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2012 FIAT 500 Sport Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Fiat, Test Drives

Small light-weight compact cars are attempting to make a big impact on the American car culture. Many brands are injecting what they consider to be “the best offering” when it comes to a subcompact. Chrysler and Fiat has made a fair attempt at this endeavor in the all-new 2012 Fiat 500.

The Italian Fiat 500 has been welcomed by many in the European market. For them, 2012 Fiat 500 nothing new under the sun. Now, the American market gets our own version of the Fiat 500, which is not sway too far away from the sense of the current European-spec Fiat.

The all-new 2012 Fiat 500, surprisingly, is a competent subcompact car. Of course naturally everyone will compare the new Fiat 500 to the MINI Cooper or the new Scion iQ. In retrospect, the new Fiat 500 Sport is a nice blend of a MINI Cooper hardtop and Scion’s new iQ. Having driven the convertible Fiat 500C just a few months ago, stepping into the new Fiat 500 Sport brings on a surprising better drivability factor. This ‘factor’ could legitimately compete head-on with a standard version of the MINI Cooper hardtop provided the Fiat 500 had a bit more power. Maybe the answer is in the 160-horsepower Abarth version of the Fiat 500.

The Fiat 500 Sport is much lighter on its feet with the 5-speed manual transmission. Having the 5-speed manual transmission gives the driver more usable power to the pavement.

The Fiat 500 two-door subcompact hatchback comes in three trim levels, Pop, Sport and Lounge. The convertible Fiat 500C is available in only two trims, Pop and Lounge. My Fiat 500 Sport two-door includes larger 16-inch wheels (15-inch standard on Pop trim), sport suspension, roof spoiler, sports seats, fog lights, heated front seats, automatic climate control and re-tuned steering.

The new Fiat 500 Sport is powered by 101 horsepower and 98 ft. lbs. of torque 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Fiat’s new “MultiAir” system variably controls the valves for optimal output and fuel economy. It is obvious that you can get much more “optimal” than 101 horsepower, but there is still an eagerness from the ‘little-engine-that-could” at full-throttle. I have to say, fuel economy was pretty good considering I had to rev the 1.4-liter engine to infinity and beyond to keep things moving well on the highway. After the little Fiat 500 Sport gets up to speed, it is shockingly smooth and stable. Anything  involving turns well-above highway speeds, simply put, is not recommended.

As a testament to the Fiat 500 Sport’s power output, going up a steep inclined bridge in 5th gear, the Fiat is able to only hold a constant speed. If you wish to accelerate at the least bit, you must down-shift into 4th gear or even 3rd gear. Although, the 5-speed manual transmission’s gearing makes the best use of the MultiAir 4-cylinder engine’s limited 101 horsepower output. The energetic buzz sound from the 4-cylinder becomes a customary tune until you turn the volume to what is an excellent sounding stereo system with 6 speakers, and a subwoofer. For a subcompact vehicle, the Fiat 500’s Bose premium audio system reproduces clear high and low notes.

Rowing through the 5-speed manual transmission can be a bit clunky. However, a competent driver may still manage to perform smooth shifts and rev-matched down-shifts with ease.

The Fiat 500 Sport’s 16-inch wheels and 195/45/16 tires, look great while at the same time give the Fiat 500 a better handling edge over the standard Fiat 500 Pop trim level.

Justifiably so, subcompact cars seem to always get a bad rep for interior space. When it comes to the new 2012 Fiat 500 Sport, interior space can be summed up by calling it usable. In other words, I found myself and three of my small friends, using every bit of available space. Front passengers have just enough space even for someone who is well-over 6-feet tall. The new Fiat 500 has a very high roof-line, that is almost as high as some crossover vehicles. The trunk space is only good for two medium to small sized luggage bags. As a plus, the rear-hatch space is slightly larger that of the Fiat 500 Convertible’s.

Dashboard controls are kept reasonably simple. With the dash encased in a glossy body-colored array of plastic panels, the controls are contrasted very well and easy to see. The gauge cluster, as with the Fiat 500C Convertible that I tested months ago, combines the tachometer and speedometer in the same larger circular pod. The pod also encloses a round LCD screen for displaying a variety of information such as, mpg figures, trip computer, outside temp, current date and time, fuel gauge and temp gauge. The mph and rpm numbers are represented in a retro-styled font.

Like many lightweight subcompacts on the market, the Fiat 500 has its own unique characteristic. The all-new 2012 Fiat 500 retains its Italian roots embodying a classy look and plenty of style to go around despite its smallish size. The all-new 2012 Fiat 500 Sport is delectably priced at a starting MSRP of $17,500.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Base Fiat 500 Hatchback Pop $15,500 / Base Fiat 500 Hatchback Sport $17,500
  • Engine: 1.4-liter 101 horsepower @ 6500 rpm / 98 ft-lbs. torque @ 4000 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 90.6in.
  • Total length: 139.6in.
  • Total width: 64.1in.
  • Total height: 59.8in.
  • Track: f/r-55.4/55.0in.
  • Ground clearance: 4.1in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.9/
  • Legroom: f/r-40.7/31.7in.
  • Fuel tank: 10.5 gallons
  • Turning circle: 30.6ft.
  • Interior volume: 85.1cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 2,363lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 10.8 seconds (5-speed manual transmission)
  • EPA mileage: 30mpg/city, 38mpg/highway (5-speed manual transmission)

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