Saturday, June 22, 2013

First Drive: 2013 Fiat 500C

The original Fiat 500 Topolino was produced from 1936 until 1955. There was even a convertible version of this micro car/supermini/city car. From 1957 until 1975, Fiat produced the Fiat 500, a rear engine, rear wheel drive micro car. Unlike the Topolino, the Fiat 500 was not available as a convertible. In 2007, Fiat brought back the 500 name for its new city car. In December of 2010, production for the American version of the Fiat 500 began. In Spring 2011, the Fiat 500 went on sale in the United States and Canada. This was the first car to be sold under the Fiat brand in Canada and the United States since 1984. While the Fiat brand just recently returned to these two markets, Fiat's other brands, Ferrari and Maserati, were still sold in these two markets while during those 27 years. Another one of Fiat's brands, Alfa Romeo, made a short return these markets with the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and 8C Spider in 2008. The last Alfa Romeo to be sold in the United States occurred in 1995. After starting production of the Fiat 500 in 2007, Fiat started production on the convertible version in 2009. Fiat called this retractable soft top version the Fiat 500C. The Fiat 500C was available for the United States in 2011. The Fiat 500C is front engine, front-wheel drive, four passenger, two door convertible. The 500C comes with a five-speed manual transmission. I first saw the Fiat 500C at the September 2011 edition of Houston Cars and Coffee. At the 2013 Houston Auto Show, I took a Fiat 500C for a test drive. The version I drove came with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode.

On the exterior, the Fiat 500C looks just like the Fiat 500. The 500C is one of the better looking city cars available for the American market. It has sleek body lines, something missing from the Scion iQ and the Smart ForTwo. The 500C shares some styling characteristics from the classic Fiat 500, including the round head lights, the hood, and a sloping rear end. It even has a similar body line going along the side of the car, just under the wind. This was a feature on the classic  Fiat 500. The Fiat 500C has a stylish interior. It is classy, but functional. Behind the wheel, I had good leg room and head room. The car feels more open with the roof down. Since this is a city car with only two doors, there is not much room in the rear for adult passengers. The rear seats are better suited for smaller passengers.

The Fiat 500C is powered by a 1.4L I4 engine that produces 101 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds and reaches a top speed of 110 mph. While the performance of the 500 is not great, it is still better than the performance of the Smart ForTwo Cabrio. For a small car, the Fiat 500C has a smooth ride. The car responds well when I turn the steering feel and has an agile feel to it. Unlike the Smart ForTwo Cabrio, the wind had little effect on the car. It was quiet inside the 500C. I could hear the product specialist explain the features of the Fiat 500C, even with the roof down. And most of all, this is a fun car to drive. Prices for the Fiat 500C Pop starts at $20,000. Prices for the Fiat 500C Lounge start at $24,000. While the Smart ForTwo Cabrio is cheaper, with a base prices around $18,500, the Fiat 500C is a better car.

The Fiat 500C has been featured in Gek Op Wielen, St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, Letters to Juliet, Camping 2, Monte Carlo, Der Letzte Bulle, Switch, Ein Sommer Im Elsass, Dolfje, Jo, Borgen, Frankie, Motorweek,, Wainy days, The Office, Pod Prikritie, and Top Gear Korea.

Overall, this is a good city car/super mini/micro car. For a micro car convertible, it has decent performance, especially when compared to its rival, the Smart ForTwo Cabrio. While having a 0 to 60 mph time of just under 10.0 second is slow, it has some zip to it when driving on city streets. With a top speed of 110 mph, it is one of the faster city cars out there. And the Fiat 500C is fun to drive, whether the top is up or down. There is a high performance version of the Fiat 500C, the Fiat 500C Abarth, which has a turbocharged 1.4L I4 engine that produces 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. It is only available with a five-speed manual transmission. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 129 mph. It costs $26,700. Still, if you want a city car with a little performance, go with either the Mini Cooper Hardtop and Coupe lines or the Fiat 500 line. For a city car, the Fiat 500C is a good choice.

Photo was taken by a digital camera.
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