2012 FIAT 500 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Adorable styling
  • Sport and Abarth models' capable handling
  • excellent fuel economy with manual transmission
  • surprisingly spacious for two people.
  • Cramped front headroom with sunroof
  • lackluster acceleration
  • disappointing fuel economy with automatic
  • convertible's poor top-down visibility
  • wait-and-see reliability.
Other years
List Price Range
$3,981 - $5,995

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Edmunds' Expert Review

We'll have to wait and see about its reliability, but the 2012 Fiat 500 is yet another stylish subcompact that proves that small can be cool.

Vehicle overview

There was once a car so small it made the Mini seem like a Big. That car was the Fiat 500, or Cinquecento en Italiano, and it left such an indelible impression during its 18-year lifespan that Fiat performed a Mini-like resurrection to it three years ago. Now, with Fiat purchasing Chrysler last year, the 500 was chosen to be the model that reintroduces the Fiat brand to North America.

While the original 500 was the size of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, the 2012 Fiat 500 looks far more like a regular car -- albeit a tiny one. Compared to a 2012 Mini Cooper, it is 7 inches shorter in overall length and 2 inches narrower. However, it is also more than 4 inches taller, allowing for an elevated seating position that not only increases visibility but creates more interior legroom.

Should you want some sun, the 500C convertible (a.k.a. Cabrio) may be to your liking. It maintains the 500's side roof structure, but the center portion is replaced by a power-sliding cloth piece that stacks atop the flip-up trunk. Imagine a cross between a Porsche 911 Targa and an automatic pool cover. The upside is reduced wind and the ability to lower the roof at speeds up to 60 mph -- the downside is horrible rear visibility with the roof lowered.

At the start of this model year there was just one engine offered: a 1.4-liter 101-horsepower four-cylinder attached to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. No, that doesn't sound like a lot of power (and it isn't), but at only 2,350 pounds, the Fiat weighs 218 pounds less than the 121-hp base Cooper, which manages to be reasonably sprightly. Those looking for more mechanical joy in their little Italian should consider the hot-rod 500 Abarth, which debuted later in the model year. Wielding a 160-hp turbocharged engine, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and sport seats, the 500 Abarth has the goods to give the Cooper S competition a good run.

Like the Mini Cooper, the 2012 Fiat 500 promises lots of character and personalization in a price category not usually known for those traits. It's also competitively equipped, with a base 500 listing for about four grand less than a base Mini Cooper hatchback, and more practical than choices like the 2012 Scion iQ and 2012 Smart Fortwo. While you might want to check out more traditional choices like the 2012 Ford Fiesta, 2012 Honda Fit, 2012 Hyundai Accent and 2012 Mazda 2 as they offer more room for similar money, the Fiat 500 is a solid pick for a (very) small car with lots of personality.

2012 FIAT 500 models

The 2012 Fiat 500 is a two-door subcompact hatchback available as a hardtop or 500C convertible. Both body styles are available in Pop and Lounge trim levels, while the hatchback adds a Sport midgrade trim.

Standard equipment on the 500 Pop includes 15-inch steel wheels and chrome-trimmed wheel covers, keyless entry, full power accessories, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The Convenience package (standard on the 500C) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Fiat's Blue&Me Bluetooth phone connectivity and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Bose Premium Audio package adds satellite radio along with an upgraded six-speaker system and subwoofer.

The Fiat 500 Sport gains 16-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, retuned steering, slightly different styling, a roof spoiler, foglamps, sport seats, cloth/vinyl sport upholstery and the Pop's two optional packages. Satellite radio is a separate option, however. The Safety & Convenience package (automatic transmission required) includes automatic climate control, a compact spare tire and heated front seats.

The 500 Lounge reverts to the Pop's mechanical tuning and includes its optional packages as well. Also included are 15-inch alloy wheels, exterior chrome accents, foglamps, a fixed glass roof (hatchback only) and upgraded cloth upholstery. The Convenience Group adds rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated front seats. The Luxury package adds leather upholstery and upgraded trim. A sunroof and an integrated TomTom navigation system are optional on both the Sport and the Lounge. Dealer-installed accessories like interior ambient lighting and exterior graphics are also available.

The 500 Abarth is for the most part equipped similarly to the Sport but ups performance with a turbocharged engine, an electronic limited-slip differential, adjustable stability control, firmer suspension calibration, quicker steering and a tuned exhaust. The Abarth also has the expected exterior and interior tweaks, including unique front and rear fascias, Abarth graphics/emblems, aggressively bolstered sport seats, a sport steering wheel and red accent stitching throughout the cockpit. Options essentially mirror those of the Sport, as leather seating and a navigation system are among the Abarth's available features.

2012 Highlights

The all-new 2012 Fiat 500 ushers in the return of the Fiat brand to North America.

Performance & mpg

Apart from the Abarth, all Fiat 500s are powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 101 hp and 98 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Pop and the Sport. A six-speed automatic is standard on the Lounge and optional on the other trims.

In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped Fiat 500 Sport went from zero to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds with the manual transmission -- about 1.5 seconds slower than a base Mini. An automatic-equipped 500C hit 60 mph in a rather slow 12.4 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at an excellent 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined with the manual transmission. This drops to 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway with the automatic, which is still thrifty, but worse than almost every competitor.

