2012 Fiat 500c: Up Close

Given that the Fiat 500c’s retracting canvas roof doesn’t take the door frames or B- and C-pillars with it, the resulting experience feels more like a panoramic moonroof than an open-air convertible. That stays true to the layout of the original 500 cabrio, which went on sale in summer 1957, but the “cabrio” designation suggests more.

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The roof operates with a couple of buttons in the headliner, at speeds up to 60 mph. Press the Open button once, and it retracts just over the C-pillars. Press it again, and the rear window folds down while the canvas portion accordions over the whole thing. Piled high atop the trunk, the folded roof obscures most of the view out back — hence, Fiat gave the 500c standard sonar parking assist, marketing manager Stephan Cloutier told me.

Like in most convertibles, the 500c has a small rear window with the top up. The view out back is workable, but it’s not as good as in the 500 hardtop, which I hopped into for comparison at Fiat’s display. The cabrio’s C-pillars aren’t much larger than the hardtop’s, so blind spot visibility isn’t bad.

Trunk volume in the 500c is just 5.4 cubic feet (versus 9.5 cubic feet in the hardtop), but it’s a rectangular area with a decent-sized opening, not a submerged compartment with onerous access, as so many convertibles incur. If the canvas top is retracted all the way and you want to access the cargo area, you’ll need to wait a few seconds while the top returns to a partially closed position over the C-pillars. That’s because the top partially obstructs the trunk hinges, Cloutier said. Whether the top is up or down, trunk room doesn’t suffer, so putting the top down won’t crunch your groceries.

Weight differences between the hardtop and 500c amount to about 100 pounds, Cloutier said, but a lot of that could be up top, given reinforcements to areas like the windshield frame. A higher center of gravity can’t bode well for any car’s fun-to-drive potential, and the 500 hardtop leans a bit in corners already. Still, that may matter little. The 500c will appeal more to the style-conscious than to performance enthusiasts, and modest handling may play little into that mission.

Comments 

Dawg

All my adult life, FIAT has stood for Fix it Again Tony. There is no way I will never buy one of their quirky little cars unless that provide a 100k mile bumper to bumper warranty. My cousin had their Spider and it had cardboard door panels. If they have changed, they had better prove it if they ever want to return to the US market.

Dawg

I can see women going for the interior. It is rather stylish, but the outside looks a lot like a pug dog. (no offense meant to that breed).

OR Drive

@dawg

Dude, you are really making Americans (like me) look stupid. You're saying Fiat need to prove themselves and that the design may appeal to woman (but not males or real drivers). Well, maybe you've heard of Michael Schumacher (F1 champion) who owns and has had nothing but good things to say about the Fiat 500 abarth. Look I love muscle cars and performance cars, but I also respect the Fiat as a proper driver's car that strips away the inessentials and concentrates on making a car that is quick and fun to drive. If you get a chance, check out the specs on the Abarth, it is RWD and mid-engined. It is very quick and ,w/ the power to weight ratio, a real performance car.

Rather than retracting the roof, it would be better if cars retracted the rear cargo window and had fold down tailgates for added cargo space when needed. Most often we drive alone.. this car is tiny, but there is more space in my back pocket than in that trunk.

Diana BR

I absolutely LOVE my Fiat 500c. The all leather interior makes for very comfortable seats, even on extended trips. My more than 6 foot-tall husband has plenty of leg and head room. Who needs a big trunk on a sub-compact car? I didn't buy it for hauling crap, I bought it for gas mileage, ease of parking and a fun, sporty ride. I can put three bags of groceries in the trunk without a problem. If I want to haul 2 X 4s or drywall, I'll buy a truck, thanks. The premium sound system doesn't hurt, and if the sun is shining, the roof is down. Yes, I wish it had a little more horsepower because I have a need for speed, but the pros of this little car far outweigh the cons. Oh, and it makes people smile. Overall, it's a cute car and anything that makes people smile when they've had a hard day at work or with the kids is okay in my books.

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