2012 Fiat 500 Convertible Review

Aw c’mon, how could you not love this little cutie?

By Shahzad Sheikh

Fiat 500 Convertible

[Also read Fiat 500 New Meets Original!]

It’s been around almost five years now, and this is probably the fourth time I’m driving one, but it’s only now that I’m really enjoying the irresistibly adorable little Fiat 500.

Sure I’ve always been a fan of the looks, how can you not? If ever there was car that you just wanted to pick and cuddle, this is it. Fiat did an incredible job after jumping on the retro-style bandwagon and taking the original 1957 car as inspiration. Designer, Roberto Giolito, superbly married old-school appeal with modern safety and tech.

I’ve always struggled with its let’s than astounding performance and the confusing automated manual five-speed transmission. But those were brief forays around the block or on an autocross circuit.

So perhaps it’s because I had a longer length of time to get to get to know the 500, perhaps because I always relish charging around town in a little buzz box, or could it be that the weather’s cooled which meant the full length canvas roof could be powered way back, dropping down the rear window and the open-air aspect just added to my newfound romance with the petite Italian?

Fiat 500 Convertible

Interior delights

Probably it was all of these things and more. As already mentioned the looks are charming and they’re followed through into the interior with the body-colour panels, glass-encased buttons, and a single instrument dial with its classic-style numbering.

It’s not the best seating position for my long-legged frame – there’s not quite enough legroom and the steering is too far away – but I can live with it. Shoulder room and head room is not a problem though – and that’s with the roof up.

Typically the electronics are a bit of confusing mess and I had to call for help before figuring out how to pair my phone with the car. But then the fit and finish is so good considering this is meant to be a cheap small car (at least in Europe) that you just shrug in that very Latin manner.

You can just about get a couple of children in the back, and mine certainly loved the school run in the morning with the roof down.

Fiat 500 Convertible

How does it drive?

Well after five years I’ve finally got the hang of that automated manual – no clutch, you use the lever to bang up and down the gears. No paddleshifts, but then the lever’s so close to the steering wheel, that’s not an issue.

You could drive this as a full auto, but then it will just feel jerky and bogged down, so my advice is always select gears manually and keep the Sport button firmly on, ALL the time. Oh and remember to lift momentarily on up-changes. After a while you’ll start to time the reapplication of throttle just as the next ratio kicks in – most satisfying. The accelerator and brake pedal are so close together it’s tempting to try heel-and-toeing, but since the five-speed box blips on down-changes anyway, it’s not worth it.

As for the revvy 1.4-litre 16 valve engine, you have to keep it on the boil to get the best out of it. Its peak power of exactly 100bhp is way up at 6000rpm – which is where the redline begins on the rev counter, but you just ignore that and keep your foot in till close to seven grand. The 97lb ft of torque is also at a relatively high 4250rpm.

Even with all this effort to wring out the best from the eager little motor, you still don’t want to get into any races because 0-100 takes just over 10 seconds and at 182kph you’re all spent. Having said that, in traffic and within the city limits, performance really isn’t an issue, and it never feels lethargic; quite the opposite in fact.

Of course now that I’ve figured out how to get the best out of that engine and make that box work, it looks like we’ll be getting the North American version of the car next year which comes with a whole new 1.4-litre MultiAir engine with one extra horsepower and lb ft each – but which is said to be more lusty lower down. And it comes with an all-new six-speed full automatic.

Fiat 500 Convertible

Ride and handling

But we’re in the here and now. And what is unlikely to change is that it rides remarkably maturely for a tiny thang; there is of course minor judder from the merest of rumble strips and you don’t want to try going bounding over any sleeping policeman. Fortunately the brakes are well up to the tasking of scrubbing speed of this lightweight runabout.

What’s far more interesting is that wheel-at-each corner stance. The tyres may be small and skinny and but don’t underestimate by any means the speed it can carry into and through corners, scuttling through like a cheekily little hamster.

Actually you know I mentioned earlier don’t get into races, well if it’s a series of corners or roundabouts ahead, you might well stand a good chance, for this car seems to say ‘you may leave me for dead on the straightaways, but don’t let me catch you up on the roundabouts, because I will humiliate your ass!’ Sweet.

Steering is light and responsive, but turn-in is a tad slow as you get a hint of understeer before the body pivots and the outside rear loads up then the fronts dig in – you have to keep faith and stay on it (as long as you’ve got run off of course should your be going rather too quickly, which is entirely possible, so keen is this thing).

It’s not quite as crisp, sharp or motivated as a Mini, however it’s no less fun in its own little way.

Fiat 500 Convertible

Verdict

Which precisely sums up this wonderful little car. It’s a happy automobile and it makes you happy. Particularly if the weather’s nice and you can roll back that long roof. I would strongly recommend the extra AED10k for the convertible, you’ll love charging about in it, and others will love you for it too. It’s just a genuinely likeable car, and that rubs off on its driver. Whatever you do, don’t overly tint the windows – this is an open, outgoing thing, soak it up, don’t hide within. And be prepared to grin, a lot.

2012 Fiat 500
Specs
Price:
500 Sport AED72,000 ($19,570)
500 Lounge AED 78,000 ($21,200)
500 Lounge Convertible AED 89,000 ($24,190)
500 by Gucci AED89,000 ($24,190)
Engine: 1.4-litre 16v four-cylinder, 100bhp @ 6000rpm, 97lb ft @ 4250rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 10.5s, 182kph, 7.0L/100km
Transmission: 5-speed auto, Front-wheel drive
Weight: 980kg

You can buy and sell Fiat cars in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt at dubizzle.com.

2 responses to “2012 Fiat 500 Convertible Review”

  1. Azza El Gibali says:

    Very intrested to buy Fiat 500 convertible is it launched in Egypt what is the quoted price for it????

  2. Ashley says:

    I am interested in Fiat Grande Punto 2013. Any idea when GCC dealers will launch this car in UAE

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