Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Distinctive styling
- very good fuel economy with manual transmission
- surprisingly spacious for two people.
- Cramped front headroom with sunroof
- lackluster acceleration from base engine
- disappointing fuel economy with automatic
- convertible's poor top-down visibility.
The 2015 Fiat 500 isn't the most practical or logical choice for an economy car. But what do you expect from something Italian? If you're shopping for a personable small car, the 500 is worth a look.
The selection of fuel-sipping models has become quite diverse. Even with the expanding choices, however, few economy cars step out with as much flair as the 2015 Fiat 500. You don't have to be old enough to remember the 500's inspiration and spiritual predecessor, the Cinquecento ("500" in Italian), to appreciate its perky, fun-loving styling. Of course, you're also getting good fuel economy and easy-to-maneuver dimensions. What you might not expect is that within its pint-size body there's actually enough room for two adults to be quite comfortable.
Fiat also gives you a fair amount of variety with the 500. With hatchback and convertible body styles, five trim levels and three distinct engine choices, the 500 runs the gamut from efficiency-first commuter with an excellent 34 mpg in combined driving to the sporty Abarth version, which has a turbocharged engine, firmer suspension tuning and one of the best-sounding exhaust notes this side of a Ferrari.
Cheerful as the 500 is, it's not without compromises. Taller occupants will have to deal with limited headroom if they opt for the sunroof. The 500 convertible's cargo capacity is miniscule, and its top, when retracted, greatly restricts rear sight lines. The 500's quirky instrument panel has been improved for 2015 with a larger digital display and the center console has a better design, but the interior still is outfitted with mostly low-quality materials and almost laughably tight rear seats.
Nor is the Fiat 500 the only small car with a sense of style. The 2015 Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle are direct competitors with generations of heritage and reputations for individuality. A base Mini is more fun to drive than a standard 500, and there are several interesting Mini body styles from which to choose. The Beetle's cabin is much more solidly finished than the 500 and has a lot more room, front and rear. If you'd like a dash of fun-driving character but place more value on practicality, the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit would all be better choices. Flawed as it is, though, the 2015 Fiat 500 still manages to cram a lot of style and fun into a small package.
2015 FIAT 500 models
The 2015 Fiat 500 is available either as a hatchback or convertible. The hatchback is offered in seven trim levels: Pop, Ribelle, Sport, Lounge, 1957 Edition, Turbo and Abarth. The convertible version, called the 500C, comes in Pop, Lounge and Abarth trims.
Standard features for the base Pop trim include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 50/50-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio input and iPod integration.
The Ribelle is essentially a version of the Pop with some retro styling features, including uniquely painted wheels; red paint for the roof, spoiler and mirror caps; gloss-black headlight housing; unique exterior paint colors; and specialized interior accents.
The Sport trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, sporty exterior styling touches, a sport-tuned suspension, front sport seats, a front passenger seat armrest, a special sport steering wheel and an upgraded Alpine audio system. The Turbo trim adds a more powerful engine, bigger brakes, a roof spoiler, perforated cloth seats and a leather-wrapped shift knob, but does without the Sport's audio upgrade.
The Lounge trim forgoes the sporty equipment in favor of more luxurious appointments such as 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, a fixed glass roof, automatic climate control, premium cloth upholstery and satellite radio.
Much as the Ribelle is to the Pop, the 1957 Edition trim level mirrors the Lounge trim level with some retro styling added in. It gets specialized wheels, unique paint colors, a white roof and mirror caps, retro emblems and unique interior trim.
Equipment for the base-engine 500C convertible mirrors that of the hardtop Pop and Lounge trims, but the convertible also gets a three-position power cloth top and rear parking sensors.
The Sport and Turbo trims are eligible for the Comfort and Convenience package, which adds automatic climate control, satellite radio and heated front seats. A Luxury Leather package is available for Lounge models only and includes rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Fiat's signature Beats Premium Audio package can be added to the 500 Sport, Lounge, 1957 Edition, Turbo and Abarth; the package brings premium speakers with a trunk-mounted subwoofer and satellite radio. Some of the upper trims' features are available on the lower trims as options. Other options include a sunroof, various interior and exterior trim upgrades, an integrated TomTom navigation system and a wind deflector for convertibles.
