15k: 2012 Fiat 500
Ok – now the guys at DT have gone off the deep end – delete the bookmarks and add the domain to your banned domain list…they just featured a brand new car. But DT is all about cheap and fun – we never said the cars had to be used. This is the car for someone who doesn’t want to crawl around on the ground poking the bottom of some dirty old car looking for rust or dealing with mustached car flippers (this ain’t movember, shave it off). The 2012 Fiat 500 is available from your local Fiat dealers and starts at $15500 for the “Pop” edition.
The original cinquecento was produced from 1957-1975 and had a mind numbingly slow 0.5 liter 2 cylinder engine that makes golf carts feel fast. Fiat (now merged in some way to Chrysler that only bankers can truly understand) reincarnated the 500 in 2007 for European consumption and finally brought it stateside in 2011. It aims straight at the market carved by BMW’s successful Mini Cooper and offers a lot for a small price tag.
The Fiat 500 is powered by a 1.4 liter multi-air inline 4 cylinder gasoline engine putting out 101 horsepower and 98 ft-lbs of torque. The multi-air engine uses a continuously variable valve actuation technology to control torque without a throttle- helping to increase fuel economy and power. The engine is mated to a five speed manual transmission that unfortunately powers the front wheels – but it falls into the category of cars that are so low in power/torque that its hard to tell which wheels are being driven when you fling its 2400 lbs around.
The Fiat 500 has funky interior with a sweet looking gauge cluster in the center that has a tach and speedo superimposed inside each other. The shifter sticks out of the dash similar to a modern Honda, but the materials look nice and will probably last a few months/years before the plasticized paint starts to peel off and the new car smell is replaced with the smell of your gym bag and rotting pizza crust.
Ok – we haven’t really lost our minds and we would still prefer to have an original Fiat 500 with a totally open exhaust header to terrorize our neighborhood – but perhaps you would prefer to have a Fiat that isn’t rusty…yet. The biggest problem we have with new cars is depreciation – and yes at $15500 – this car probably won’t lose more than a few $k in the first 2-3 years…but in 10 years it will probably be featured on DT as a $5k special… Pop for it now, or later?
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All joking aside, the Fiat 500 is a pretty decent car – for what it was designed for. As a supposedly fashionable novelty marketed to Americans by JLo, not so much.
That JLo ad campaign was a marketing gaffe of epic proportions. It pretty much set Fiat's US re-entry plan back by years, and turned away every straight guy under retirement age (and a lot of women for that matter) who might have ever considered buying one.
The 500 makes a lot more sense in Europe, where roads are smaller, parking is tighter, speeds are lower. Ad it's not marketed by JLo there.
~ i don't know about JLo's effect on Fiat/Chrysler's marketing effort, but having only seen the commercial a couple times i can say it hasn't affected my attitude noticeably. this thumbnail review has prompted my interest to the extent that i called an old friend, the sales manager for a large multi-line dealer that recently added Fiat, and said i'd buy him coffee and Danish in exchange for a test drive. i explained i am not at this time, a buyer, but i've been wrong before and he is one of the best closers in 'da biz'. everything i've been told by social friends has been criticism from those with no experience, while the automotive press is complimentary, respectful, and enthusiastic. my friend at the dealer is positive i'll love the first Fiats sold in the US in 27 years so i'll let you know if i'm not too busy slashing about in my new POP.
Mark started his pre-pitch by telling me, 'what if i told you there is a military and college grad price of under $14,200?' ABC- always be closing.
I'd be interested to hear your perspective after driving one, Scot. As I said above, I think it's a pretty decent car. Perhaps not as well suited to typical US expectations, but good for what it's supposed to do. The 500 I drove (a "Sport") seemed like it would be fun to tool around in, but not really well-suited for the kind of driving I do on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people won't even consider Fiat and the 500 until Fiat does some image rebuilding. Fiat really needed to relaunch and position their brand as a serious and competitive alternative to the more established brands in the US market. That ad series didn't do it. In fact, it seemed to do more to label their initial US entry as a "cute chick car" – not a good first step.
I've driven one, and while I can't say I'm totally enamored by the styling, it is a fun little runabout. The one I drove was a rental so it was an auto / manu-matic and it revved willingly without upshifting early. It is a bit taller and narrower than the Mini so it felt just a tad tippy around faster corners but I'm sure aftermarket anti-roll bars would firm it up. I would seriously consider one if I was looking for something new, cheap, and tossable.
~ i'm anticipating the experience more and more as i do the due. researching the car's history in the European market is a great tease. the Abarth model has been a curiosity that i look forward to satisfying.
~ well guys, i hope you all break loose a few minutes to take a visit to your local Fiat showroom. i won't try to do a full auto press review but i fiddled and futzed all over a bunch of these little cars yesterday evening til i could hardly even stand it. it was great fun to drive, very comfortable and compliant. you will immediately understand why the Italians are so proud of this car and why the rest of the world excepts it as among the best of basic transportation… and more. i didn't buy, and Mark didn't try to 'hammer close' me. no drops, no tossing in the fabric protection package or extended service agreement if i'd sign today, no special incentives. just a special little car. he said to me as i left, 'think about it. if you don't buy one yourself i'm betting you'll send more than one buyer our way'. that's a solid bet, right there. and i'm betting Fiat is here to stay.
~ i meant 'the rest of the world accepts it'.