What it is: The 500 is Fiat’s sub-compact hatchback. The C designation in 500C stands for Cabrio and is Fiat’s interpretation of a convertible. The convertible top is a cloth roof that reclines to the top of the trunk, but the side pillars remain intact. You still certainly get a convertible feeling, but this is a very safe interpretation with the 500 being such a small car.
The Lounge designation is the trim level. Four different trims are available with Lounge being the most luxurious (although the Abarth trim, a sports trim, is a $1,500 premium above). The Lounge includes some lovely niceties such as leather seats, chrome accents, aluminum wheels, park assist system, keyless entry and other basic upgrades.
Fiat describes the Fiat 500 as the “classic Italian city car” and that’s all it should really be used for. I own a 500 Abarth, so I’ve had 25,000 miles in the platform, and most people would not feel comfortable taking a long-distance road trip because of the diminutive size of the 500. For around-town driving, the 500 is great. There is a surprising amount of room inside the car; it even has a somewhat usable (okay, barely usable) backseat. When not in use it folds down, giving you plenty of room for groceries or gear. Parking, as expected, is an absolute breeze. A backup camera would have been appreciated, but the rear parking sensors do enough to help you maneuver into tight parking spots.
The 500 models are all equipped with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine which generates 101 horsepower and 98 lb.-ft. of torque. Abarth models get a turbocharger and an extra 60 horsepower. The 101 horsepower is less lethargic than you would think with the 500’s light weight helping acceleration, but if you have a thirst for power then the Abarth is a must-choose.
My test model came equipped with a few options: white leather seats ($250), six-speed automatic transmission ($995), GPS navigation ($495), and Beats premium audio ($695). The leather seats were cool, the Beats stereo is great, but I would skip the GPS navigation and automatic transmission if you could.
MPG: 29 combined/27 city/33 highway
Price: $16,490 for base Cabrio. $19,990 for Lounge Cabrio. $23,420 as-tested.
Upsides: Easy to park. Few on the road. European looks.
Downsides: Underpowered. Resale value concerns.
Wrap-up: The 500 could be a good commuter vehicle for you. I regularly do it myself on U.S. 59, but most purchasers are choosing the 500 for the aesthetic of the car, or for the low cost and small size. After driving the Lounge, I wasn’t sure why anyone would choose the 500 over a Mini Cooper, but then I saw that the Coopers MSRP has risen to a base price of $21,600, which is a 44 percent increase over a base Fiat 500. If the Fiat delivered 50 MPG it would be a much more desirable gas saver, but the reality of it is that the Hyundai Sonata delivers comparable fuel economy and it may be twice as large. With a next-generation 500 coming in one to two years and massive discounts on current 500s, you may be able to find room in your garage for a 500 of your own.
Before you go …
… we’ve got a small favor to ask. More people are reading The Tribune than ever. Advertising revenues across the media spectrum are falling fast. And unlike many news organizations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Tribune's independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure. Support the only locally owned, locally produced news product in the Lake Houston area. And thank you!