At the top of the 500 food chain is the performance-focused Abarth. It is outfitted similar to the Turbo trim, but distinguishes itself with more power, unique wheels, distinctive exterior and interior styling tweaks and sportier suspension tuning. Seventeen-inch wheels with summer performance tires are available as an option.
Performance & mpg
Three engines are available on the 2015 Fiat 500. The Pop, Ribelle, Sport, Lounge and 1957 models receive a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 101 horsepower and 97 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available as an option.
In Edmunds performance testing, a Fiat 500 Sport with a manual transmission went from zero to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds -- about a second slower than the typical economy car. An automatic-equipped 500C was even slower in our testing, needing 12.4 seconds to get to 60 mph. The EPA estimates fuel economy at an excellent 34 mpg combined (31 city/40 highway) for the manual. The automatic transmission cuts efficiency to 30 mpg combined (27/34).
The Fiat 500 Turbo adds a turbocharged version of the standard 500's 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that increases power output to 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. At Edmunds' test track, a manual-transmission Turbo posted a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds, which is notably quicker than the base engine. Fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg combined (28 city/34 highway) for the manual and 27 mpg combined (24/32) with the new-for-2015 automatic transmission.
The Abarth model's upgraded turbocharged engine increases power to 160 hp and torque to 170 lb-ft with the manual transmission. With the newly available six-speed automatic, those output figures change slightly to 157 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, the Abarth coupe with the manual transmission sprinted to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while a convertible with the automatic did it in 7.5 seconds. Those are respectable times for this segment, but a Mini Cooper S is still about a second quicker. Fuel economy estimates are identical to those for the 500 Turbo.
Standard safety features for all 2015 Fiat 500 models include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 500 Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressively short 115 feet, while a 500C Lounge stopped in a still solid 124 feet. The Turbo was also in that range with a 125-foot distance. A Fiat 500 Abarth stopped in 123 feet, which is a longer braking distance than expected for a small car with summer tires.
In government crash tests, the Fiat 500 received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 500 the top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, however, the Fiat earned the lowest score of "Poor." The 500's seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
With just 101 hp, the standard 500's actual acceleration is undeniably on the slow side. But if it's equipped with the manual transmission, the car involves you so much in the effort that it doesn't feel all that tepid. The 500C's 12-second-plus 0-60 time, however, can't be called much else. The manual transmission shifter is pleasant to operate and the clutch action is light and linear, so shifting gears isn't a chore.
Pressing the Sport button on the dash sharpens the steering and throttle response for any model, but the firmer suspension tuning of the 500 Sport, Turbo and Abarth makes those the models to consider if you really want the most of the 500's sporty potential. Don't worry about the ride quality either, as the ride is still pretty comfortable whether driving over rutted city streets or cruising on the highway.
Speaking of the Abarth, its upgraded turbocharged engine puts a serious push in the 500's acceleration, allowing you to easily merge with fast-moving highway traffic or exploit gaps in suburban congestion. We again prefer the manual transmission, as the automatic can make the engine seem sluggish when accelerating from a stop.
The Abarth's handling is also a mixed bag. Most folks will likely find it a hoot while buzzing around town or hitting their favorite back roads thanks to its lively, agile nature. Hard-driving enthusiasts, however, will be disappointed with the somewhat top-heavy feel, which is emphasized with noticeable body roll when the Abarth is really pushed. The steering is accurate but lacks feedback, while the car's large 37.6-foot turning circle is more like that of an SUV. That means some tight parking maneuvers and three-point turns aren't as easy as you'd expect.
Fiat initially favored a blend of retro and high-tech in form and function for the 500, and while aesthetics often is a matter of individual taste, we found simple functionality lacking. But the small, dim gauge cluster has been replaced (for all but the base Pop trim, anyway) by a bright digital display with large fonts and more easily deciphered menu logic. The center console is redesigned with better cupholders and an easily accessed second USB port.
