Fiat 500C, a retro design win

CNET Car Tech reviews the 2012 Fiat 500C, finding a very stylish car that comes up a little short in some areas.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2012 Fiat 500C
Dreaming of the blue, blue Mediterranean with an espresso and the Fiat 500C. Josh Miller/CNET

Comparing the Mini Cooper and the new Fiat 500 is inevitable. Both small cars offer a modern take on European classics. But that's about where the comparison ends, as Fiat makes a low price play with the 500, not attempting to match the Mini Cooper's sport appeal.

Wherever we went, people smiled and stopped to talk about the Fiat 500C, the cabriolet version of the 500. Its styling attracted lots of attention. And putting the top down, a cloth roof cover that motors back to uncover the passenger compartment, lent a sense of fun.

However, cheap materials on the dashboard ruined the effect. The 500C does feature Bluetooth phone and iPod integration, with voice command, but the latter proved a bit finicky. The radio display proved a poor interface for selecting music.

We also wouldn't call the 500C a peppy car, the 101 horsepower from its 1.4-liter engine not making itself immediately apparent. But it drives easy, with a hill hold feature making it good for steep San Francisco streets. And better yet, its small size made it easily parkable, and that fact alone is a crucial feature in an urban environment.

Check out our full review of the 2012 Fiat 500C.