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2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio: First Drive

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2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio, SoHo district, New York City

2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio, SoHo district, New York City

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When a guy in a glossy black twin-cab diesel pickup truck leans out the passenger window with a camera to take your picture--and you're driving a tiny avocado green 2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio with the roof rolled down--you know this is an unusual car.

Not since the introduction of the 2002 Mini Cooper has such a small car made this big an impact on the U.S. market.

We're still not sure if it was just the fact that the car was a 2012 Fiat 500, or the Cabrio model specifically, that drew attention from our new pickup-truck friends. They may not, in fact, have noticed the clever cloth roll-back roof that opens the top of the car while keeping the structure largely intact.

The 500C Cabrio is less distinctively a convertible than either of the two cars Fiat identified as competitors: the Mini Cooper Convertible and the Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio (just about to be replaced with an all-new model).

Those cars have only cloth above the beltline; the Fiat has sheetmetal. Looking at it from the side, you might not notice the roll-back roof.

Like the hatchback, but cooler

We enjoyed our time in the convertible Fiat 500 and, frankly, struggled to find huge differences between it and the standard Fiat 500 hatchback--beyond the obvious, of course, which is that the multi-layered power cloth roof slides back to drop into a stacked pile on top of the decklid, opening the panel between the header rails to the sky.

In the end, the remarkable thing about the convertible Fiat 500 was that it corresponded perfectly to our assessment of the hardtop.

We liked the expressive sheetmetal, unique and distinctive interior styling, the high-revving little 1.4-liter engine, and the steering feel.

On the downside, it's not quick, it's small inside, and the gas mileage is decent but hardly stellar for something a full car class smaller than, say, a 2011 Hyundai Elantra compact.

Three colors of cloth roof

As noted, the 2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio is less distinct from its standard hardtop cousin than either the Mini or the VW Beetle. Its doors are are fully framed, there's a substantial metal rail above them, and even the body-side pressings are shared with the hatchback.


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Comments (6)
  1. Great writing. I enjoyed the way you handled all the info.
     
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  2. I'm not a fan of econo-boxes, but when my wife nearly feel off her seat at the sight of our first Fiat 500 proclaiming, "oh is that cute,I love it", I knew Fiat and Chrysler had the right car for this market. I believe that this partnership has chosen the right method of introducing only a few Fiat badged cars into America and relying on the Fiat/Alfa/Lancia platformed Chrysler vehicles to carry the bulk of Italian sourced product, substancially modified by Chrysler, into the Western Hemisphere. Fiat does not need many stand alone models to reap financial benefits from its Chrysler investment or its Fiat showrooms, many of which are owned by Chrysler dealers. Real Chrysler products which integrate Fiat platforms is what is needed here.
     
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  3. I really can't wait ta see what is to come of the 2013 Alfa Romeo Giulietta turned in to 2013 Dodge Caliber thingy. The 2011 Alfa Romeo 6-speed manual Giulietta is said to have the classic handling characteristics of the Alfa Romoe sports cars of old, including the 60's-something Giulietta. I would be concerned about what Chrysler would do to the car in a negatibe way, really.
     
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  4. B-Man, One look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger and the rest of Chryslers new offerings should dismiss any concerns. The key to the Fiat partnership is to have Chrysler have free reign over all design of these vehicles and use Chrysler adopted mechanics such as engines. I'd be quite optimistic about the results. Chrysler should transition these platforms into essentially American vehicles for our market tastes and Chryslers traditional styling.
     
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  5. With the manual transmission, get in 30 MPG city and 38 MPG highway is pretty impressive for a car that people are likely to buy without concern for fuel economy. Unfortunately, the automatic has much worse MPG.
     
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  6. I sat in the new Twin-Air Turbo and the Convertible in Turin last week. If I had to choose it would be the Convertible - it has a magical promise of fun about it. Great design features and colours.
     
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