2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio live photos
Rear vision with the top all the way down isn't good for any driver, and even taller drivers have trouble seeing past the large blind spot in the rear three-quarter area.
We liked the "fish-eye" mirror on the trailing edge of the driver's outside mirror, which showed the car's blind spot better than any system we've seen. We also liked the small size and round shape of the rear-seat headrests, some of very few we'd seen that don't impede vision through the rear window.
No rear-vision camera is offered in any trim level.
One surprise: The cloth top can be moved from closed to half-open, or vice versa, at up to 50 mph. And it will drop all the way, or erect itself up to halfway open, at speeds up to 40 mph.
That's a huge advantage when it starts to pelt huge drops of spring rain, as we learned, not to mention avoiding the need to pull over in hazardous conditions just to put the top up.
Pop and Lounge trim levels
The 2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio comes in two trim levels: Pop, the more basic, and Lounge, the fully-featured model.
The Pop has a base price of $19,500 (plus a mandatory $500 destination fee), and the Lounge starts at $23,500. One of our two test cars was a Lounge with optional leather seats and a handful of other items, which came in at just about $25,500.
That's a big jump from the base hatchback's price of $15,500, though Fiat says its earliest customers are so passionate about the car and the brand that they become advocates and evangelists--meaning they're not shopping on price.
Supermodel Elle MacPherson with Fiat 500C in LondonEnlarge Photo
Customization is a huge part of the Fiat 500 appeal, with 14 exterior colors, 3 different top colors, 12 separate interiors, 21 exterior trim items, adding up to roughly half a million different ways to configure your 500. Certainly of the dozen or more media drive cars, no two were alike.
We had a few little quibbles: Operating the windshield washer didn't automatically trigger the wipers, as it does on most other cars. There was no auto-up/auto-down on the driver's window on our test cars. And we'd have preferred a rotary knob for radio volume to the up and down arrow buttons the Fiat provides.
A nice challenge to have
But perhaps these quibbles add to the car's slightly exotic flavor. The front window switches mounted on the console rather than the door panels certainly showed the 500's European roots in our book.
In the end, the 2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio is just as much fun as the hardtop, but with the added advantage of wind in your hair and a particularly slick power cloth top.
Whether it's worth the several-thousand-dollar premium is an individual choice, but Fiat executive Laura Soave said that the company had originally projected a 10-percent share for the Cabrio.
Was that the right number? No, she said, "we undercalled it" and are seeing a far higher proportion of Cabrios among total Fiat 500 sales.
It's a nice problem to have.
Fiat provided breakfast at a swanky Manhattan hotel, and lunch at a riverside bed & breakfast in the Hudson Valley, to allow High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.