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2012 FIAT 500C Lounge Cabriolet – MINI Competition with Panache

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Filed under Automotive, Fiat, Test Drives

The all-new 2012 Fiat 500C is an economical and fun-to-drive vehicle that is positioned to compete against the Mini Cooper cabriolet.  With its short exterior dimensions it works great getting around slow city traffic and finding a nearby parking space.  On the open road you can cruise with confidence.  It is also very economical with mpg specs of 27mpg/city, 32mpg/highway, and a base price of just $23,500.00 for the cabriolet that features a power roof with three positions, all done with a simple push of one of two buttons, no latching or pull-downs.  It’s the easy luxury of the sun in your face and the wind in your hair.

Italian by design, beautiful craftsmanship and excellent fit and finish it also features a very quiet interior with the top up, the most interior space, rear seat room and shoulder room among its competitors.

Cleverly designed with a multi-position power-retractable cloth top, fully stamped body-side silhouette and 70% less header shake than key competitors-the new Fiat 500C delivers leading interior sound quality (quietest at 40-70mph and lowest powertrain noise).  In addition, its longer windshield and minimized header design maximize rear-seat passengers’ outward visibility, while minimizing cabin turbulence.  For easy access to the cabrio’s trunk, premium ‘parallelogram’ liftgate hinges conveniently position the liftgate out of the way, while the power-operated cloth top-all wrapped in modern Italian styling that conveys simplicity and joy.  What gives the new power-operated even more convenience is if you have to open the trunk and the cloth top is fully down covering the trunk lid, just click the trunk opening button under the chrome strip and the top automatically lifts enough and the trunk lid pops open.

The look and styling always garnered positive comments from other drivers and people whenever I was stopped at a traffic light or when parked.  I was amazed by the reaction to this car priced at only $23,500.00!

At the front, the new Fiat 500C model’s signature ‘whiskers and logo’ face features circular projector headlamps and lower park lamps that resemble the latest Fiat models while paying homage to the distinctive elements of the original concept ‘Cincquecento’ in stylist harmony.  To show its road-holding stance, the cabrio’s front fascia features chromed trim, and tapers outward toward its large wheel arches, while a horizontal cooling duct adds design character and additional engine cooling.   Lower foglamps add a more aggressive look while increasing nighttime driving safety.

Differentiating the Fiat 500C from the hardtop hatchback model is a slightly longer windshield that is designed to provide passengers with a maximized outward view.  In addition, the windshield elegantly conceals the reinforced upper-cross member that ensures the cabrio’s rigid body structure during spirited driving times.

From the side, the car’s pillars stand out and present strong arches, while the shape of the soft top provides a more slender silhouette compared with the hardtop version.  Below, the black or available chrome belt molding, the signature body-side A-line slopes forward for a dynamic look, while it’s lateral section features clean surfaces and flared wheel arches to deliver a modern interpretation of the historic Cinquecento.  To keep its design simple and modern, the hood-to-fender seam is elegantly cut at the A-line. Filling the wheel wells are four unique wheel designs, all with the ‘500’ logo on the center caps.  For more design character, bi-halogen projector headlamps and clear-lens taillights are visible from the side profile thanks to the way the cabrio’s rounded side link-up to the front and rear.  Providing enhanced durability, new lower-sill spats protect the body-side from stone chips.

At the rear the roof-mounted and color-matched spoiler improves aerodynamics, while elegantly integrating the center high-mounted stop lamp that cleverly functions with the roof up or down.  Separating the premium cloth top from the liftgate is a chrome trim accent that also highlights the cabrio’s width.  To keep the rear design clean, the lighting functions are divided vertically following the liftgate’s cutline.  Finishing off the iconic styling of the 500C is a chromed license plate brow, a motif from the original Cenquecento that was inspired by a bicycle saddle.  The rear window is all glass and features a standard defogger.

Even with the top up, the interior is airy and roomy, environmentally designed to be comfortable and enjoyable for any destination.  I am 6-ft. 3-in. tall and had plenty of legroom and headroom.  The interior design of the new 500C is an artistic blend of clean lines and conveniently located features, buttons, switches and dials.  Through the optional leather-wrapped steering wheel, the cabrio’s single concentric instrument cluster features the speedometer, tachometer and trip computer in a distinct and effective manner.  Integrating the latest in portable vehicle navigation for improved route guidance, the instrument cluster features a central LCD monitor that shows pictograms from the TomTom navigation with BLUEME handsfree communication.  These elements together with a highly integrated center stack and a uniquely designed radio and climate control system, can be ordered in Ivory or Black for an extra level of personalization while also influencing the interior theme to be more sporty or vintage.

