In taking press fleet deliveries from one of the companies I deal with I am constantly reminded of a famous line from one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump. This week was no different as the baby blue 2017 Fiat 500 Cabrio (500c) pulled into the test driveway – I never know what I am going to get.
My first reaction was watching points drop drastically from my man card and after my first spin behind the wheel, I found myself hiding from the neighbors. This is not a vehicle I would ever buy for myself, and not just because it looks like we got it from the Ringling Bros. going-out-of-business sale. The 500c is small, and I had a difficult time getting comfortable in it despite the few seat adjustments offered. I banged my head a few times, I had difficulty with groceries, it almost did not fit our luggage for a trip during the week…it’s small.
The Fiat 500, or Cinquecento in its native language, is an iconic car for the automaker and came to America about a decade ago right after Fiat took a controlling share of the Chrysler Corporation. The modern 500 appears to be doing well globally as Fiat boasts more than 1 million sales since it appeared in 2007. Previously we have tested some performance (Abarth) versions of the 500 and have enjoyed them due to the enhancements made over the base Cinquecento, but this funky little Cabrio just couldn’t win my heart. This ain’t a car for a dude.
My wife, however, thought this was one of the cutest little rides she has seen in some time and when not covering her ears over my cussing every time I banged my head she enjoyed traveling in it, especially when we rolled back the power cloth top. The Cabrio (cabriolet) function in the Fiat rolls back the roof section to just above the trunk lid at the rear (and anywhere in between at speeds up to 60mph). Unfortunately, the gathered sections obscure most of your rearward vision in the inside mirror and I was disappointed to not see a backup camera in this car.
Under the hood is the 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder MutliAir Fiat engine that delivers 101hp and 98 lb. ft. of torque. The little engine is always working but did a fair job of keeping up with traffic and entering freeways. The automaker does offer a Turbo version for those who simply cannot live with this weaker engine but I found it to do a decent job, especially in Sport mode. The engine is mated to a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with the latter offering manual shift mode.
I discovered very quickly this car requires attention to driving by the operator. One always has to be wary of poor road surface conditions as the 500c did not like potholes or road construction zones very well. Stability was so-so for a car of this size and handling was only OK. We hit one stretch of road with grooves cut into the pavement and the highway seemed to want to drive this car more than I did. The multi-panel cloth Cabrio top offered good sound and environmental insulation when closed and the car was fun to drive with the roof rolled all the way back. I, however, would still opt for a traditional convertible were I in the market for something with a removable roof.
Our 500c Lounge Cabrio did arrive with a nice Beats premium audio system, Avorio leather seating, and GPS navigation system as well as fog lamps, chrome exhaust tip, black soft top, leather steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel mounted audio controls, 7-inch color driver display cluster, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, media hub, and Uconnect 5.0 infotainment system. It rides on 15-inch aluminum wheels with all season tires and features the usual host of standard safety equipment including rear park assist.
Pricing for a base 2017 Fiat 500 begins at $14,995 with Cabrio versions adding $1,495 to the sticker. Our 500c Lounge model arrived with a final window sticker of $23,420. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
I know there are going to be a lot of folks who would love this little Cabrio, but I am not among them. It was just too small for me. The powertrain I could live with even without the turbo, but the rest of the vehicle is much better suited for those leading simpler lives in more urban surroundings.