Ever since June 2009, when Fiat took a controlling stake in Chrysler, it's been all but certain the Italian automaker would bring a version of its 500 to the U.S. It finally arrived for 2012. Closer in length to the Mini Cooper than the Scion iQ or Smart ForTwo, the four-seat 500 competes with all three minicars. A cabrio version, dubbed 500c, is available, and buyers can also opt for a high-performance Abarth version.
(Skip to details on the: 500c, 500e, 500 Abarth)
New for 2013
Fiat adds a new trim level to the 500 range with the debut of the 500 Turbo, which is powered by a 135-horsepower, turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a five-speed manual transmission. The car gets a sport suspension and unique styling cues including a revised front end with smoked headlamps, pronounced side skirts, a liftgate spoiler and a rear diffuser. The 500 is also available with Beats by Dr. Dre premium audio.
At 139.6 inches long, the two-door 500 hatchback measures 7 inches shorter than a Cooper. Although it's considerably longer than the iQ or ForTwo, the car's stubby profile looks more like them than the low-slung Mini. Up front, decorative strakes connect Fiat's all-caps logo with a pair of beady headlights, each one etched with the car's numeric "500" inside the bezel. There are vertical taillights in back. Exterior features include:
- Standard 15-inch steel wheels; 15- or 16-inch aluminum wheels available
- Available fog lights
- Available power sunroof
- Available glass roof
InteriorInside, there's an upright dash with a speedometer and information display inside a circular pod ahead of the steering wheel. A large trim panel covers the dash; it matches the car's exterior color. Levels of customization are myriad: Shoppers can choose from more than a dozen combinations of cabin colors, plus an array of interior accessories from Chrysler's Mopar division. Interior features include:
- Standard cloth upholstery; leather available
- Standard remote keyless entry
- Standard cruise control
- Standard air conditioning; automatic air conditioning available
- Standard CD stereo with MP3 input; Beats by Dr. Dre premium audio available
Under the Hood
The 500 is powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that works with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Mechanical features include:
- Standard output is 101 hp and 98 pounds-feet of torque
- 500 Turbo makes 135 hp and 150 pounds-feet of torque
- Sport-tuned suspension and steering (500 Sport, 500 Turbo)
Safety features include:
- Seven airbags, including front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags
- Antilock brakes
- Electronic stability system
- Active front head restraints
- Available rear parking sensors
The 500c sports a cloth top with various retraction settings, from a sunroof-like ceiling opening to a completely stowed accordion — rear window and all — perched over the trunk. The roof retracts with the touch of a button at speeds up to 60 mph, but unlike in most convertibles, it doesn't take the roof structure with it. That makes for more of a panoramic moonroof effect than a true open-air experience from the A-pillars back.
Thanks in part to the remaining ceiling structure, there is less cowl shake than a regular convertible. The 500c adds extra reinforcements above the windshield to make up some of the rigidity lost to a convertible top, and the windshield itself is slightly longer to conceal things. The hardtop 500's hatch has been replaced by a pop-up trunk compartment in the 500c, with luggage volume behind the rear seats reduced to just 5.4 cubic feet. The hardtop has 9.5 cubic feet. Back to top
The Fiat 500e is a battery-electric version of the 500 hardtop intended for sale initially in California only. Fiat says the car's range is more than 80 miles in mixed driving and more than 100 miles in the city. Powering a 111-horsepower electric motor, the battery pack can be recharged within four hours when fully depleted, using a 240-volt Level 2 charging setup (sold separately). Aerodynamic changes give the 500e a look slightly different from the regular 500, and the interior features a 7-inch display to show EV-related graphics. A TomTom navigation system is included. Back to top
Fiat's Abarth sub-brand returned late in the 2012 model year in the form of the 500 Abarth performance variant. For 2013, an Abarth version of the 500c soft-top joins the family. The 500c competes with performance hatches and convertibles like the Mini Cooper S. A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder makes 160 hp and 170 pounds-feet of torque.
Exterior changes include dual tailpipes, functional bumper inlets to funnel air to the drivetrain's two intercoolers, a rear spoiler and 16-inch aluminum wheels with painted pockets. Seventeen-inch rims are optional. Inside, the Abarth has bolstered sport seats and red leather stitching along the gauges, gearshift and steering wheel.
Other mechanical changes include a heavier-duty five-speed manual transmission, a performance suspension and an electronic stability system with a partial-off mode that allows more aggressive driving. Back to top
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