Test Drive: 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge car test drives reviews fiat
2012 Fiat 500 Lounge. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Fiat 500

Perhaps great car designs never go out of style – or at least, their major styling elements don’t. The key features of the original Austin Mini, VW Beetle, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger have been successfully recreated in modern-day retro versions that appeal to a new generation of customers. No doubt, Fiat is hoping that the original Fiat 500’s eternal cuteness will attract a new generation of Canadians to the 2012 Fiat 500.

The original 1957 Fiat “Nuova” 500 was a tiny car by today’s standards, measuring only three metres long and powered by a 13-horspower two-cylinder air-cooled motor mounted in the rear driving the rear wheels. The 2012 Fiat 500, by comparison, is a larger, front-engine, front-wheel drive car that meets all the current safety, comfort, performance, and emissions standards.

Test Drive: 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge car test drives reviews fiat
Test Drive: 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge car test drives reviews fiat
2012 Fiat 500 Lounge. Click image to enlarge

Despite those differences, the original 500’s key styling features have been cleverly incorporated in the new model: it’s still a two-door coupe with rounded corners, short front and rear overhangs, prominent round headlights, a clamshell hood, a solid (upper) front grille, small tail lights, and optional fold-back convertible top. Inside, retro styling touches include a body-coloured dashboard, a huge single gauge behind the steering wheel, and four seats.

The new Fiat 500 has been on sale in Europe since 2007, and it probably wouldn’t have been available in Canada if Fiat hadn’t bought a major stake in Chrysler in 2009. That allowed the company to assemble the 500 in a Chrysler plant in Mexico and gave Fiat access to Chrysler’s large Canadian dealer network.

In Canada, the 2012 Fiat 500 is offered in Coupe, Cabrio (with traditional roll-back convertible top), and soon, a sporty new Abarth version. The 500 comes in three trim levels, Pop ($15,995 Coupe, $19,995 Cabrio), Sport ($18,500 Coupe only), and Lounge ($19,500 Coupe, $22,995 Cabrio). Our top-of-the-line Lounge Coupe had $3,425 worth of options including the 6−speed automatic transmission ($1,300), striking Pearl white 3−coat paint ($500), power sunroof ($500), heated front seats ($300), special 15-inch alloy wheels ($250), rear park assist ($375), and a compact spare tire in place of tire sealant ($200). Including $100 a/c tax and $1,400 Freight, the as-tested price came to $24,425.

With no less than 14 paint exterior colours, a selection of custom exterior decals, and a choice bright two-tone interior colour combinations, it’s possible for a Fiat 500 owner to personalize their car to the point where they won’t see another one like it on the road.

Test Drive: 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge car test drives reviews fiat
2012 Fiat 500 Lounge. Click image to enlarge

All 500s are powered by a rev-happy 101-hp 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine with a choice of a standard five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission. Being a small car with a small engine, fuel consumption is appropriately stingy: it’s rated by the NRC at just 6.7/5.1 L/100 km city/hwy with the manual tranny, and 7.4/5.7 with the auto. I was seeing about 8.8 L/100 km in mostly city driving with the automatic transmission.

Its miserly fuel consumption is assisted by Fiat’s unique “MultiAir” intake valve system which replaces a traditional overhead camshaft with hydraulic valve actuation controlled by four electronic solenoids. Fiat claims this system improves fuel efficiency by 10 per cent when compared to a similar engine without the system. Premium 91 octane gasoline is recommended, but Regular 87 octane is acceptable, according to the company.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).