2012 Fiat 500 Sport new car reviews

This tiny runabout is perfectly suited to zipping through gaps in traffic and squeezing into that impossible parking spot.
It's a stylish car, too.

Better than: The original Cinquecento
But not as good as: Fiat 500 Abarth
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 77.83

The Cinquecento has been in Europe for some time, but it only recently made its way to the U.S. Thank the auto bailouts that resulted in Chrysler being absorbed by Fiat, giving the Italian carmaker access to a dealer network in the U.S. Under its adorable skin it's fairly standard compact-car stuff: a small four-cylinder engine, strut suspension in front and a twist beam under the rear.

The Sport trim gets revised springs and shocks, and ours came with a navigation system, too. We've been waiting oh so long for a manual-transmission model of this hip little thing to come our way, and we finally got it.

Other staff views

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

Like many enthusiasts, I was eager to get my hands on Fiat's stylish little egg. The promise of a lightweight, nimble handling, stylish car with the famous Italian passion for driving is an appealing one. After spending a weekend with the The Fiat 500 Sport I can let you know it delivers on a few of those promises, but falls short on others.

First the good stuff: The seats are supportive and comfortable, the interior is well laid out. The interior's hipness doesn't come by sacrificing utility either. (MINI I'm looking at you) The 500 goes down the road in a pleasing way, with light steering inputs, and the smooth and easy shifter comes right to hand. The 500 Sport handles well and it is the kind of car that grows on you as the miles accumulate. This is a happy car, one that will never overwhelm, but gradually wins you over with it's inherent goodness.

Unfortunately the passion that has always been synonymous with Italian machines seems to be missing in the Fiat 500. It is pleasant, but never stirring, happy but never excited. It will do your bidding, but it never goads you into misbehavior. You can't help but like the 500, but it is very hard to love.

As it stands the Fiat 500 Sport is a pleasant, stylish car, but nowhere near as satisfying to drive as a base MINI, or even a Mazda 2. The 500 is more attractive than either of those cars, but looks only go so far.

Fortunately the 500 Abarth is waiting in the wings. There is nothing wrong with the 500 that an extra dose of horsepower wouldn't fix.

Alan Cesar FartSmeller69
SuperDork

I spent a lot of time in the higher end of the tach—this engine isn't a powerhouse, but it sounds good and revs happily. The tach is sometimes slower than the engine, though—I'd hit the rev limiter (6700 rpm) in first gear when the tach was showing only about 6000.

I love that it's so short! This is truly a wonderful city vehicle, allowing you to cut through traffic like nothing else. Tight turning radius, sharp reflexes, and great visibility. I was happy with its suspension setup: It loved getting chucked around, and the back end followed eagerly. No grinding understeer here. I wonder how it would stack up as an autocrosser.

Pretty roomy inside, too. You can fit four adults in the car without any discomfort. The trunk goes deeper than the bottom of the hatch, so your groceries won't fall out when you open it up. This is important when you drive this car like it enjoys being driven.

I like the Bakelite look of the plastic dashboard. Most cars in this class dress up their dash plastics with some texture, but it's still hard plastic. This car embraces its material, and I think it looks great. Bold move, Fiat.

Don't spend on the center armrest, though. It's cheap, uncomfortable, and not durable.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I had already seen the 500 in the flesh and thought it looked great, so I entered this one with high hopes--could this be our next new car purchase? Even better, they sent us one with a stick and the sport package.

Know how they say that some cars feel as if they're carved from a solid piece of metal? This one felt like it was cast in rubber. It just felt soft--the shifter and clutch were both vague and spongy.

The car simply didn't want to track in a straight line, to the point where a panic stop on the highway simply felt unsafe. Could my 20-year-old Miata on race tires really be the better highway car? Or maybe this one just needed an alignment.

I also thought that the interior was kind of plain, and the integral tach/speedo didn't thrill me. The seats? A little flat.

Any pluses? Well, we drove it to see Death Angel, Testament and Anthrax, and the parking guys put us in the front row. Okay, maybe it's not a very metal car, but the prime parking was appreciated. I still think it looks cool, and it's nice to see the premium small car segment getting some attention.

Sorry be such a buzz-kill on this one, but the 500 didn't endear itself to me the way I had hoped.

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Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Dork
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The Cinquecento has been in Europe for some time, but it only recently made its way to the U.S. Thank the auto bailouts that resulted in Chrysler being absorbed by Fiat, giving the Italian carmaker access to a dealer network in the U.S. Under its adorable skin it's fairly standard compact-car stuff: a small four-cylinder engine, strut suspension in front and a twist beam under the rear.

The Sport trim gets revised springs and shocks, and ours came with a navigation system, too. We've been waiting oh so long for a manual-transmission model of this hip little thing to come our way, and we finally got it.

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