The 500 Abarth is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four that makes 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is the sole transmission offered. In Edmunds testing, the Abarth sprinted to 60 mph in a quick 7.1 seconds.

Safety

The 2012 Fiat 500 comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a 500 Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressively short 115 feet. Oddly enough, the 500 Abarth took longer at 123 feet (though in fairness that was on a slightly damp test day) while a 500C Lounge stopped in a still solid 124 feet.

In government crash tests, the 500 received three (out of five) stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal protection and a disappointing two stars for overall side protection. However, it should be noted that side protection for the driver was five stars -- it was the rear side rating of two stars that dragged down the overall score.

Driving

It may be one of the slowest cars on sale, but the non-Abarth Fiat 500 is willing and eager to pull its weight (especially with the easy-to-drive manual transmission), and exhibits more pleasing noises than other underpowered subcompacts. The steering is rather devoid of feel and numb on center, but press the Sport button on the dash and the 500's steering firms up pleasingly. This is especially true for the 500 Sport, which we think is the model to get given its more responsive handling and ride quality that still betters a Mini Cooper's.

A burbling, snarling exhaust note and a slick gearbox add to the fun of blasting around in the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Its turbocharged engine's robust power band translates into plenty of usable oomph in the real world. Although a 6th gear would be nice, powering past freeway dawdlers is a breeze -- step into it and the Abarth scoots past. Driven briskly on a winding road, the Abarth takes the corners eagerly, aided by its quick steering and sticky tires. But when pushed harder, it's not as buttoned-down and composed as a Cooper, as it tends to bob around a bit during quick transitions over undulating pavement. As with the other 500 models, however, it also provides a more compliant ride than its archrival.

Interior

While the Fiat 500's retro styling screams "Mini fighter," its interior raises the decibels even further. It doesn't possess as many customization options and accessories as its British archrival, but the 500 does offer snazzy two-tone color schemes and plenty of neat little design cues. It also has a more straightforward control layout than the form-over-function Mini. However, the available "Blue & Me" voice-activated iPod control is practically unusable, leaving you to use the standard auxiliary jack.

As for interior quality, the Fiat is not quite up to the Mini's level. There are more hard surfaces, but compared to other cars in its modest price range, they are pleasingly textured and generally higher in quality.

Other than the Smart Fortwo, the Fiat 500 is the smallest car sold in the United States. Nonetheless, the high-mounted front seats allow for an impressive amount of legroom even for tall drivers. Sadly, however, those same tall drivers will find their heads grazing the headliner should they get a car with the available sunroof. Headroom is always tight in the backseat, as is legroom. Unlike most other convertibles, the 500C does not suffer diminished interior space. Rearward visibility with the top fully retracted is poor, however.

Behind the hatchback's backseat you'll find 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space, considerably more than what's offered by the Mini. Lower the backseat in the hatchback and although the load floor isn't completely flat, you'll have 30.2 cubic feet of space available, or about 25 percent more than you'll get in a Cooper hatchback.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 FIAT 500.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Open Body Seams During Manufacture
jchasp59,03/01/2012
I bought my new, 2012 Fiat 500 Pop on 12/22/2011. Three days after purchase, I noticed an interior water leak and returned the car to the dealer. The dealer found that the cause of the leaks were, "body seams that were left open, unwelded and unpainted during manufacture." Got the car back after 23 days in the shop. That day, I noticed electrical problems and that the leak wasn't repaired. Returned it to the shop More open body seams were found around the windshield. I requested a replacement. Fiat agreed. The dealership acquired my replacement on 02/10/2012, but has yet to get it to me (03/01). My Fiat Case Manager is Kathy Nelson, but I have no way to contact her. I regret my purchase.
I'm not sure if my story will have a happy ending
N.L.,11/29/2015
Pop 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M)
As I write this, my car currently has just over 52,000 miles on it and just recently came off of warranty. It's a 2012 Pop 500, which is now three years old. Last January, I got in it to go to work one morning, and could not get it into gear. This baffled me, as it was perfectly fine the day before. Turns out, I had to have it towed to the dealership and they claimed that a bearing wore out in the clutch kit and an entirely new clutch kit had to be installed. At that time, the car was two - I've NEVER heard of such a thing and was horrified! The service manager was vary vague in answering any questions. Fast forward to this Holiday weekend...my daughter and I were headed out for breakfast in honor of my Birthday, when suddenly, the 'new' clutch blows in the middle of a busy city street, leaving us stranded with people honking and waving their arms madly behind us. This time, the car was stuck in first gear, the clutch would not engage and I was in a panic. We finally managed to push it out of traffic to a safe spot to wait for the tow truck. The kicker this time is that my beloved dealership, where I bought the car and have had it faithfully serviced for three years is closing it's doors on Monday!!! This left me having my car towed 15 miles south to a huge dealership that I've never dealt with before, whose online reviews for service are nothing short of appalling. Let me recap by saying that I thought I selected my car very carefully. I have absolutely loved an adored it, even though I've replaced both headlights (they are not cheap!) and tail lights and more hubcaps than I can count by now. I can live with those petty annoyances, but what really concerns me is that I have 16 months left to pay on this car, and the THIRD clutch is being installed this week. For the record, I baby my car, and most certainly do not beat up on my clutch. In fact, I'm hoping how someone can explain how a bearing gets sheared off, resulting in a brand new kit being installed, then the clutch plate gives way in the brand new kit, 10 months later. Looks like I'll be trading in my car as soon as it's paid off! I lack the words to express how incredibly disappointed I am. The WHOLE reason I bought a brand new car was so that I did not have to deal with maintenance problems like this. VERY, VERY POORLY DONE, FIAT!
Too many repairs - clutch failure not warrantied
pandacar,04/09/2015
Sport 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M)
I want to love this car, but one of the main reasons I bought it was for its affordability and I haven't even had it 2 years and I'm already paying 10% of the original cost in repairs! I bought it one year used with 11,000 miles on it. It's now 28,000 at miles and it's had problems with everything from cosmetic issues like peeling paint, to an air bag sensor failure, to a very serious no-warning clutch failure (which was not covered under warranty after 15,000 miles). The clutch replacement at a FIAT dealer has taken 10 days so far and is costing a small fortune. It's a fun car but just not holding up! I always drove a Subaru or Toyota before and I think it may be time to go back.
Clutch broke at 53,000km
Dragos Paraschivescu,12/14/2015
Sport 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M)
Clutch broke at 53,000km, 4 months after the end of 3 year warranty. Cost of repair was CAD 1,800. Called Fiat Canada customer support, they did not want to reimburse.

