Base price: $22,800
Engine: 1.4-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder
Mileage: 27 city / 34 highway
It’s cute. It’s spunky. It’s unashamedly retro. No, it’s not a Volkswagen Beetle; it’s the 2016 Fiat 500C – the “C” stands for Cabriolet.
The European-inspired sub-compact two-door is everything you would imagine an Italian-designed car to be: short, round and full of personality. Introduced for the 2014 model year to commemorate the car’s 57th anniversary – even though it had a different name way back then – the 1957 Edition survives into the 2016 model year.
Fiat plays the fashion card hardcore with the redesigned 500, including your choice of Celeste pastel blue and Verde Chiaro light green paint colors, and takes many of its design cues from the original Fiat Topolino. A special 1957 Fiat badge takes up lots of real estate on the car’s front grill and is hard to miss. More of these “special” badges can be found throughout, including on hubcaps, tail lights, and, of course, the steering wheel.
From the headlamps and tail lights to the side-view mirrors and door handles, everything about the Fiat 500 screams throwback. But the chrome and painted hub caps, which matched the test car’s baby blue exterior paint color, were hard to look at. I can see how the distinctly 1950s style appeals to the Baby Boomer crowd, but it did very little for me – someone who considers himself a classic-car enthusiast.
Once inside the tiny car you say “goodbye” to the 20th century and “hello” to many modern amenities as the 1957 edition comes standard with a plush leather package and a beautifully contrasting ivory and grey dash. The $1,900 1957 package also adds classy looking white exterior mirrors, a retro keyfob cover and ivory door trim. New for 2016 is Chrysler’s user-friendly UConnect infotainment system with 5-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth technology and integrated voice command.
Power, however, is not the car’s strong suit. With a 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder that deliver 135 horsepower, the 500’s zero-to-60 time was more than 10 seconds. The turbo-charged engine does have a sport mode that’s accessed by a button on the instrument panel, which messes with the throttle and shift ratio for improved responsiveness. But that makes the 500c more affordable to drive, with a government-estimated average fuel economy of 30 mpg and a gas tank that costs less than $30 to fill up at today’s prices.
And with all tiny cars, safety is always a top concern for both buyers and automakers. The 500 includes standard safety equipment, such as all-weather tires and five airbags, and has obtained a four-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The car received four- and five-star ratings from front and side crash tests, respectively.
Cargo space, as expected, is limited in the 500, but with some creative packing I managed to stow enough supplies for a weekend camping trip and still leave enough room for my wife, daughter and dog.
The Fiat 500 has a base price of $16,999 and the cabriolet version with automatic transmission has a base price of $22,800. The test car, with the retro 1957 package rang in at $27,030, including destination charge.