Even with the top up, in a blinding rainstorm, the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio Convertible was fun during a recent drive through Manhattan, just north of New York City. And with its EPA 38 mpg on the highway, or 32 mpg, estimated with the optional automatic transmission, it was pretty effective all the way too.
You would expect that the combination of fun and economical driving the modern version of the Fiat 500, a true Italian icon. The original Fiat 500 was launched in 1957. It was not a hardtop, either. It was a manually folding canvas top that similar in concept to the power-folding version of the new 500 Cabrio.
What is unexpected is that in 2012 the Fiat 500 Cabrio so many of the problems that plague most other convertibles are avoided. First, it’s about as much fun with the top up. Secondly, it is surprisingly practical. Thirdly, it is affordable.
The basic price of the Fiat 500 Cabrio is a further $ 20,000. This is a monthly $ 4,000 more expensive than the hardtop model. Add extras such as heated leather seats, navigation and a six-speed automatic transmission, it is possible to run the sticker price for the convertible to around $ 26,000.
Make no mistake, it is still very small, especially the length. The Fiat 500 dwarves a Smart car, but it’s smaller than anything else you’re likely to see on four wheels, at least on the American road. You would expect claustrophobic, but with the top up, overall comfort and interior space is good for the front passengers.
Sadly but not surprisingly, rear passengers are at the mercy of those in the front, which, if they push their seats all the way back, basically no rear legroom in the rear. To be honest, a much larger “four-seat” in the same way. Even trunk is decent, with plenty of room for a couple of medium sized suitcases.
Most convertibles, particularly soft tops, nowhere nearly as attractive with the top up, or something fun to drive. That is unfortunate, because the chances are that most people spend more time in a convertible with the top up than the top down.
Some soft tops as much noise as they let up, acoustically it is as if no top at all. That is a big reason for the increase in the number of folding hardtops, especially luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With the top up, they are just about identical to a hard top in terms of peace.
The 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio soft top does not lose nearly as much in the translation. Fabio DiMuro, chief engineer for the Fiat 500 and Fiat 500 Convertible hardtop, said his team invested considerable time and resources with a soft top that would block wind and traffic noise, in addition to blocking the elements are.
Actually, the soft top for the Fiat 500 Cabrio is more a cross between a traditional convertible and a giant sunroof. With a touch above the driver’s seat, the top slides all the way back to the rear edge of the roof folds in folds as it goes.
Instead of linear acceleration, the powertrain is optimized for better gas mileage and lower emissions. Fiat uses a system he calls MultiAir working under pressure hydraulic fluid to the exact timing and volume of air going into the motor control. DiMuro said the bottom line is, MultiAir produces about 10 percent better gas mileage.
For drivers who are really motivated to save gas, the 2012 Fiat 500 Convertible also comes with what is called Fiat eco: Drive application. The system allows the driver to download data from the car on a memory stick, which can then be uploaded to a home computer or laptop.
Fiat dealers are a little hard to find, import-friendly markets outside on both U.S. coasts. The brand has only 58 U.S. dealers, or “studio” as they like to call them in 25 states.
Finally, Fiat 130 U.S. dealers have expected. By the end of this year, shoppers should be in the Sunbelt, and the larger East Coast markets are not much trouble finding a Fiat dealer.
That is roughly the same strategy as the Mini brand, which belongs to BMW. The Mini Cooper Convertible is the closest logical competitor to Fiat 500C. Even so, it is about 7 inches longer than the 2012 Fiat 500C.
It is also expensive. The Mini Cooper Convertible starts at $ 26,050 suggested retail, around the top of the 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio range.