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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 FIAT 500

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Expert's Rating

3.8Good

MPG 30 City / 38 Highway
Pros
  • Nimble handling
  • Unmistakable styling
  • Excellent fuel economy
Cons
  • Pricey options
  • Limited rear seat legroom
  • Front seats not built for long commutes
, Automotive Editor -
Fiat was reintroduced to America with the 500, a hatchback that's small but has a big personality. Similar to what BMW did when it relaunched the Mini, Fiat took its small car from the 1950s and gave it new life as a trendy small car for urban dwellers and European cities. But it also offers other drivers the advantages of conveniences from bigger cars and good fuel efficiency.

Introduction

There are four trim levels for the 500 hatchback. The base Pop comes with the 1.4-liter four-cylinder that's good for 101 horsepower. The standard transmission for all 500s is a five-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic is optional on all but the Abarth. All Pop trim cars get 15-inch steel wheels, power windows, locks and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel controls for the six-speaker audio system that also includes a USB port and Fiat's Blue & Me phone pairing system.

Sport trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a firmer suspension and sportier styling cues and foglamps. The upscale Lounge models get 15-inch alloy wheels, the Pop's softer suspension, a glass roof and automatic climate control, among other features. The Abarth is the fastest Fiat, with a turbocharged 1.4-liter good for 160 horsepower and mated to a heavy-duty five-speed manual. Abarths get racing-inspired seats with big bolsters, lowered suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, revised steering settings and a sport steering wheel.

The Mini Cooper and Cooper S are a little larger and have higher quality interiors than the Fiat, but the Mini's controls are illogical and both cost much more. The Smart Fortwo is more compact and cheaper, but the transmission is poor and only seats two. The Scion iQ is also more compact and has a trick seating arrangement, but has a tacky interior and the CVT transmission saps power. The Ford Fiesta is a much larger car and offers luxury features, but doesn't have the same style statement.

In the era of downsizing, the Fiat 500 proves you don't have to sacrifice style or convenience features in a small car. It's not the most fuel efficient little hatchback, or the cheapest, but it is attention grabbing and would be ideal as a second car or in an urban setting where parking is a chore. And it makes a fashion statement for people looking for Italian flair without the six-figure price tag.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 FIAT 500
Starting price
$9,500

2013 FIAT 500 Abarth

Recommended for: Drivers who want a fast, little car

The Abarth wants to be a miniature Ferrari with its aggressive, low-stance and bulging fenders and body kit. Under the enlarged hood is a turbocharged version of the standard engine, producing 160 horsepower and routed through a heavy-duty five-speed manual. The Abarth has lowered suspension, stiffer springs, revised steering system, larger brakes and a limited-slip differential. Inside, there are racing-style seats with large bolsters, unique cloth upholstery, a sport steering wheel and aluminum pedals. Options automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof and the TomTom navigation.

2013 FIAT 500
Starting price
$9,500

2013 FIAT 500 Lounge

Recommended for: Shoppers interested in more style and convenience features

The Lounge is a more sophisticated machine aimed at those who want something more premium than the standard Pop. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, along with foglights, chrome accents on the bumpers and mirrors and a glass roof and satellite radio. Inside, there is automatic climate control and upgraded cloth seats, but heated leather seats are optional. Also available is the Convenience Package, which adds rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated front seats. A power sliding sunroof and the TomTom navigation system, as well as 16-inch polished alloy wheels and automatic transmission, are standalone options.

2013 FIAT 500
Starting price
$9,500

2013 FIAT 500 Pop

Recommended for: Shoppers looking for a cute small hatchback

The 500 Pop hatchback is an inexpensive way to get a stylish car that turns heads and uses little fuel. Just because it's the base model doesn't mean it's lacking in convenience features, though. The Pop comes with the 1.4-liter four cylinder and 101 horsepower with a standard five-speed manual. A six-speed automatic with manual shifting override is optional. Also included are power windows, locks with remote keyless entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, 15-inch wheels and a six-speaker audio with AUX input. Options include alloy wheels, a power sunroof, Bose audio system with subwoofer and satellite radio and a compact spare tire. The Convenience Package adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with steering wheel audio controls and Fiat's Blue & Me system, which adds Bluetooth and a USB input and interface to control iPod and mobile phone functions.

2013 FIAT 500
Starting price
$9,500

2013 FIAT 500 Sport

Recommended for: Buyers who want a sporty looking small car

The Sport doesn't add any parts to make you go faster, but enough styling tweaks to make it look like you're going faster. Sport models get bigger, 16-inch alloy wheels with red painted brake calipers, as well as foglights, roof spoiler, firmer suspension tuning and different body kit. Inside, combination cloth/leather sport seats are standard, as are the Blue & Me system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and Bose audio. Options include leather seats, satellite radio, power sunroof, spare tire and automatic transmission. The Safety & Convenience Package combines the spare tire with automatic climate control and heated front seats. A TomTom detachable navigation unit is also available.

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