Fiat 500C: First Drive

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The Fiat 500C is neither fast or sporty. But how can you not have a blast driving a convertible this cute?


Disclaimer: Chrysler and Fiat wanted us to drive the Fiat 500 C so badly that we had to email them the day before the drive to get a spot because they hadn't sent us an invite, despite it being here in New York City. We accepted no travel or housing for the event, even buying our own train ticket back to the city at the end of the drive. But Laura Soave did feed us home-made mozzarella from a restaurant in Rhinecliff, NY. It tasted amazing. But I got sick later that night. I'm still not convinced the two are tied together. Or maybe I just want them not to be.

The difference between the Fiat 500 and the 500C all comes down to one letter — "C." The letter stands for "Cabrio," a word in olde European tongues meaning "convertible." And the Fiat 500C is — sorta. In reality, it's looks more like Fiat took a 500 and slapped a giant ragtop-style sunroof extending from the A-pillar all the way back to the "boot" (another fancy-schmancy Euro-spec term meaning "trunk").

That doesn't mean it's unattractive. In fact, it's absolutely adorable.

That's because the Italians do two things exceedingly well. The first is food. The second? Looking good topless. The Fiat 500C is no exception to that second rule, even on a rainy day in stop-and-go Manhattan traffic.


But not only is the drop-top slider-roof attractive to look at, it's also easy to use — it can be operated by push-button to the spoiler position at 50 MPH and all the way to a rear view-demolishing "fully open" position at 60 MPH. And it doesn't leak either.


The changes made to add the trick roof only added an extra 53 pounds to an already relatively light car. And adding that minor weight change to the same 101-HP 1.4-liter MultiAir four-banger and the same choice between a five-speed manny tranny or a six-speed slushbox means you get pretty much the same driving experience as the non-C Cinquecento — except maybe a touch slower than the 9.5-second 0-to-60 time.

Unlike many convertibles that have to fight against cowl shake, that isn't a problem here as there's no cowl to shake. So, the car drives just as tightly in "sport" mode as the last Fiat 500 we drove earlier this year. So, basically, go read the old review to see what we thought of that to know how the "C" drives.


The only difference being that with the top down, the engine note sounds great at 3,000 RPM and higher.


The other difference, strangely, is that my 6'3" frame fits even better in the Fiat 500C than in the regular 500. Seriously, I have more headroom. Don't ask me how.

But with a base price of the "Pop" version starting at $20,000 (about $4,000 more than the base 500) you'll have to ask whether the added cost justifies the quasi-drop-top. In my mind, absolutely. Even at that price point — this car is still the cheapest convertible you can buy in the U.S.


It's fairly fuel-efficient too. The 500C's EPA fuel-economy estimate comes in at 30 mpg city/38 highway for the manual, and 27/32 for the automatic.

The Fiat 500C is quicker, cheaper and just as retro as a base Mini Cooper convertible. Seems like an adorable alternative to me.


But, if you're like us, you're probably more interested in waiting for the version with a little scorpion on the hood. Because we like our topless two-doors with a bit more spice.

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