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2012 Fiat 500C Cabrio: First Drive Page 3

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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 London

Supermodel Elle MacPherson with Fiat 500C in London

Enlarge 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.


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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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