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  • 2012 Fiat 500 Sport

    Stylish subcompact with 38 mpg fuel economy

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Fiat 500

    The Fiat 500 Sport parked in my driveway brings forth memories of Topo Gigio: the mouse puppet from Ed Sullivan’s popular variety show in the 1960s. It isn’t just the Fiat’s whiskers and logo face, or the fact that both Topo and the original Cincquecento date back to the same era.

    Just as the puppet created by Maria Perego of Milan charmed television viewers, the new Fiat 500 hatchback is irresistibly cute. Styling combines retro and contemporary elements in surprisingly harmonious fashion. It is also quintessentially Italian, setting the car apart from other entries in the A segment.

    Most appealing in the new Cinquecento’s affordability: the base model starts under $16,000. The test car is the midgrade Sport, which has larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. MSRP is $17,500, not including the $500 destination charge.

    Power comes from a single overhead cam four-cylinder engine rated at 101 horsepower, with 98 foot-pounds of torque. Because of its high compression ratio, the manufacturer recommends running 91 octane fuel, although regular is acceptable.

    A five-speed manual gearbox, standard on the Sport, enables drivers to make better use of the engine’s available power than the optional six-speed automatic. It also yields better fuel economy: about three miles per gallon on average according to EPA estimates. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio Lounge

    Subcompact gets an open-air variant

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

    What’s not to love about an Italian car? This year, Fiat returns to North America with two versions of its classic Cinquecento. A hatchback came first, followed by a cabriolet currently rolling into dealerships. Fiat unveiled the new convertible at the New York Auto Show in April.

    The new open-air Fiat comes 55 years after the original Cinquecento rolled out in Italy. A power two-layer cloth top on the 2012 car replaces a removable canvas panel on the 1957 Nuova Cinquecento.

    Despite its retro appearance inside and out, the new Fiat 500 Cabrio is more versatile than the original version, with a spacious high-tech interior and power top which deploys in two positions. The first retracts the top to the roof-mounted rear spoiler; the second to the boot. 

    There are two trim levels, as opposed to three for the hatchback. Base price for the entry-level Pop is $19,500, not including a $500 destination charge. Power comes from a 1.4-liter engine rated at 101 horsepower, and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard comfort features include the power top, air conditioning, MP3 compatible audio system, Bluetooth, a USB port, rear park assist and 15-inch wheels.

    The upscale Lounge grade gets a six-speed automatic transmission in lieu of the five-speed manual, a Bose premium audio system, security alarm and extra chrome trim. Base price is $23,500. Read the rest of this entry »