2012 FIAT 500C

Change year or vehicle
$5,255 — $11,883 USED Shop local deals
SAVE
Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
Compare
Back to top

Key Specs

of the 2012 FIAT 500C. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Well-equipped base model
  • Ride quality
  • Braking
  • City-friendly turning circle
  • Distinctive styling
  • Three years' complimentary maintenance

The Bad

  • Front-seat comfort
  • Tiny backseat
  • Small cargo area
  • Road and wind noise
  • Cabrio not a full convertible
  • Cabrio compromises visibility

Notable Features of the 2012 FIAT 500C

  • Fiat's first U.S. model since the 1980s
  • Two-door hatchback sold globally
  • Available cloth-top 500c
  • Seats four
  • Sold at Chrysler dealerships
  • Similar in size to Mini Cooper

2012 FIAT 500C Road Test

Joe Wiesenfelder

As fortune would have it, the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio came to me for review one year to the day after I handed my vintage Fiat Spider convertible over to its new owner. That's right: I owned a Fiat, for 11 years. That might make me a Fiat expert. Or possibly just a moron.

Upon the hardtop 500's introduction, Kelsey Mays published a full review, which allows me to focus on the Cabrio convertible version and give my first impressions of the modern Fiat. See the two body styles compared.

I have my doubts about the 2012 Fiat 500, but I have no doubt about the Cabrio version: It isn't worth the extra $4,000 you'd pay for it.

Not a True Convertible
First off, the Cabrio isn't a true convertible. All its pillars are fixed, and the powered soft-top slides back along the roof's side rails, fan-folding, leaving the glass rear window raised when in its default open position. As you'd expect, occupants aren't as exposed to the open air as they would be in a full convertible. Pressing the roof button a second time runs the top down between the C-pillars and drops the rear window flat. This opens things up further, but it's best appreciated by backseat passengers.

To provide some background, when I briefly drove a hardtop Fiat 500, I struggled with the seating position. The driver's seat's bottom cushion has an uptilt in the front that I found uncomfortable, and like most cars nowadays there's no means of adjusting its tilt. It was pa...

As fortune would have it, the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio came to me for review one year to the day after I handed my vintage Fiat Spider convertible over to its new owner. That's right: I owned a Fiat, for 11 years. That might make me a Fiat expert. Or possibly just a moron.

Upon the hardtop 500's introduction, Kelsey Mays published a full review, which allows me to focus on the Cabrio convertible version and give my first impressions of the modern Fiat. See the two body styles compared.

I have my doubts about the 2012 Fiat 500, but I have no doubt about the Cabrio version: It isn't worth the extra $4,000 you'd pay for it.

Not a True Convertible
First off, the Cabrio isn't a true convertible. All its pillars are fixed, and the powered soft-top slides back along the roof's side rails, fan-folding, leaving the glass rear window raised when in its default open position. As you'd expect, occupants aren't as exposed to the open air as they would be in a full convertible. Pressing the roof button a second time runs the top down between the C-pillars and drops the rear window flat. This opens things up further, but it's best appreciated by backseat passengers.

To provide some background, when I briefly drove a hardtop Fiat 500, I struggled with the seating position. The driver's seat's bottom cushion has an uptilt in the front that I found uncomfortable, and like most cars nowadays there's no means of adjusting its tilt. It was particularly problematic because that car was a manual, and the cushion fought back against my leg when I operated the clutch. I'd hoped the automatic Cabrio test car would be more accommodating.

The 500c's seat was equally oddly pitched and awkward, and the only way I could achieve marginal comfort was by jacking the seat height lever as high as it would go. Even then, I sat with my arms straight out in front of me because the steering wheel doesn't telescope and, though it tilts, it doesn't come down as far as I needed. Having done my best, I then looked up to find the rearview mirror blocking my forward view. Down the seat went, along with whatever concessions the 500 had made for my comfort. I was then sitting with my elbows locked and my arms extended and parallel to the ground. But at least I could see again. Sort of.

Even when the top is raised, the side and rear pillars are quite thick, frustrating attempts to check blind spots over either shoulder. When the roof is lowered to its bottommost position, the folded top sits so high it blocks the rear view, both in the rearview mirror and when looking back directly. Someone of my height (6 feet tall) is arguably in the best position to see over the folded top, but as I explained, I couldn't sit as high as I wanted to without blocking the forward view.

