Sporty/performance car; Built in
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 2-door hatchback
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $6,000 – $18,000*


2014 Fiat 500


2014 Fiat 500


2014 Fiat 500 Abarth


2014 Fiat 500

Pros:
  • Fuel economy
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Engine noise
  • Ride (Sport and Abarth models)

Even the most basic Fiat 500 is brimming with European personality. All are fun to drive, with the Abarth being among the most engaging cars in its price class. We especially love that model’s throaty exhaust. High-end versions are on the pricey side. Further, Fiat recommends premium-grade gasoline for all 500s, even standard versions, which increases operating costs a bit. Still, the wide variety of models and features means there’s a 500 that can suit pretty much any taste, a characteristic that the new mid-line Turbo trim only enhances.

Overview

The 2012 Fiat 500 marked the return of this Italian brand to North America. Fiat S.p.A. entered into an alliance with Chrysler in 2009 to form the Chrysler Group LLC, and the 500 was sold in brand-specific showrooms at Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealers.

Though this was one of the smallest vehicles available for sale in North America, its fun-to-drive character and available high-power drivetrains placed this Italian-designed car squarely in Consumer Guide’s sporty/performance car segment. It was a very Eurocentric car, but the version offered for sale Stateside was actually made in Mexico. It’s a bit tough to pinpoint exact competition, especially since this category encompasses such a wide variety of vehicles. Logical rivals include the Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper, Nissan Juke, and Volkswagen Beetle.

Fiat offered the 500 as a 2-door hatchback or 2-door convertible. Note that the convertible was not a “true” open-air ragtop. It had fixed roof rails that span the area above the doors and side windows; the fabric top powers down between them.

The Fiat 500 model lineup ascended through base Pop, athletic Sport, upscale Lounge, high-end Gucci, sporty Turbo (introduced for 2013), and high-performance Abarth models.

All Fiat 500s were front-wheel drive. Base models were powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, and a 6-speed automatic was optional. The Turbo had a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine 135-horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The Abarth also had a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, but with 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. No automatic transmission was offered on Turbo and Abarth; the lone gearbox choice was a 5-speed manual.

Safety features included ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, front-side airbags, and a driver-knee airbag.

Yearly Updates

2012 500
For 2013, the 500 lineup expanded to include a new mid-range Turbo model with a 135-horsepower turbocharged engine and a convertible version of the high-performance Abarth model. A 500e electric vehicle was also introduced.
2013 500
For 2014, the Fiat 500 got a revised front-passenger seat with an armrest, seat-position memory, and a 1-inch-lower height for improved headroom.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Fiat 500s were front-wheel drive. Base models were powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, and a 6-speed automatic was optional.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.4/84
Engine HP 101
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 98
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed automatic
31/40
27/34
electric1
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches)
Engine HP 111
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 147
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
single-speed

122/108

Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.4/84
Engine HP 135
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 150
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

28/34

Turbocharged ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.4/84
Engine HP 160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 170
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

28/34

1. MPGe.

Road Test

Standard 500 models can keep up with city traffic, but having only 101 horsepower on tap makes them feel overtaxed on the highway. A Sport button on the dashboard markedly improves throttle response. On 101-horsepower models, we would recommend leaving it on all the time. The Abarth is stronger all around, though it really comes alive above 4,000 rpm. On all, the manual transmission is fun to shift. With the automatic, downshifts are surprisingly quick and upshifts are smooth. No 500 Turbo models have been made available for testing so far.

In Consumer Guide testing, manual-transmission 101-horsepower models averaged 34.4-34.5 mpg with slightly more highway driving than city use. Automatic-transmission 500s averaged 33.5-35.9 mpg. An Abarth averaged 30.5 mpg with more highway use. Fiat recommends premium-grade gasoline, even on base models.

The 500’s standard suspension tuning is firm, though bump absorption is quite good. Naturally, large ruts and pavement breaks make for a more bouncy experience. Sports are firmer. More small bumps make their way into the cabin. Stiffest of all is the Abarth, especially on that model’s optional 17-inch wheels. No 500 exhibits all-out harshness, however.

All models are fun to toss. Steering feel is direct and communicative. Despite a somewhat tall design, body lean in fast turns is very well controlled. Abarth’s track-tuned suspension, quicker steering, and high-performance brakes make it the best of the lot.

