2012 Fiat 500c at the 2011 New York Auto Show

  • Competes with: Smart ForTwo Cabriolet, Mini Cooper convertible
  • Looks like: Snooki just found herself a new ride
  • Drivetrain: 101-hp, 1.4-liter four-cylinder with five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Late spring

Don't assume Fiat-controlled Chrysler's adoption of the "C" moniker suggests the Fiat 500c has a Hemi V-8 and rear-wheel drive. (Oh, the carnage.) Rather, this lowercase "c" stands for convertible; so, the 500c sports a cloth top with myriad retraction settings, from a sunroof-like ceiling opening to a completely stowed accordion, rear window and all, perched over the trunk. Unlike most convertibles, the 500c's top doesn't take the roof structure with it, which makes for more of a Jeep Wrangler-style soft-top than a true open-air experience from the A-pillars back.

More Coverage of the 2011 New York Auto Show

Available in Pop and Lounge trims — the sport-tuned 500 Sport didn't make the cut — the 500c goes on sale in late spring. Fiat claims 70% less cowl shake than competing drop-tops like the Mini Cooper convertible. The 500c adds additional 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 power top retracts all the way down at speeds up to 50 mph. At up to 60 mph, it will pull back to a partial opening with the glass rear window still deployed. The hardtop 500's hatch has been replaced by a pop-up trunk compartment, with luggage volume behind the rear seats reduced to just 5.4 cubic feet. The hardtop 500 has 9.5 cubic feet. Golf outings will probably mean folding the tiny backseat down, at which point the 500c offers 23.4 cubic feet of maximum space. Other interior dimensions are similar, though there's notably another 1.2 inches of backseat headroom versus the hardtop. We'll take everything we can get.

Powertrains remain the same, meaning Fiat's 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder works with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Expect gas mileage to match the 500 hardtop, which gets 30/38 mpg city/highway with the manual and a not-so-great 27/34 mpg with the automatic.

More photos below.

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