoe. Anyway, as its dimensions suggest, the 500 gets you there with a tiny turning circle. Which, of course, makes it super-maneuverable.

Fiat 500: 30.6 ft.
Mini Cooper: 35.1 ft.
Ford Fiesta: 34.4 ft.
Mazda 2: 32.2 ft.
Honda Fit: 34.4 ft.

I think we have a winner.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: And So It Begins

June 27, 2011


While blundering around in the fog just after dawn at Cars and Coffee on Saturday, we had our first sighting of a Fiat 500 hot rod. Apparently HotFiat.com just went into business about 15 minutes ago (in May, actually), and if the Web site is any guide, we'll soon be seeing more Fiat hot rods on the road.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Made for Paris

June 20, 2011

Just got back from a European vacation that involved getting driven around Paris. So glad I didn't have to drive myself considering how ballsy those Parisian motorists are. They really know the dimensions of their car and scooters, and if there's some contact it's not a big deal. Would never see such daring road skills in LA, where cars are status symbols and scuffed-up fenders are frowned upon. In any case, also saw quite a lot of 2012 Fiat 500s zipping around.

Considering the mad, fast-paced driving and tight spots, the Fiat 500 seemed like the perfect car for the City of Lights. Its go-kart abilities could keep up with the most impatient driver. Its size helped it tuck in nicely when stuck in the middle of a traffic circle as cars coming the other way try to scrape by. I thought the 500 was a great city car for LA but it seemed made for Paris.

Of course since there were nine of us in our group and all our luggage we rented a Citroen C4 and Mazda CX-7 to get around. Would have loved to taken a spin around Paris in the 500 though. With a local behind the wheel, naturally.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Fiat 500: Different Kind of Fun

June 13, 2011

fiat_500_pizza.JPG You know, I do like our Fiat 500. It's actually kind of fun to drive. But it's a different kind of fun than what you normally associate with cars, as it doesn't do burnouts or .98g on the skidpad or chill beverages in its center console.

For me, I just find the aspect of driving something that's not excessive appealing. Last night I picked up dinner in the 500 and it just felt right -- nimble on city streets, easy to park and just the right amount of luggage space for the food in back. I didn't need anything more than that. It's sort of like what Chris said back in February about our Mazda 2 being sufficient.

But there's more to it than just being small. The 500 isn't an Aveo. There's personality to it thanks to the cute exterior styling (sorry, but that really is the best way to describe it) and cheerful interior. Shifting through gears with the windows down and the summer air blowing in, I really could picture myself driving through Florence instead of American suburbia.

Of course, if I'm picturing that, I might as well picture myself way better looking, fluent in five languages and driving in Florence to pick my super hot girlfriend who looks like Monica Bellucci. But still, the 500 is cool in its own way.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 3,650 miles

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Hill Holder Is Useful

June 07, 2011

fiat_500_hillholder.JPG With a few exceptions, greater Los Angeles is about as flat as Keanu Reeves' acting. So having a hill holder feature on a car here doesn't come into play very often. (A hill holder keeps your manual-transmission car from rolling backwards as you start up an incline.) Even so, I noticed our Fiat 500 has this feature as I was inching up this metered freeway on-ramp.

Of course, you can use the parking brake to prevent roll-back. But for a car that's meant for city use (or perhaps more likely to be owned by younger/less experienced drivers), it's a thoughtful thing to include.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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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

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2012 Fiat 500 Sport: An Enjoyable Diversion, But...

June 02, 2011


I can't decide how I feel about our long-term 2012 Fiat 500. I haven't warmed to it like Kelly has, yet I'm intermittently drawn to it. Partly, it's the size of the car, because I end up choosing it on nights when I know parking's going to be a problem (not shown above).

But equally, it's the car's personality. The 1.4-liter engine doesn't give you much torque to work with, so you end up beating on it a bit just to get around in city traffic and on the freeway. Fortunately, both the revvy little engine and the chassis are up for that. Abrupt inputs don't upset the chassis, and the electric steering is pretty decent -- pretty quick ratio with better feel than I expected.

Yet, the Fiat feels a bit more like an appliance than I'd like. For me, it's a noticeable step down from a Mini Cooper.

Although the ride is reasonable, as Chris has shown, it's not as composed as the Cooper -- and there's not much anyone at Fiat could do about that given the 500's shorter wheelbase and narrower track. I also prefer the Mini's firmer overall suspension tune (less body roll, more aggressive damping) when going through corners. Plus, I really like the Mini's direct-injected 1.6-liter engine. And the driving position is far better for me in the Cooper because there's telescoping steering wheel adjustment.

Of course, a base Mini Cooper equipped the way I want it (Sport package, Sport suspension, Convenience package) would cost almost exactly $3,000 more than our long-term Fiat 500 ($19,200). That's not an insignificant difference, but for me it would be worth it.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,173 miles

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2012 Fiat 500: Nice, Little Car About Town

May 09, 2011

fiat500 001.jpg
Sitting at the car wash this morning, I heard these two guys going on and on about how shiny their boots were. One guy was at the moment getting his boot shined. I started to tune them out when I then heard one of them say, "Look! It's the new Fiat!" I looked up in time to see our shiny, red 2012 Fiat 500 Sport emerging from the car wash. The guy then giggled as it was driven around the corner to get hand-dried. "Niiice!"

And I have to say, it does look niiice. Driving it around LA this weekend, I kept catching people smiling at it -- while sitting at a stop light, while passing them on the freeway, while parked at the side of the street. The same sort of reactions our old Smart Fortwo garnered. But thankfully, unlike that microcar, this one is actually a blast to drive. Having stick and a sport mode helped immensely. It's so go-karty and you get the get-up-and-go when you need it.

I loved the Fiat for getting around the city. Parking was no problem, negotiating traffic was a cinch (easy clutch), it wasn't as scary to drive on the freeway as the Smart was and, as I said, it's a blast to drive. It's perfect for the likes of me: a single girl with a dog (she'd fit nicely in the backseat).

Only issues would be that the gearshifter, especially with the chrome, feels chintzy and I didn't like how 3rd gear could easily be mistaken for 1st. I wasn't the only editor who made this mistake. Otherwise, fun, little city car.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 2,353 miles

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2012 Fiat 500: Obligatory Parking Post #1

May 05, 2011


Here's the first of what's sure to be at least two dozen "aw, wook how wittle it is" posts about our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport. Last night, I had to be somewhere right after work, and I knew the parking lot would be tight and crowded and that I would be running late. So I picked our Fiat 500 to drive.

We tootled along in traffic for 30 minutes, and the 500 proved to be a ho-hum companion for that activity. Acceleration is noticeably less energetic than our long-term Mazda 2 (which was nearly a second quicker to 60 mph in track testing, although we've only tested a short-term silver Cinquecento at this point), and there's always a muscle-memory recalibration period for the Fiat's clutch, which engages too high in the pedal travel for my taste.

But whatever, I arrived at my destination a minute or two late, and this was the last space remaining. No problem.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests