charming things: the fiat 500c cabrio review





I’m taking Italian 3 this semester and so, I am immersed in all things Italian (tutte le cose italiane). I’ve been cooking Italian (pizza Napoli), reading Italian newspapers (Corriere Della Sera) and dreaming in Italian so it makes sense that the first Happygirl car review would be about the little Fiat 500C Cabrio or la piccola Fiat cinquecento (say it out loud-- pronounced chinqwah-chentoh. Isn’t that lovely?)

This past week we had the zippy little white and red convertible for five days and there really is only one word to describe this car: carino (cute). The car attracts people like a moth to a flame, a shiny, adorable, sexy little flame.  It's impossible to keep your hands off this car and impossible as well, not to say "Oh my gosh, it is SOOOO cute!" The car, in fact, should come standard with a bumper sticker that reads "Yes, I know how cute I am." 

We took the car out for the first time last Friday night around the lake. It was 72 in the late afternoon mellow sun. With the top down, iced espressos in the cupholders, Sinatra's "Summer Wind" playing, and hair flying we felt like we could be driving along the Amalfi coast. That's what this car has— a feeling. We wondered though, would that feeling be supported as we test drove the car for a week?

The exterior is best described as retrosexy (we coined the term the second we first laid eyes on it). The lines are reminiscent of the car that your mom drove after she graduated from Vassar (she loved that little blue car that summer she and her friends drove to the Cape every weekend before they all got married.) This 2012 version, however, has a sexiness that your mom's car never had. It's sleek and cheeky with its curved concentric circle theme throughout the car (exterior and interior). It also has a 1.4 liter MultiAir four cylinder 101hp engine that makes this car zippy and fun to drive. Available in both a manual (which we had) and an automatic model, the ride is smooth, with the steering and brakes exact. The car is light (2416 pounds) but when rounding curves the car responds well. Even as we crossed the 520 bridge on a windy day, the car safely within our control. This Fiat responds well to  acceleration (0-60 in less than 10 seconds) but it's a little sluggish. We'd like to see what a turbo would feel like. Extra oomph would really help with some of the steep hills here in Seattle.



The interior feels open and airy, surprising for a small car. The first time we sat in the car we looked at each other and said "It's sexy, right?!"  We loved the dashboard which follows through the circular theme and easy to read controls. The front headroom is 38.6 inches with the front leg room at 40.7 inches.

The backseat, like most convertibles is small. We have a dog crate when we take the dogs out and I'm not sure it would fit in the backseat but the split bucket seats do go back if you need the space. Older kids would also do OK in this backseat. Though I think if you decided to take your co-workers out to find the Taco Truck for lunch, they might enjoy more legroom.  The trunk is small at 5.4 feet.  When I look at a trunk I think— can I fit a rolling carryon back there? Yes, you could in this car but it would be a stretch with a stroller or larger luggage.



But let's be honest, the charm of the Fiat 500C Cabrio is the unique top. Traditionally a convertible means when the top goes down there is nothing between you and the open air. Instead, the Fiat 500C Cabrio has a rolling sunroof that can stop in three positions (little sunroof, medium sunroof and big sunroof) leaving the roof rails on either side. That is a cool feature. We all liked that.  (My husband also liked the rails because he felt it would be safer for me in an accident.) You can even move the top open further while you're driving or even more important—you can close it while you are driving. (I drive a VW Beetle Convertible and I will admit that more than once I have been caught in a sudden downpour with the top down while driving down the 405.) When you close the top, the two layer cloth is watertight and cozy. I've had convertibles in the past where I literally I had to shout into my Bluetooth because there was so much ambient air noise and rattling even with the top closed. The downside of driving this car topdown is that the top is bulky when down and I had a hard time backing out of a parking space, feeling like I couldn't see what I could be backing into.

Like a good gelato alla nocciola (hazelnut gelato) this car grew on us. It was smooth, sexy and classic. The price is right ($20,200 - $24,200) for the base model if what you are looking for is a small car that has character. This is not a car to take on cross-country road trips or if you have small children (and all their stuff). If you are looking for an Italian experience and you want to feel like you could quite possibly invite Sophia Loren to accompany you to the farmer's market by the water, this is a happy car (la vettura felice) for you.