Sunday, October 23, 2011

2012 Fiat 500c Review: Cute but Underpowered and Overpriced

Fiat 500c
Lest one think this is an automatic bashing of small cars – it is not. They are actually a particular favorite. The problem comes from the Fiat 500c's powertrain. This is a small – and I do mean small – car with no zip to it nor good fuel economy for its size.

Let's address the latter point first. It's one of the big knocks against the Smart car. It's little and cute like the Fiat 500 and only gets 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. The Fiat 500c, based on EPA figures, does even worse at 27 city and 32 mpg. A Hyundai Accent, which is bigger by all measurements, gets 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

That's the unsettling thing about truly small cars in the U.S. They get relatively poor fuel economy for their size and typically run on premium fuel. Who wants to pay more just to get less fuel economy?

No Power in the Fiat 500c

What's also unsettling is how under powered this little car is – even for a little car. Americans don't mind small if it has a little zip to it. The Fiat 500c has a 1.4-liter MultiAir in-line four-cylinder engine that provides 101 horsepower and 98 lb. ft. of torque. As I said last summer when I reviewed the Mazda2, torque figures in the double digits are never a good thing.

The new Fiat 500c features the world’s first Fully Variable Valve Actuation (FVVA) system on a production engine. Also known as MultiAir, this intake-valve system replaces a traditional overhead cam with hydraulic actuation controlled by four, fast-responding, electronic solenoids – delivering instantaneous air-fuel adjustment at any time in the engine cycle for maximum efficiency and power or so Fiat claims. Maybe it does deliver maximum power but it's power that is lacking.

No Safety Concerns

One thing I can't knock about small cars is their safety. Sure, you can't overcome the laws of physics. A semi tractor-trailer crashing into a Fiat 500c is never going to end well for the Fiat passengers but there's a lot more protection inside than people may realize. Don't overlook a Fiat for safety reasons. It would be a mistake.

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