I worry about teething problems in the first generation of any new machine, and usually shy away from first-gen vehicles. Still, one could argue that even though it’s been absent for decades, the Fiat 500 is actually generations-old. At a glance, the vehicle’s aged well; now, for a more thorough inspection.
Italian design is always way ahead; in this case, however, the design seems to be intentionally behind, evoking a classy and palpable nostalgia. The detailed metal accouterments throughout the Fiat 500, along with the bend of its aquiline nose and the sexy curve of its bum all promote a retro nostalgia for a bygone motoring age the majority of us never actually knew.
This was my first experience with Fiat’s long-in-development Multiair engine (I’m still awaiting a callback for an Alfa Romeo MiTo test drive). The Multiair sports just four cylinders — but they’re well-milked cylinders. This engine deftly controls air intake, smoothing combustion, increasing power and torque and reducing fuel consumption to 7.4L/100km in the city, 5.7L/100km on the highway.
Corners are the new straightaways. The Fiat 500 boasts such a low centre of gravity that you’ll wish you lived in a maze. Its turning circle downsizes donuts to Timbits.
You can switch into sport transmission and paddle between gears for a more enjoyable drive and improved mileage. Switching into automatic mode, the Fiat 500 complained a bit when up-shifting (possibly due to my heavy foot). For that reason and the sheer fun of switching gears in the city, I prefer the manual transmission. Besides, the 6-speed automatic is a $1,300 option.
True, there’s not much legroom in the back. Snide jokes about stumpy European passengers aside, early into ownership your friends will start arguing over who rides shotgun.
I’ve always championed the value of rear parking assist technology. For a mere hundred dollars extra, you can protect the Fiat 500’s aforementioned pretty tush, not to mention your own, with warning beeps.
The 2012 Fiat 500 comes in three models: Pop, Sport and Lounge. Pop is a lower-end model that starts at $15,995, while Sport starts at $18,500.
2012 Fiat 500 Lounge: starts at $19,500
As driven: $24,425