All photos by Fiat
"Timing is everything" gets overplayed so much in today's world but it really holds true to the launch of the 2012 Fiat 500 in North America this year. It's been many moons since Fiat sold product in the United States. With efficiency being one of the top concerns of today's auto buyers, Fiat couldn’t have picked a better time to debut the sporty and clever 2012 Fiat 500 .
The 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge is so new that the car is unrecognizable to onlookers. Our Argento Silver test model is one small package but the distinctive Italian styling gives the 2012 Fiat 500 large amounts of character. The 15-inch aluminum wheels looked sharp and were a good match for the overall packaging of the 500 and matched the body side molding with the 500 badge. The bi-function halogen projector headlamps, fog lamps, chrome heated side mirrors, chrome exhaust tip and the very cool fixed glass roof all caught our eyes. Together, the Fiat 500 offers drivers an opportunity for individual expression while being pragmatic with their pocketbook. Fiat launched the European 500 back in 2007. This version was custom made for the North American market but still resembles what is being sold in other countries. The best way we can describe the overall look of the exterior of the 2012 Fiat 500 is "feel good and look good".
Fiat has been building cars since 1899 so they've had plenty of time to get interiors right. All of that experience has paid off in a smart and clean cabin in the 500. The leather-trimmed bucket seats were very comfortable and sturdy and the driver's sight lines were much higher from the ground than we anticipated, which cleared the way for much better road sense. The dashboard was sporty, fun and just outright cool, with options like automatic temperature control with micron filter, Bose premium audio and SIRIUS satellite radio. Our model also sported once of the sharpest steering wheels we've seen lately, which was wrapped in leather and included mounted audio controls. Rear seating was pretty much what we expected -- larger adults will probably be asking for more space than what is available. The fixed glass roof allows a great view above and the cloth used in the headliner added to the unique styling of the Fiat 500.
Fiat is offering both manual and automatic transmissions in the 2012 Fiat 500. Our loaner had a 6-speed automatic transmission coupled with a 1.4-liter I4 MultiAir engine. The power in the 500 Lounge was adequate and the transmission was very smooth. Fuel efficiency is obviously a bog draw in these times and at 27mpg city and 34mpg in highway driving the automatic transmission Fiat 500 is being introduced to American consumers at an opportune time. The larger gas tank, four-wheel disc brakes and redesigned rear suspension are some of the changes Fiat brought to the U.S. in the 2012 Fiat 500. The 500 lounge we drove with the automatic transmission produced just over 100 horsepower, which doesn't sound like much. You have to remember, though, that the Fiat 500 weighs in at approximately 2400 pounds so you aren't hauling a tank. The high tech MultiAir engine teamed up the automatic transmission made for an enjoyable ride with plenty of juice to keep us smiling.
It's rare that a new product in North America is already an icon in other parts of this planet but that's certainly the case with the Fiat 500 (or as many will grow to call the "Cinquecento"). During our testing, this car grabbed the attention and imagination of so many who we encountered and the reaction was extremely positive. The Fiat 500 Lounge we drove came in at a total sticker price of $21,600, which competitive for buyers who value style, customization and efficiency. Once we get to see more of the 500 here in America, we're guessing that a car like the 500, which has a starting price around $16,000, will find plenty of customers. Many automakers make the mistake of offering too few choices but not the folks at Fiat. The 2012 Fiat can be customized for individual tastes and they added a cabriolet model for those looking for open skies. Fiat is starting over in the U.S. with the Fiat 500. If quality comes in at the top of the class, this might be a rebirth that can flourish and also establish new platforms for the Chrysler and Dodge brands in the very near future.
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