The base engine is raspy, as you would expect from a small-displacement 4-cylinder, but it’s not unrefined. Road noise and wind rush are both well controlled in hatchbacks. Convertibles are nearly as quiet top-up, and top-down noise and buffeting are minimal. Special kudos to Fiat’s engineers for the Abarth’s exhilarating exhaust note. It’s appropriately sporty when accelerating, and the “pop” you hear after lifting off the throttle is not something you often hear on a factory-spec vehicle. The Abarth convertible’s interior is impressively quiet with the top up.

The speedometer and tachometer are housed concentrically in a circular binnacle located ahead of the driver. It’s an unusual layout to be sure, and not everyone will acclimate to it. The climate controls have a more-traditional layout, though we vastly prefer rotary knobs to the push-button arrangement found here. For connecting digital-music players, the auxiliary stereo input jack and USB port are inconveniently located deep inside the glovebox. The available navigation system is a standalone, dashboard mounted unit that can be removed if desired. We suggest keeping it stowed as its TomTom-brand interface isn’t especially intuitive. On convertibles, the top opens in two phases. First, the upper part retracts, then the rest of the roof moves back and sits atop the trunk lid. Full operation is a one-button affair and completes in about 15 seconds. What’s nice is that the top can be lowered at speeds up to 50 mph.

Most materials are hollow plastic, which reflects the car’s economy-oriented roots. A large plastic panel extends across the entire face of the dashboard and is painted to match the exterior color. We think it adds a sporty vibe to the cabin, but some buyers might find it a bit too ostentatious. The Abarth’s extensive sporty styling cues do a thorough job of distinguishing it from other 500s.

The front seats are comfortable and high set, which makes for a commanding forward view. Headroom suffers as a result, particularly on models equipped with the sunroof. Fortunately, this feature is a standalone option on all 500s. The Abarth’s sport seats offer a bit more support in fast cornering. Here, they’re set as high as in other 500 models and thus suffer from the same headroom issues. Visibility over the driver’s left shoulder is almost completely blocked by the roof pillars and the headrest. The convertible’s top unveils an expansive opening that extends well forward. However, the rear window is smaller than the hatchback’s. If the convertible top is opened all the way, the stack it creates blocks half of the driver’s view out the back. Convertibles include rear-obstacle detection, which is helpful when backing out of your garage or a parking space. The sun visors are tiny and don’t extend when folded to the side.

In back, space is tight overall, but it’s not as inhospitable as you might expect, provided a front-seat occupant leaves their seat in a place that gives you enough legroom. In the 500e, the battery pack is installed under the floor, raising the rear-seat passenger’s feet and knees by a few inches. Toe space under the driver’s seat is tight. Entry and exit are surprisingly easy.

The hatchback has a typical hatch lid hinged above the rear window, whereas the convertible has a short trunk lid hinged just below the rear window. Folding the seat backs increases room, but they rest about 4 inches above the cargo floor. In the convertible, the small trunk-lid area makes for a rather stingy aperture. Interior storage is barely adequate. The available slide-out bin beneath the passenger seat should be standard, rather than optional.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2012 500 Lounge

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 3
30%
Fuel Economy - 9
90%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
50%
Cargo Room - N/A
N/A0%

Other

Value - N/A
N/A0%

Total: 43

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
90.6 139.6 64.1 59.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
5.4 10.5 4.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 36.8 40.7 31.7
2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
90.6 139.6 64.1 59.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
26.8 10.5 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 35.6 40.7 31.7
2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
90.6 142.4 64.1 60.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
26.3 4.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 35.5 40.7 27.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2012 500 hatchback 2-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 2
40%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Clutch
Description: The clutch pressure plate may experience premature failure. (2012-14)
Suspension problems
Description: On the electric 500e, the halfshaft joints could loosen and separate causing a loss of driving capability. (2013)
Electrical problem
Description: On the electric 500e cooling plates for the Power Inverter Module (PIM) may leak coolant and and cause a short circuit and blown service fuse. The vehicle would have a loss of propulsion. (2013-14)

Recall History

2012 500
Description: Some vehicles were assembled with contaminated brake fluid that could degrade seals and cause a loss of braking.
2013-14 500e
Description: A defective Electric Vehicle Control Unit (EVCU) could cause the transmission to unexpectedly shift to neutral, increasing the risk of a crash.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.