The 2012 Fiat 500 is no stranger to the enthusiast. We've been waiting for it for years. But now that it's finally here, is it worth the wait? Mostly, yes. It's a stylish, fun-to-drive, efficient and modern little car--but it leaves a little to be desired as yet. Accordingly, MotorAuthority rates it 6 out of 10.
Don't get us wrong. The 2012 Fiat 500 has a lot going for it, particularly as a much more attractive, entertaining, and, in many ways, refined, alternative to the current American and Asian minicar competition. Where it comes up short is where it matters most to the enthusiast, and that's why we downgrade it a bit.
Performance, first and foremost, is a very mixed bag. In one hand, it's a light, surprisingly nimble, and well-balanced chassis. On the other, the steering is beyond dreadful in its lack of feel. We'd even go so far as to say it is the least-connected car we've driven this year, particularly once you push the pace past six or seven tenths. Approach a full ten-tenths run and you probably won't again. It's not rewarding, it's hard to predict, and it just isn't enjoyable at the limit. The brakes are really quite good, though.
Around town, in easier driving, it's a different story. The Fiat 500 has enough pep to be fun, flowing easily with traffic for the most part, and even handling interstate romps pretty well. It's handy, can be parked almost anywhere, and it's really, very cute. It will get noticed.
You'll notice its efficient little 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder at the pump, too. Rated at 40 mpg, it's not very thirsty even for the modern crop of minicars, and with the economy as uncertain as ever and everyday gas prices over $3 per gallon, that's something you can bank on.
Inside, it's mostly good news, though that rear seat is little more than lip service for the average American. Set your packages back there and resolve yourself to owning a two-seater. The front seats aren't much better, with those of us over six feet likely to feel the tall roof looming near above our heads, thanks to the high seats. The hatch area is likewise very small. But hey, this is a subcompact. Spaces are going to be tight. The materials, on the other hand, are mostly good, and the colorful, clever cabin design is refreshing in a way that doesn't feel like it'll be dated by next spring.