Fiat 500 C – Chiaro, chick, chic?

2012, Fiat, 500C

I lived and worked in San Francisco for twenty years. I've always owned a car. I didn't take the car to work during the week. I walked to work from the Castro to the Financial District, about 45 minutes, everyday when the weather was nice.

At night I might drive my car to my friends' house, Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier. Most nights I would just walk up the hill and have dinner with them. My other friend, Liz, lived across town and it took 2 buses to get to her house, so I usually drove. I was never without transportation in the city.

On the weekends I would drive up to Auburn, CA. Auburn is a little town in the Sierra Nevadas, about 2 1/2 hours Northeast of San Francisco, CA. If I could get out of the city before noon on a Friday it was an easy drive. After two p.m. and it was more like a parking lot. It was important to have a car that was reliable with an interior that had everything I needed for a four hour trip averaging thirty miles per hour. ugh.

The Fiat 500 Cabrio, known as a convertible in America, is a great run around car for the city. I loved shooting around SOHO, New York which stands for South of Houston (which is pronounced How-stin in New York). If it hadn't been raining cats and dogs we could have put the top down, or half way down. But noooo, Mother Nature was in a foul mood.

We didn't have any better luck as we went through Tribeca, which stands for the Triangle below Canal Street. Whether you are in Tribeca or SOHO you are going to want a small car with a good turning radius. The streets are full of one-ways and small alleys. Every time I'm there I get lost. With a turning radius of 30.6 feet a quick turnaround in an alley put me back on track.

In the city I was loving this car. We picked the Verde Chiaro exterior color. It's a turquoise color, the same color as a child's easy bake oven by Hasbro. So in, so chic, so chick. The Chiaro might look chick chic, but according to Laura Soave, Head of FIAT Brand North America, sixty percent of the new FIAT buyers are male. Not necessarily the Chiaro color, however.

The beauty of the car is not just in its cuteness. The interior color is fresh, mixing white and Verde Chiaro. The interior is simple, comfortable for four Italians, and intuitive to use. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, Bose audio, remote keyless entry and seven airbags. The interior would be more than sufficient for a four hour long commute. In decent weather.

Laura Soave, Head of FIAT Brand North America, described the Fiat 500C as, “Perfectly timed with the warm weather and excitement of spring, the new 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio expands our product lineup while paying homage to the brand’s rich heritage of open-air cabrios that deliver style, value and driving enjoyment,” said Laura Soave, Head of FIAT Brand North America. “The new Fiat 500c has been intelligently tailored for our market – now with an added dose of sunshine and panoramic views at the push of a button.” It's exactly what I thought when I signed up for the event, sunshine and a cabrio. What could go wrong with that plan?

As we left the city the weather got downright ugly. Rain pouring, windy, puddles of water accumulating on the highway. Adding insult to injury are the SUVs overpowering our little 1.4-liter, 16-valve, 101 horsepower 2,300 pound puppy. I felt like a mosquito being swatted out of the way of King Kong. All I wanted to do was test drive a little cabrio, not have reality gush down in my face.

Fiat recommends 91 octane but says 87 octane is acceptable. I asked Soave if there would be a difference in the 30 city/ 38 highway miles per gallon in the 5-speed manual or the 27 city/ 32 highway miles per gallon for the automatic if I used regular instead of premium fuel. Soave found out that the only difference would be in performance.That is a big deal when you're only getting 101 horsepower on the 91 octane.

The question isn't whether the Fiat Cinquecento will be a success. The Nuova Cinquecento debuted July 4th, 1957 as a cabrio in Europe. It had a pull-down top, not a power top like the current Fiat Cinquecento Cabrio. But will the same success be seen in the United States? Fiat sales and dealerships are just getting started, a little over 3,000 have been sold in three months. That's a far cry from the 50,000 units Soave told Bloomberg in November, 2010, that Fiat wanted to sell in North America in its first year.

The competitors today are the MINI and the Smart car. Smart sales (492 in May,2011) are less than stellar, and less than Fiat sales. MINI sales (5,801 in May) are still going strong. But they are just today's competitors. I talked to a person from Ford Motor Company. Ford has an A-segment car in Europe named the KA. Ford is watching sales on the Fiat 500 and 500C.

MINI maybe watching as well. MINI just announced "wrapping" for its cars, based on KISS band members. That maybe because Fiat 500C can be accessorized by Mopar® with lots of personalization possibilities including unique striping packages, exterior and interior styling accessories.

Two models:

Fiat 500C Pop - starting MSRP $19,500 The new 2012 Fiat 500c Pop model includes a dual-layer power-cloth top, manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels with chrome-accented wheel covers and all-season tires, seven standard air bags, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with auxiliary audio input, chromed exhaust tip, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, speed control, BLUE&ME Handsfree Communication technology with USB port, eco:Drive Application and iPod control capability, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, reconfigurable Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with trip computer, miles-to-empty, average fuel economy and tire-pressure monitoring display (TPM).

Fiat 500C Lounge - $23,500 In addition to the Fiat 500c Pop features the new 2012 Fiat 500c Lounge model includes the all-new six-speed automatic transmission with driver-selectable gear changes, front- and rear-fascia chromed accents, chromed mirror caps, fog lamps, 15-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires, premium cloth seats, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, automatic climate control, and BOSE® Energy Efficient Series audio system with six premium speakers and subwoofer and security alarm.

14 exterior colors: Nero (black), Rosso (red), Bianco (white), Azzurro (blue), Grigio (gray), Argento (silver), Giallo (yellow), Mocha Latte, Verde Chiaro (light green), Rame (copper), Espresso, Verde Oliva (olive green), Rosso Brillante (tri-coat pearl red) and Bianco Perla (tri-coat white)

3 cover colors: Black, Bordeaux, Tan

Soave says that the people who are buying Fiats are people who already own European cars, such as Porsche, Saab, Audi, Volkswagen and BMW. This implies that the FIAT is a second car, but still European. Are there enough European customers living in America looking for a second car as small as a Fiat?

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2012, Fiat 500C

2012 Fiat 500C
2012 Fiat 500C
leaving New York city for the Rhinebeck
leaving New York city for the Rhinebeck
the interior is comfortable and intuitive
the interior is comfortable and intuitive
power-up, or down
power-up, or down