As if the problem couldn't get worse, our test car had an optional navigation system in the form of a portable TomTom, whose cradle mounted into a port atop the dashboard, powering it. I like the idea of portables as factory or dealer options as an alternative to in-dash systems. They're cheaper ($400 in this case, which includes the integration), they can be shared among other cars, and they're easily updated or replaced. (Expensive in-dash systems can receive map updates, but the technology itself ages quickly, and the feature consistently depreciates in the used-car market faster than its host vehicle.)

Having established that … for the love of all that's holy, did I really need another impediment to seeing out of this car? The TomTom is down low and the rearview mirror is up high, and it feels like the A-Team has plated the car with steel in anticipation of a barrage of gunfire, leaving me just a slot to look through. You're better off buying a portable navigation unit separately and positioning it someplace reasonable with a suction-cup mount.

Do I Hate This Car?
Let me interrupt this tirade to express some of the 500c's positive aspects: It's small, and I'm a fan of small. (To emphasize, my discomfort in the 500 isn't about its size; it's about the lack of two features: a seat-cushion adjustment and a telescoping steering wheel. One of our shorter editors had no complaints.) You can turn a tight circle and park in small spaces, and the higher seating position (visibility issues notwithstanding) makes it easier to navigate tight spaces than it is in the Mini Cooper. Speaking of its main competitor, the 500's ride is much softer and more livable than the Cooper's, though I find the Mini's handling superior. The 500's higher center of gravity doesn't give it the Cooper's grounded dynamics. The Cabrio's roof-and-pillar structure provide a rigidity you seldom find in a full convertible, but the 500c's dynamics and limited power make it irrelevant.

Oh, right, I was listing the positive. The optional leather in our test car — the higher trim level, called Lounge — was beautiful, elevating and possibly outclassing the entire interior, with which I had other issues … but right now we're praising.

Many people love the 500's look. Admirers on sidewalks and in other cars expressed their appreciation. I hesitate to draw long-term conclusions based on this, however, because I've witnessed the same phenomenon with lots of cars, and it doesn't always represent staying power.

Cabrio Compromises
Characteristic of convertibles, the Cabrio weighs more than the hardtop, but in this case it's only by 53 pounds — mainly because it's not a full convertible, so less roof hardware and structural reinforcement is required. All the same, our 500c was none too quick. Being the Lounge trim level, it came standard with a six-speed automatic transmission, which is optional on the base trim level, called Pop. The 500c's 1.4-liter four-cylinder has its work cut out for it. While the entry-level 500 is no rocket to begin with, the automatic Cabrio Lounge takes more than 11 seconds to hit 60 mph.

Even worse, the transmission shifts harder than I've come to expect from a modern, electronically controlled automatic. It behaves a bit better in Sport mode, but that's mainly because it shifts less frequently, not less harshly, in comparable driving cycles. The more efficient option is the default Drive mode, which delivers an EPA-estimated 27/32 mpg city/highway, sacrificing 2 mpg highway versus the hardtop 500 automatic. The five-speed manual, available in the Pop trim level, provides the same mileage in either body style: 30/38 mpg.

The Cabrio sacrifices almost no cabin space to the hardtop, with 0.3 inches less front-seat headroom and 0.6 inches less backseat hip room. It even exceeds the hardtop's backseat headroom by more than an inch, but legroom is far from generous. This also affects how the 500 accommodates child-safety seats, as explained in the MotherProof Car Seat Check.

The cargo space doesn't come away unscathed. The Cabrio's trunk is 5.4 cubic feet, and though it has folding rear seats, like the hardtop, it can't compare to the 9.5 cubic feet behind the hatchback's backseat and the usability of a full liftgate.

The Sum of Its Flaws
Sometimes lots of little problems add up to one big red light, and in time the 500 Cabrio had me seeing red. In addition to my earlier complaints, the audio ports are in the glove compartment. That's a reasonable place for a USB/iPod connection, but if you use the analog jack, you have to close the door on the cord because there's no provision for passing it out. The plastic at the center of the steering wheels of both test cars had begun to wear and fog up after too-few months and miles. And I had a heck of a time telling the difference among the three buttons on the keyless remote — not a common problem.

