2012 Fiat 500 Coupe
Power: 101hp, 98 lb.-ft.
Engine: 1.4L SOHC 16V four cylinder
Fuel Economy: 30 mpg city, 38 highway
Price as tested: $19,400
Die-hard fans of The Simpsons will recall the day that neighborhood bully, Nelson, HA-HA’d the wrong guy in a tiny car. The scene instantly popped into my head the day a canary yellow Fiat 500 rolled into my driveway. Eyeing the quirky and decisively tiny coupe, I wondered if my normally secure self would be OK whipping it during daylight hours, or if this would be an after-dark affair. I mean, the kids were still out of school, and I didn’t want to have to smack a youth.
Still a bit reluctant to begin the task at hand, I took a deep breath and popped open the door of the “fun-size” car candy. Though my eye was immediately drawn to the unique, color-matched center console, it was quickly pulled back to the 500’s rather bespoke-looking upholstery. Its seats, with their chocolate-dipped bolsters and oddly well-matched charcoal center panels, looked like they were pulled from the cabin of something much pricier. Turns out they’re quite comfortable and supportive too. Settled into the surprisingly roomy driver’s space, I began to feel my way around. Though assembled in Mexico under partnership with Chrysler, the 500 retains the European look and feel that’s made its cousins such overseas hits. Spartan and smart, its design gives you what you need for a fun drive, and little more. With everything well placed (except for maybe the console-mounted window controls) and within reach, the Fiat is a shut-up-and-drive kind of automobile.
When I was finally in motion, people may have been staring in my direction, but I didn’t feel it. Why? Because the 500 quickly proved itself more fun than a barrel of—well, whatever it is that you’d enjoy a barrel of. No, you’re never going to beat the Jersey Shore d-bag in his G37. But the ill power-to-weight ratio of the car’s punchy four-banger make the 101 available horses feel like they might have once been nurtured by Roger Clemens. With a high red line and well-configured transmission, pounding through its gearbox is a blast; although it may leave you craving for another gear to top things out.
As amusing as the Fiat 500 is to drive, there is a big drawback to its construction. Lacking any real stowage space, your road trips better be limited to duffle bag status or less. Even trips to the grocery store may prove challenging if you’re buying for anybody in addition to yourself. However, if you just need to get from point A to point B, it’ll have your back; and do it countless times before needing a refill.
In the end, I have to say the small, cutesy 500 grew on me in a way I didn’t think possible. Strictly speaking, you’re not going to catch me at a Fiat studio, but my time behind its wheel was surprisingly enjoyable. And I didn’t even have to pants anybody.