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Discussion Starter #1
I saw the 500 in the flesh (metal?) yesterday at the Minneapolis Auto Show. I finally got to touch it, sit in it, and take it all in. I have had 3 US Fiats, so I was excited to their return to my market. I am looking for a small car with high content. I was able to sit in and evaluate all the competition at the show.

Wow, this car is bello! The exterior of the car made me think I was looking at something that sold for $30,000. The gaps and paint finish were top notch. The stripe kit on the Sport was poorly done and had patches and bubbles. I do vinyl work and it is not that hard to do. I was surprised a show car would look that bad. The exterior door handle felt like hollow plastic. I don't see it holding up for 100K miles.

The interior seemed to have a lot of room front to back for the front seat passengers. The wheel was nicely angled, but the tilt was notchy with little fine tune adjusting. The single gauge speedo / tach / info was nicely done. The hard plastic on the interior of the front doors was garbage. The show car already had deep scratches around the door release. If the rear seat was folded down then the front seat could not be adjusted all the way back.

The biggest issue I had with the car is headroom. I am 6'2" tall and my head touched the sunroof guides. I asked the salesperson if the seat was adjusted down and she confirmed it was (the height pump handle felt like it was going to break off). I asked if there were any non sunroof cars or fixed roof glass cars to try, but there were not. If the other two don't offer more headroom then I won't be buying the 500. I can put up with the above deficiencies if I fit in the car.

I really wanted to love this car, but came away deluso. I still like it, but I don't love it. I think I expected too much. Since Fiat builds so many small cars I expected it to be more solid. For instance the doors felt hollow and flimsy. The door on a Civic or Fiesta feels like it came off a Lincoln- solid. A $13K Mazda 2 seems more solid than the Fiat. I guess they are the same company they were in the 70's, beautiful cars but not on up to the quality of others.

The salesperson assured me there would be no price gouging. A $17,500 Sport will be that price + shipping. That was nice to hear after seeing ads for $24,000 early edition cars on site mash.
 

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Thanks for your well written review. The quality issues you noted and the poor customer service from Fiat Chrysler I have experienced make this car less and less viable for me. Sounds like it is may be for enthusiasts who can overlook such shortcomings.
 

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I'm 6'3". I defininately do not fit in a 500 with a sunroof but have no problems in a non-sunroof car. Haven't sat in a glass roofed car.

Swell review, thanks.
 

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I don't know if they are still using the pre-production cars made in Poland for the car shows anymore but the production cars have two more clicks on the seat going back and can go down to the floor. When it does go down only the back goes down so you still have some thigh support. I am also over 6 foot but with the seat back the extra click I need for headroom, my leg still rubs against the center console. Moving it all the way back I can't operate the petals.

The rear seat capacity and not folding flat are well known. I wonder if you can remove the rear headrests and let it fold flat and leave it that way. But I bet it keep the front seat from going all the way back to where it needs to be for me to drive it. I have the same problem in my wife's Jeep the seat has to be moved up halfway before I can fold the back seat down. But in that it just makes it a bit harder to get in and out. In the fiat it would be impossible for me as I need the door all the way open to get out with the seat as far back as it needs to be. Also the "B" pillar is right at my shoulder and it blocks visibility especially when checking the blind spot.
 

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You're talking door heft? For safety, go Greyhound.

Your safety in these cars is the seven air bags, and your brain. I'm buying one, but I will probably stick to the right side of the highways. And I don't expect to ever exceed 65 mph under the safest conditions. I hope to pocket my 42 mpg, and a low cost of ownership, with the Italian style as icing on the cake.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The headrests in the back do come out.

I stopped by the Honda dealer today to see what I could get for the price of the 5 speed Sport. The Civic coupe is much, much bigger for a guy my size. While it is the ugliest car out there it is better made. I bought one.
 

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My impressions

Figured I'd post here rather than start another thread of the same topic. :)

I have a MINI, so small cars aren't new to me. I like the Fiat's interior styling but don't know what the point is in having back seats. I'm mean, I've had 4 (3 adult passengers) in the MINI but there is just no way 2 can fit behind my 6'2 seating arrangement in the Fiat.