Not 'Feelin' It'
I'm obviously not "feelin' it" with this car, as the kids say. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that I'm suffering an unlikely collection of personal annoyances with the 500 in general, but I don't see the Cabrio version's value for any buyer. It costs $4,000 more than the hardtop for what is essentially a panoramic sunroof. One downside is it doesn't provide the light of a panoramic glass moonroof unless you open it. The Mini Cooper Convertible does the same trick, opening only a couple of feet, but it can also be lowered completely, like a conventional ragtop. It costs $5,450 more than the base Cooper. In Fiat's defense, however, the 500 Cabrio is priced the same as the hardtop 2012 Cooper: $19,500. Minis aren't the affordable runabouts they once were.

Safety
As of this writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had crash-tested the 500 or 500c. Because it retains its roof rails, unlike a real convertible, the Cabrio has side curtain airbags just like the hardtop. There are seven airbags total, the odd one being a driver's knee airbag. Standard safety features include seven airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Click here for a full list of safety features.

Fiat 500 in the Market
The Cars.com reviewer's philosophy is, "You like, you buy." We help you decide if a car is right for you, and whether anyone else buys it or not is irrelevant. I hope I've done that. As a onetime owner of a Fiat from the company's earlier run at the U.S. market, I'm compelled to register my skepticism about whether the Italian company will make a significant dent this time around, regardless of its association with a resurgent Chrysler Group. In the current market, the allure is unclear.

International automotive executives get so caught up in romanticizing iconic cars that sometimes they forget icons are geographically specific. The Volkswagen New Beetle owes much of its success to having been an icon in the U.S. Unlike the original Beetle, the Mini Cooper and Fiat Cinquecento (500) were "people's car" icons only overseas. Without nostalgia to lean on, cars have to inspire on their own merit.

The Mini Cooper has done so — first with style and then with a singular drivability. It succeeded in doing what the initially intriguing but terribly flawed Smart ForTwo failed to do: make shoppers into believers during the test drive — shoppers including men who might have seen the Mini as a car for women. Can the Fiat 500 cross that same bridge?

The 500's edge over the Cooper is a base price of $15,500, a realm Mini abandoned years ago. But how about the rest of the market? I believe the demand for small, efficient cars is overestimated. But people who do want small cars can now pay less for a subcompact that provides more space than the 500 and has comparable or better gas mileage. The Hyundai Accent hatchback, for example, starts at $14,595 and gets 30/40 mpg.

What advantages does that leave a car like the Fiat 500? The ability to park in small spaces? The styling statement? Can these attributes carry a car model? Even here, I have my doubts. The Mini Cooper's newness has faded, but I still find it cute, like a bulldog. I thought our "Espresso" brown 500c was about as cute as a potato bug. But that's one man's opinion.

Apart from the never-ending repairs my 1979 Fiat Spider demanded, I'm surprised by how much I miss it. We don't have a read on the 2012 Fiat 500's reliability yet, but it must be better than a Spider's was, even when it was new. That's good. But now that this latter-day Fiat convertible has left my hands, I don't miss it at all.

Send Joe an email  



2012 500C Video

Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder takes a look at the 2012 Fiat 500C. It competes with the Smart ForTwo and Scion iQ.

Latest 2012 500C Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.7)
Performance
(4.1)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.3)
Reliability
(4.3)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Fun, fun, fun in the Sun!

by My wife's fun car from Phoenix, AZ on October 11, 2018

If you want a little runabout car to drop the top on and enjoy the Arizona sun, this is a great one for you! Excellent gas mileage, fun styling, and a drop top that's great for women (so says my wife!... Read full review

(5.0)

Best and cheapest care i everowned

by yesitsme11 from Fullerton on June 14, 2018

Cost of owner ship is basically oil changed and regular maintance. very reliable vehicle. it is like a go kart to drive so much fun. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 FIAT 500C currently has 0 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2012 FIAT 500C has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by FIAT
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / unlimited distance

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    Less than 6 years old/less than 75,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    6 years/80,000 miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    7 years/100,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    Yes

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

Change Year or Vehicle

0 / 0 0 Photos
0 / 0

Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The 500C received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker