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2012 Fiat 500 Review

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A side view of a red Fiat 500 in action

In short: A legendary mini city coupe reborn.

After a two decade absence from American showrooms, Fiat has staged a grand return to the States with the Fiat 500, a cute and compact 3-door hatchback that gives the Mini Cooper a run for its money. Featuring an ultra-efficient inline-4 and cool, Cooper-inspired retro styling, this Italian-made minicar is a welcome edition to the city car segment, which has benefitted from an influx of forward-thinking Euro models in recent years.

While Fiat's classic design cues may inspire fantasies of spinning around Italian side streets à la Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, in reality the new 500 is a high-tech driving machine purpose-built for the modern American consumer. Intelligently redesigned to meet North American regulatory requirements and driver standards, the 500 features a retuned suspension for increased comfort and an advanced MultiAir 1.4-liter engine that offers up to 10% greater fuel efficiency along with reduced C02 emissions. The Fiat's clean exterior lines are continued inside where a minimalist interior design is matched with state-of-the-art technology like Bluetooth hands-free communication and an intuitive navigation system. Of course, no joyride is complete without the right soundtrack, so it is only fitting that this cruise-worthy car comes fitted with a USB hook-up, powerful BOSE speakers and available satellite radio.

Combining classic with contemporary, Old World with New School, this modern minicar is already a hit across the globe, and looks poised to continue its victory lap into American driveways.

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Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; 4-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty; 4-year/50,000-mile roadside assistance

Base Price: $15,500

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel drive, 4-passenger, 3-door hatchback

Engine: 1.4-liter inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 101 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 98 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual

Curb weight: 1,907 lbs
Wheelbase: 90.6 in
Length/Width/Height: 139.8/64/58.6 in
Turning circle: 30.2 ft

Brakes: disc in front, drum in rear; ABS
independent MacPherson system in front, interconnected wheels with torsion axle in rear

Traction: electronic stability control with traction control

0-62 mph: 9.5 seconds
Top Speed: 115 mph

EPA City: 30 mpg
EPA Highway: 38 mpg

Safety: driver and front passenger multi-stage airbags; driver knee airbag; full-length side-curtain airbags; seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax airbags

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Photography: Fiat

PSV050108 (Updated: 12/28/12 JLD)