I am so far disappointed in the optioning. Being used to the MINI's a la carte packaging where I could pick and choose individual options I don't get that luxury in the Fiat. For example, I love the Lounge leather seats but won't have an automatic. That drops me to the Sport or Pop and the Sport seats, while sporty, could use the color availability of the Pop (red & white = thumbsup). That white dash > drab black.

Will have to go on a test drive because I'm curious how the car feels. My 115hp Cooper weighed 2700lbs with a full tank of gas. So it will be interesting to see what 2300lbs (according to the dealer) feels like with less power (similar power-weight ratio though). This is another reason a manual appeals to me; down shift to pass.

The Fiat has won numerous accolades in Europe that the MINI has not, so I would reason the Fiat to potentially be a better value. I can't yet get the interior I would want (really the only option needing expanding). I'm going to hold out to see what the Abarth brings to the table. As of now, there just isn't anything available to persuade me to drop the MINI for the Fiat. Interesting road ahead though.
 

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I agree gotheflame.
But, the mini does have some weird package choices that overlap and don't discount for the combination. Also you do have to get a package to get away from the black interior and 3 or 4 exterior colors. The 500 at least gives all exterior color choices in the Pop model, but the sport model should just be a package off of Pop. I too would like the ivory dash and steering wheel with the Sport model. I think a brown dash comes with the sport trim with the brown interior.

Also the 500 has the separate option for a sunroof and not put it in a package, that should be applauded. Chrysler usually makes you go up a trim level and buy a unrelated package to be allowed to order the package to get a sunroof and usually something else (unrelated). This usually results in the sticker near $30k.

The last time I checked you could not order a Mini with a sunroof for much under $24K.
 

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How long have you had the Mini? If three years or less, and you could contemplate getting rid of it, what does that say? If you have had it a while, what about the maintenance costs? I hear they are quite high.

The current 500 is built on the Panda platform, very good cost of ownership. The only question mark for me is the fairly new multiair engine. But everyone is insisting it is a good engine. If that happens, the Fiat should be cheap to keep.

What percentage of the time do you actually carry passengers, Mr. Six foot two? Most of the arguments are couched in logical terms, but in reality, they are rooted in emotion. I am the same way, I could save $3000 by buying a Yaris. But I have the extra money and I want an Italian car.
 

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gothframe,

You will be able to get the Lounge with a standard in the future. There are 500,000+ different configurations of the 500 from mild to wild. Right now they are a bit more basic and less possibilities as they are trying to launch a new brand with packages that will apeal to most. I had the same issue with the Mini and bought a 2003 GTI. Cool car but after 9 months I want back to a Passat.

I drove my car 200+ miles today in a driving rain to a sprinkle. FINE car and every bit as quiet as my 2007 2.0T Passat "Sport" automatic. I like the Fiat every bit as good if not more because it has a better feature package except for heated seats. I'll give up the heated seats for the "Bose" sound system!
 

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I’ve had the MINI for 7- 8 years. Maintenance costs are high if one can’t do the basic things themselves (out of warranty) and instead take to the dealer for work – its actually ridiculous; ie $100+ dealer oil change? There are some components in the car I’m not comfortable touching and they carry weighty dealer price tags to fix (you can insert many different cars into this, its not MINI specific). These components are going to be expensive regardless of who works on it in just the design of the car and the labor involved to get to the pieces. The Fiat is too new to compare on this front yet so we can only speculate on Fiat’s maintenance costs. Regardless, when purchased on an emotional level it just comes with the cheese and there really isn’t reason to complain.

I rarely carry more than one passenger (now two including a child) in the MINI. But when I’ve carried three adults, I didn’t plan on doing so otherwise I’d driven a bigger car in the first place. With the Fiat, there isn’t an option (for me) to all squeeze in – I’m saying this having seen the space in both cars. The same 3 others I’ve had a handful of times in the MINI will not fit in the Fiat with me at the same time. My earlier back seat comment was an observation built from this experience. But the ability to carry passengers isn’t a crucial point in the car for me in the first place and frankly non-issue.

Emotion is a big factor; the MINI has been paid off for 3 years now and still runs well despite its 170K+ mileage. In those years memories were created. So to move on, I would need exactly what I’m looking for in a new car. I know Mic says “You can’t always get what you want…” But why would I go into debt to get something I didn’t want or settle on partials? Obviously, you (Mr. Andrews) found what you where looking for.

