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SAFETY | 7 out of 10
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The chassis received stiffening and a few extra parts to meet U.S. crash standards, enough so that a 500 that had gone through a 40-mph offset test could easily open and close its doors.
Fiat offers a six-speed manual gearbox in Europe, but chief engineer DiMuro tells us that he was not able to package it in the U.S.-spec 500 without sacrificing a vertical linkage between the horizontal crash-protection beams.
Despite its size, the 2012 Fiat 500 is loaded with safety gear. Stability control and ABS are standard, along with Brake Assist, seven airbags and substantial structural revisions wrought for the U.S. market.
Yes, the 2012 Fiat 500 is very, very small. How it rates for safety remains an open question to industry and federal agencies, but Fiat has gone out of its way to fit in safety technology to ensure the subcompact 500 protects passengers well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to crash-test the 500--and it's the same story over at the insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We'll update this review as soon as these crash-test players publish results.
On the 500's features list are the usual dual front, side and curtain airbags, with the "sometimes Y" addition of a driver knee airbag. The 500 also sports standard anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control. A hill-holder device also is standard, and probably a necessity with the 500's urban appeal.
The inexpensive Fiat 500 doesn't have the fanciest lane-departure warning systems and the like, but Bluetooth is standard on the top two models and available on the base model--which gives it more credibility for passive safety in that regard than some notable Honda/Acura and Volkswagen vehicles. Rear parking sensors are an option on the Lounge model.
While we're waiting on crash-test scores, we're giving the 2012 Fiat 500 a reasonable score of 7 based on its standard safety gear.