The knobless radio remains a frustration, and we still find other aspects of this high-style interior less than ideal, including the controls for the standard (non-automatic) climate system. And despite the upbeat appearance and colors throughout, the quality of most materials is noticeably below the standard we've come to expect even for thrifty subcompact cars.
There's ample room in the front seats for taller occupants, thanks somewhat to the noticeably upright design of the seats. Be advised that the optional sunroof drastically cuts into the headroom, though. The convertible's folding canvas top stacks accordionlike on the rear deck when retracted, all but blocking your view directly behind. The rear seats for any 500 are pretty much what you'd expect: torture for those older than preschool age.
With the rear seatbacks up, the hatchback presents a reasonable 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space; drop the seatbacks and you open up a total of 30.2 cubic feet. That's not bad, but the newest Mini Cooper hatchback gives you more (38 cubes), and four-door hatchbacks like the Sonic and Fit are even roomier. Cargo capacity for the 500C isn't nearly as generous, as there are just 5.4 cubic feet available behind the rear seats and 23.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating4 out of 5 stars
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger3 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover14.7%
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio may have the market cornered when it comes to Italian charm, but its promises of performance, comfort and convenience go unfulfilled. Among sporty compacts, it brings up the rear, both figuratively and literally.
What Is It?
The Abarth represents the hot rod variant in the Fiat 500 lineup. Our test vehicle in Cabrio body style sports a cloth roof that retracts for a quasi-convertible experience, as well as a six-speed automatic transmission, which is new for 2015.
The base Fiat 500 hatchback starts at a very reasonable $17,495, but its 101-horsepower four-cylinder engine is utterly unfulfilling. For an additional $2,955, the 500 Turbo increases output to 135 hp. The Abarth tops the lineup with 160 hp and a starting price of $23,245, though with the automatic transmission, power is reduced slightly to 157 hp.
Opting for the Cabrio adds $4,000 to the Abarth's base price, while the automatic transmission increases the cost by another $1,350. Further embellishing our tester with premium audio, navigation, upgraded wheels, exterior graphics and the Comfort/Convenience package (automatic climate control, heated seats and satellite radio) brings the as-tested price to $31,795.
How Does It Drive?
If there's one thing that stands out with the Fiat 500 Abarth, it's the noise. For the most part, we enjoy sporty cars that deliver a certain amount of theatre in the form of engine and exhaust notes, as long as there's a corresponding payoff in terms of performance. The Abarth, however, lacks sufficient performance to justify the noise.
Attempts to launch the Abarth quickly are futile. Power doesn't arrive until the turbo builds boost at about 3,000 rpm. Combined with the lethargic transmission, there's considerable delay between input and response. Upshifts and rev-matched downshifts from the six-speed automatic are reasonably quick, but not particularly smooth. Our tester reached 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is 0.4 second slower than the last manual-transmission-equipped 500 Coupe we tested. The Fiat is about 1.0 second slower to that milestone than its principal rival, the Mini Cooper S.
Braking from 60 mph required 125 feet, which is about what we'd expect since our Abarth was delivered with all-season low-rolling-resistance tires. In these full panic stops, however, a noticeable and confidence-sapping side-to-side wiggle was noted. In less aggressive braking, this issue never materialized.
Despite the Fiat's small footprint, its 37.6-foot turning circle is larger than some SUVs, which negates one of the primary benefits of driving a small car. On the highway, our test vehicle was heavily influenced by seams and rain grooves, causing it to constantly wander within its lane.
Is It Fun To Drive?
One of the Fiat 500 Abarth's strengths is its lively performance relative to its supporting models, and the benefits are indeed noticeable. Compared to its rivals, however, the Abarth misses the mark. When unleashed on a twisting road, the tiny Fiat feels top-heavy, with far more body roll than we'd expect. Steering is accurate, but there's minimal feedback.
Keeping the Abarth's engine speed in the narrow window between the end of turbo lag and the rev limiter is difficult. With Sport mode engaged, there is a bit more responsiveness from the engine, as well as some entertaining backfires and crackles from the exhaust between gears. Unfortunately, this bark is fiercer than the Abarth's bite.