Its not that I would like the Lounge with manual, I could be interested with the Pop or Sport with full leather seats of interesting trim. As it is right now though, the Sport interior is just too dark for my taste leaving the Pop as a viable solution albeit without the features available in the others. So in the current form of options, each has stuff I like and stuff I don't. The things I don't like are enough I wouldn't be completely convinced to purchase.

I know model options change over time – who knew there’d be a 3000lb not-so-MINI SUV? In the meantime, Fiat is public now with what I opinioned to be incomplete build specs (to my tastes). I’m patient, but I’m not going to be sold on the idea of tomorrow, which is why I mentioned earlier, the road ahead being so interesting. I’m really looking forward to Abarth models, hoping one can be optioned with an intriguing interior.

BTW, is anyone else struggling to find the 500,000 different configurations on fiatusa? I just refuse to include a decal kit in the mix so maybe I’m being too difficult.
 

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BTW, is anyone else struggling to find the 500,000 different configurations on fiatusa? I just refuse to include a decal kit in the mix so maybe I’m being too difficult.
Well I'm sure it's possible but it would include some things you don't want. During the launch of the Mini it was the same thing. Packages you did not want all of the stuff. I too am waiting on the Abarth. I got the Prima Edizione mostly because I wanted something compleatly different and to have one of the first 500. Was it a give a little to get a little? You bet but overall I'm very impressed nay more impressed by the car than I thought I would be.

Now where is that order form for the Abarth? I can't wait!
 

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Now where is that order form for the Abarth? I can't wait!
I am with you on this one. The car needs more power.

But it reminds me of a time long long ago when I was bombing around the German countryside in a Renault R-10. It was not exactly a rocketship either but it was meant for that kind of driving.

BTW Fred just called and told me my car was ready.
 

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Relief!

I've said this here before but its great to see some valid , thoughtful criticisms of the 500 going on as well as some debate. Up until a few weeks ago it was all preaching to the converted and lots of gushing, rose-coloured glasses praise. As ususal, I assume the reality of the car lies somewhere in between all the pros and cons. I do think a very good point was made about the 500 being built on the Panda platform which has a good rep maintenance-wise. While I fully intend to buy I am holding my breath on reliability for a few months to see what bugs crop up before I take the plunge.
 

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I spec'd the Coop with only carte items; sport seats, auto air, fog lights, and rear spoiler. Pretty basic build but the only things I wanted in addition to the base model. I passed on the other encompassing options. For what I paid, I could have got a base S model. But it didn't have the options I wanted and I didn't want to spec it out similarly to what I got (still feel the non-s motor to be more fun) and essentially pay more for the same thing.

For me to be in a Fiat, its going to have a red/white all leather interior and a manual transmission. Fiatusa and the local dealership say that it can't be done (I know) yet. So I'll wait patiently and see what develops.

I am curious though (apparently like others) to see how the chassis holds up to American mileage ~ 20k+/yr.
 

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I am curious though (apparently like others) to see how the chassis holds up to American mileage ~ 20k+/yr.
I'll let you know in about six months. I go 30K to 40K per year. I intend on #241 being the highest mileage Prima in the USA!

BTW nothing is perfect. I'm hard on cars. So far in 335 miles this little car has impressed me more than the 95 Neon I put 156K on from Nov 95 to Feb 99 before I switched to Passats. Not to mention the first tank was 35.64 MPG!

Power? It has plenty you just need to wind it past 4K to hit the power band. 4K to 6K is a blast :D just hold on it likes to torque steer.......:)
 

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spd2918 did a nice review, however, I'm always suspect of just how real auto show cars are. Things can get thrown together at the last minute just so there is something to put onto the show floor. I think real quality critiques will have to come from US cars in US studios, and of course, from the owners here of US cars.

I have wanted a hot little 3-door hatchback now for several years. I'm planning to hold out until the Abarth comes here. Regarding MINI, all I will say is I have never once considered buying one of them.
 

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Well if you are a power fiend then this is definitely not the car for you. The Abarth may be.

However this is a well performing sub compact. As #241 says you have to work the engine but it does not seem to mind. You are not going to hurt the fuel mileage very much no matter how you drive it. The manual gearbox makes this thing worth driving. I have another car with more power but there is no way I can toss that thing into a corner like I can the Fiat.
 
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