Reviews

2016 Fiat 500 Walk Around


The Fiat 500 might technically be a hatchback, but it has none of the awkward lines. Don’t tell anyone we said this, but from some angles it looks almost svelte. Detroit designers get credit for pulling that off, because there was so much safety structure they had to add, they were dealing with much more heft than the European version. It ran over there from 2007 to 2012, before Chrysler heavily modified the 500 (under the surface) to sell in North America.

The headlamps are cute as a button. Because they look like buttons. In profile, the sides slope up and the rear glass slopes forward. It looks appropriate for today, while still reflecting the iconic shape of the original 1957 Cinquecento.

The 500c Cabrio is a winner. It’s the same roofline, with a fabric top (available in basic and vivid colors) that slides back, like the ’57 did. This provides structural rigidity, as the roof frame remains intact. The passengers get the sun and air, while feeling more secure.

Interior

The materials inside are basic, but they’re done with style, so they look more upscale than they are. There’s an attractive and eye-catching mix of body-colored panels and clean instruments, an Italian composition. Like the body, the cabin is not like any other car. A quirky Nissan Juke might come closest.

However, some might see the interior style overstyled, not as bad as the Mini Cooper but maybe too much in that direction. But we think it merges playful and practical in a way that’s purely Italian. No German, Japanese, British, Korean or American car is likely to go there. Although it might be suggested that American designers already have, having done so much work on the 500.

For 2016, the UConnect 5.0 system interfaces with AM/FM radio (satellite optional), CD, and navigation. There’s a 7.0-inch LCD instrument display on models above the Pop. That’s partly why we like the Pop. Still, this instrument display makes sense, with layers of color and detail that draw your attention.

The front seats are comfortable, if a bit short and firm, and the driver’s seat seems too high, making him or her feel like a sardine in a can. But that’s nothing compared to the miniscule back seat.

Here’s where the Fiat 500L wagon comes in. We cover it in a separate review. The longer car solves the problem of interior space, while falling short in all the places where the 500 succeeds.

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