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The Fiat 500 is exactly what the brand needed to relaunch in the U.S. It's distinctive, memorable, cute, and far from a typical small car. As one of the smallest models on the market, the 2014 Fiat 500 remains an icon of style and design; a great city car for tight spaces; and a surprisingly sporty car at some times or a fuel-efficient one at others.
In its very small footprint and almost toylike dimensions, the Fiat 500 has likely already carved out an impression to most Americans who've seen one. With that pert, upright styling, done in simple, yet somehow characterful lines, the Fiat 500 looks like no other. On the outside it manages to pull off short, tall hatchback proportions without looking awkward; and inside, it pulls off high style with relatively low-cost materials--without necessarily looking it.
Better yet, the 500 is engaging to drive by almost any measure, especially if you're used to a toaster-like, small-car-as-appliance driving experience. Base cars get a 101-horsepower engine that's not quite as peppy or perky as you'd expect in something with the 500's design; but the Turbo models and their 135-hp engine are the ones that make good on the promises of the exterior. Above that, it's the 160-horsepower Abarth that actually feels truly sporty, especially in the first three gears of this manual-transmission-only model. The Abarth also supplements that impression with an especially raucous exhaust note. As you work up the power range, you also work up to more sporty visual cues and more firmly tuned suspensions. Even in the sporty Abarth, however, ride quality is quite good for a lightweight, short-wheelbase car.
The Fiat 500 maxes out its interior space within its particularly small footprint, but the passenger package isn't quite as roomy as a Ford Fiesta, or even a MINI Cooper. Back seats are very, very close to the front seats, and many will simply dismiss them as parcel shelves. Behind the rear seats, there's an equally small cargo space. Seats are well-formed, but they're a bit on the short and firm side and we wish they didn't push up so high, limiting headroom. For those who miss the real back seat, we recommend the 2014 Fiat 500L, which is covered by a different review. Perhaps confusingly, the 500L is almost entirely a different car, and actually build on a different platform than the 500.
While we know that the 2014 Fiat 500 will be mostly carry-over, we'll update this review with exact model details as they're announced. The 2014 Fiat 500 is again expected to be offered in three major variants, each with their own flavors: the 500, the 500C, and the 500 Abarth. Base 500 Pop models include a five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack, power windows/locks/mirrors, and cruise control. With Sport models you get larger 16-inch wheels, a fixed glass roof, and a sport-tuned suspension and sport-bolstered seats. There's also special side cladding and painted brake calipers. Fiat 500 Sport models revert to 15-inch wheels and hang on to the glass roof but add a six-speed automatic and rear park assist, along with satellite radio, premium speakers and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
There are so many choices for customization, and we expect these to get even more extensive for 2014. With a long list of exterior colors, different seat color and materials options, as well as accessories, the chances of seeing the same 500 as yours out on the street are very low.
- Fantastic interior styling
- An exterior like no other mini
- Rev-happy engines
- Turbo models add fun
- Strong feature set
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Very small interior
- Short, high seats limit comfort and headroom
- It's not as quick as you might hope
- Gas mileage is better for 2013, but still not stellar