I was prepared not to like the little Fiat 500C that was delivered to me for a week of test driving, but the more I drove it, the more I liked it.
Fiat has partnered with Chrysler to return to the United States after almost three decades — the first South Florida dealer is Rick Case in Broward County — and they are launching the effort with a nifty little product that many are going to hate, and just as many are going to love.
Certainly, the Fiat 500 is a cute little car and it does have an appeal to women. Just about everywhere I went, women approached and asked about the car. So, if you’re looking for a “chick magnet,” this might be the ticket.
The 500 is a small car — it’s about as big as a Smart Car or a MINI — and Fiat has done a good job of updating the original version, keeping the bubble appearance and rounded fenders, and a front end that is mostly headlights and the Fiat logo.
As for performance, there is a lot to be desired. The 1.4-liter, 101 hp four-cylinder engine simply does not have the power to play in U.S. urban traffic. Stomp the gas peddle and you wonder if you’re going to beat the traffic bearing down on you. But you soon learn the limitations of this little car and how to deal with them. After all, this is a commuter car, a vehicle made for commuting to work and getting around the city.
Our test vehicle came with an automatic transmission and it was a little dicey in highway situations, even in the sport setting, and I would have liked to have driven it with a manual gearbox. I think the response would have been much better.
The 500C is labeled as a cabriolet or convertible, but the top really is more of a sunroof, the fabric top sliding back in accordion style at the push of a button. The 500C handled well — even with a little body roll in sport driving situations — and overall this is a car that Americans are going to accept, particularly with the price of gas sitting at about $4 a gallon. Fuel economy on this car is good, with the automatic transmission model recording a 27/32 mpg EPA estimate and the manual transmission version notching a much better 30/38 mpg estimate.
Fiat 500 models include the Hatchback and Cabriolet, with a starting price of $15,500. Options can quickly run the price up and our test vehicle with leather seats and navigation listed at $23,300.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.