The instrument panel continues the perfect blend of modern simplicity with iconic Italian styling.  The upper instrument panel is designed to convey a sense of refinement and elegance and features color-matched exterior accents for added detail.  Frequently used vehicle buttons are highlighted with chromed circular rings and are centrally located on the exterior matched instrument panel trim for a premium appearance.  The lower instrument panel and center console highlight the new cabrio’s space utilization with large-and small-sized storage spaces to keep mobile devices at a convenient reach.  A new passenger glove box stores valuable items, while concealing the BLUEME handsfree communications system’s USB port for instant integration of mobile devices including an iPod.  For an integrated look, the new automatic-or manual-transmission shifter and bezel are ergonomically located into the lower instrument panel and feature a mechanically styled knob accented in black or leather depending on the rim level.

The front driver’s/passenger bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive using the finest Italian leathers.  The rear seats are also leather in the Lounge trim model that I tested.  The only problem that I found was that the front buckets are set too high off the floor, no power adjustments available, and the steering column only tilts but not enough to give me a more comfortable angle.  The seats need to be set lower and the tilt mechanism needs to be able to lower to a larger degree.  The upper seatbacks also feature an embossed 500 logo for even finer detailing.  The door trim color matches the interior with large map pockets and a specially designed space-and weight-saving BOSE Energy Efficient Series premium audio system while the ‘hooked’ chrome door handles pay homage to the past while integrating modern-day power door locks.  Power windows are also part of the Premium package I tested.  Thanks to careful analysis of the interior cabin, the new 500C features the most interior space (76.2 cu.ft.) among key competition, while numerous built-in storage locations quickly and conveniently store mobile devices and travel gear.  In addition, the luggage compartment is spacious, 5.4 cu.ft. with the seats up, and a maximum of 23.4 cu.ft. of space with the 50/50 split-fold seats folded down.

Powering the new 500C is an all-new 1.4 liter, 16-valve SOHC engine with state-of-the-art Multi-Air fuel-saving and emissions-reducing technology-the quietest powertrain versus its competition.  This engine generates 101hp at 6,500rpm and 98lb.ft. of torque at 4,000rpm.  This engine also features the world’s first Fully Variable Valve Actuation (FVVA) system on a production engine.  Also known as MultiAir, this innovative intake-valve system replaces a traditional overhead cam with hydraulic actuation controlled by four, fast-responding electronic solenoids-delivering instantaneous air-fuel adjustment at any time in the engine cycle for maximum efficiency and power.

This new engine is mated to a standard smooth-shifting five-speed manual, or six-speed automatic/sequential shifting transmission that returns an excellent 27mpg/city and 31mpg/highway.  I tested the automatic and it also came with a Sport button on the dashboard that increased the idle rpm’s, and tightened the electronic rack & pinion power steering system for added feel for the road and quicker reaction to my inputs.

The new 500C is underpinned with a front independent MacPherson strut setup including coil springs, twin-tube gas-charged shocks and an anti-roll bar.  The rear setup features a Twist Beam axle with coil springs, and twin-tube gas-charged shocks.  The ride is smooth going over poorly paved roads and turn-in is quick and dependable.

Quickly and safely slowing the 500C down from speed are power-assisted steel disc brakes at all four corners.  Up front are 10.1 inch vented discs and 9.4 inch solid discs in the rear.  Each features a sliding, single-piston caliper which provides plenty of stopping power.  Standard ABS keeps you in control when braking on slick or wet pavement.  The new 500C rides on 16X6 inch standard steel, or optional aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 185/55R15 inch all-season tires.  My test Lounge trim model was shod with Continental Conti Pro Contact high-performance tires for enhanced grip.

Standard equipment not listed above include automatic temperature control with Micron airfilter, driver seat memory, driver height-adjustable seat, power windows with one-touch down, AM-FM-CD/MP3 radio with audio jack/Sirius satellite radio, BLUEME hands free communication with USB port, auxiliary audio input jack, BOSE premium speakers, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel, vehicle information center, front dual cupholders, two rear floor mounted cupholders, front floor mats, dual map lights, grab handle above passenger door, variable/intermittent wipers/washer, chrome power/heated sideview mirrors, and two vanity mirrors.

My up level Lounge came equipped with Bianco Perla exterior paint, luxury leather bucket seats, heated front seats, self-dimming rearview mirror, Rosso red seats, Bordeaux (red) soft top, TomTom navigation with BLUEME and 15 inch premium painted aluminum wheels.

Italian design and craftsmanship has arrived here in the U.S. for all to enjoy with economical pricing.  The car is fun and easy to drive.  It is a perfect commuter car, young, growing family transportation, active lifestyle enthusiasts as you can throw in a surf board with the top open.  With a starting price of only $23,500.00 almost anyone can afford one and have an Italian vehicle to drive that doesn’t start with an F, M, or L.



  • Price: Base Fiat 500 Hatchback Pop $15,500 / As-Tested Fiat 500C Convertible Lounge $25,250 loaded including destination charges
  • 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: 4.6in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.6/
  • Legroom: f/r-40.7/31.7in.
  • Fuel tank: 10.5 gallons
  • Turning circle: 30.6ft.
  • Interior volume: 81.6cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 2,486lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 10.8 seconds (manual transmission)
  • EPA mileage: 27mpg/city, 32mpg/highway

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