Is It Comfortable?
It's surprising how ill-suited the Fiat 500 Abarth is for an average-size male adult. The lack of rearward travel from the telescoping steering wheel will force these drivers uncomfortably close to the dash, which also forces them into a more upright and taller seating position. There's unfortunately no fix for the contour along the top of the seatback that presses into the driver's shoulder blades, or the unpadded armrests that create hard pressure points on the elbows.
The rear seats are acceptable only for small children, and accessing them requires a tight squeeze between the front seats and the door frame. To the Abarth's credit, its ride quality isn't as harsh as some other sporty subcompacts, but its handling isn't as confident either.
How Is the Interior?
In keeping with its primary competitors, the Fiat 500 Abarth's interior comes with a healthy serving of retro-chic style. Its simple layout with a bold body-colored dash fascia, few buttons and large singular gauges pay homage to the original Fiat Cinquecento. The flair of red stitching and a prominent Abarth logo on the sporty steering wheel further the Italian personality.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these surfaces are made up of lower-quality plastics than are found in many competitors. The simplicity of the audio controls benefits the 500's nostalgic styling but offers limited functionality. Basic media controls, like searching for a song, are so complicated that even tech-savvy users may struggle.
The optional navigation system is no better. Rather than utilize a typical built-in touchscreen, the Fiat 500 instead opts for a removable TomTom system that pops into a receptacle on top of the dashboard. In terms of basic navigation it does the job, but any current smartphone app is superior when it comes to function and usability.
The 500 Cabrio also isn't a convertible in the most pure sense. The fabric top only covers the center roof section, so when it's retracted the roof rails and pillars remain above the occupants. Several preset stops make fully retracting the roof a time-consuming affair. And once retracted, it nearly completely obscures rear visibility. The top also blocks the trunk, but at least the trunk release button triggers the top to raise just enough to regain access.
The trunk itself is a dinky 5.4-cubic-foot space hampered by sloping sides and a narrow slotlike opening. The rear seats fold but don't yield a flat cargo floor, and releasing them requires you to crawl into the backseat. A small glovebox, cupholders and door pockets provide only minimal interior storage.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Does It Get?
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway). During 470 miles of mixed driving the Abarth produced only 21.1 mpg, with a best tank of 28.9 mpg in a stretch that was mostly highways.
What Safety Features Are Available?
The 2015 Fiat 500 offers few safety features beyond those found in all modern vehicles. A driver's knee airbag and hill-start assist are standard. On higher-trimmed models like our Abarth, rear parking sensors are also included, but a rearview camera is not offered.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Ford Fiesta ST: While the Fiesta is a hatchback, not a convertible, it can be argued that the Fiat 500 Cabrio isn't really a convertible either. The Fiesta ST delivers an incredible amount of performance for the money. It represents one of the greatest bang-for-the-buck propositions, even if it does lack the retro charm of the rest of this group.
Mini Cooper S Convertible: Comparably equipped, this Mini will cost about $1,200 more than our Abarth test vehicle, but the Mini's advantages in performance, quality, comfort and convenience are easily worth the difference. If you're looking for retro styling and playful driving dynamics, the Mini is still the best you can get.
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line: With similar feature content, a VW Beetle runs about $3,000 more than the Fiat. The Beetle delivers far more refinement and performance than the Abarth, but it's also quite a bit bigger.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
If the charm of Fiat 500's retro Italian design is irresistible, there is simply no other alternative. The Abarth Cabrio version adds power, performance and open-top motoring, all of which enhance the uniquely Italian experience.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Among personality-rich retro-styled hatchbacks and convertibles, the Fiat 500 Abarth falls short of its competition in nearly every category. There are plenty of rivals that offer better value, quality and performance.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible Overview
The Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible is offered in the following styles: C Pop 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl 5M), C Lounge 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl 5M), C Abarth 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 5M), and C 1957 Edition 2dr Convertible (1.4L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned FIAT 500 Convertible models are available with a 1.4 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 160 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual. The Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible?
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Used 2015 FIAT 500 Convertible Listings and Inventory
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Should I lease or buy a 2015 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.