Features & Specs

MPG
30 city / 38 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Gas
101 hp @ 6500 rpm
MPG
30 city / 38 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Gas
101 hp @ 6500 rpm
MPG
28 city / 34 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Gas
160 hp @ 5500 rpm
MPG
27 city / 34 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Gas
101 hp @ 6500 rpm
See all Used 2012 FIAT 500 features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall2 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall3 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger2 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat2 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover14.5%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 FIAT 500
More About This Model

"What the (heck) is that?" the driver of a Prius clearly mouths as his head pivots to follow our 2012 Fiat 500 Sport painted in a sharp metallic "Argento." He looks absolutely befuddled, obviously unable to identify the odd little car that's just puttered by in the Carl's Jr. parking lot.

It's easy to understand his confusion. Brand-new cars come out all the time, but a new car brand is something that happens only once in an azzurra moon. Of course, Fiat is not a new brand, but given that it hasn't sold cars in the U.S. since 1983, it might as well be.

As a four-seat subcompact car inspired by the styling of a 1960s automotive icon of the same name, the 500 (Cinquecento) has been a wildly successful car in Europe. If that sounds like Mini version 2.0, you'd be right, though the tiny 500 is actually smaller than its British rival. If the 500 can spark even a portion of the popular vigor that Mini has enjoyed for nearly a decade, both Fiat and the select Chrysler dealers that will sell the 500 will be positively overjoyed.

Potential buyers of the 2012 Fiat 500 shall also be pleased to know that this little car is more than just an adorable face. It's fun to drive, feels far bigger from behind the wheel than it actually is, and has a much cheaper price than a Mini Cooper.

Unfortunately, the 500 is still an Italian car built by Chrysler in the same Mexico factory that built the K-Car, Neon and PT Cruiser. That doesn't sound like a recipe for bulletproof reliability and no matter how solidly built our 500 Sport test car felt, such dubious origin will hang like a black cloud over its large glass sunroof until reports from early adopters trickle in.

Therefore, you'll have to be a bit brave to be one of those early adopters. You'll also have to be prepared to answer the question, "What the (heck) is that?"

Used 2012 FIAT 500 Overview

The Used 2012 FIAT 500 is offered in the following submodels: 500 Hatchback, 500 Abarth, 500 Convertible. Available styles include Pop 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M), Sport 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M), C Lounge 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl 5M), Abarth 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 5M), C Pop 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl 5M), and Lounge 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 FIAT 500?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 FIAT 500 trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 FIAT 500 Sport is priced between $4,911 and$5,995 with odometer readings between 56468 and110717 miles.
  • The Used 2012 FIAT 500 C Pop is priced between $4,995 and$6,499 with odometer readings between 67620 and67620 miles.
  • The Used 2012 FIAT 500 Pop is priced between $3,981 and$5,000 with odometer readings between 125863 and150314 miles.
  • The Used 2012 FIAT 500 C Lounge is priced between $7,988 and$7,988 with odometer readings between 41030 and41030 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 FIAT 500s are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 FIAT 500 for sale near. There are currently 10 used and CPO 2012 500s listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $3,981 and mileage as low as 41030 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 FIAT 500.

Can't find a used 2012 FIAT 500s you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used FIAT 500 for sale - 3 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $15,356.

Find a used FIAT for sale - 11 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $8,645.

Find a used certified pre-owned FIAT 500 for sale - 7 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $23,243.

Find a used certified pre-owned FIAT for sale - 10 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $21,745.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 FIAT 500?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out FIAT lease specials
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