With Italian carmaker Fiat's purchase of Chrysler, it is no surprise that the company is looking for just the right car to reintroduce the brand to the American car market. The tiny 2012 Fiat 500 Hatchback is only 139.6 inches long, weighing in at about 2,300 pounds - just right for zipping around the city or taking advantage of excellent highway fuel efficiency on a long road trip. If you thought the Mini-Cooper was tiny, imagine a vehicle six inches shorter in length and two inches slimmer. Despite its compact design, it offers seating for four. With four inches of additional height compared to the competition, the front passengers will be surprised by the amount of space they have, particular in head and leg room. Unfortunately, if you opt for the sunroof, you lose the headroom gained by the extra height. The backseat is far more cramped than most passengers are accustomed to, meaning that if you frequently have a crowd along for the ride, you'll want to be sure to think carefully whether they are willing to pack in tightly, especially for longer drives.
At an affordable starting price of only $15,500, Fiat 500 Hatchback packs in a lot of features, making it an excellent value. The engine is small, a 1.4 liter MultiAir four cylinder, providing 101 horsepower - plenty to move the little machine - getting an impressive 30 miles per gallon in the city and 38 miles per gallon on the highway with the manual transmission. Transmission options include five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The automatic transmission is less efficient, which is disappointing for the majority of Americans that prefer it. At 27 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, the automatic Fiat does not match competing mini cars. However, unlike the competition, the Fiat doesn't require premium gasoline, which adds up to additional savings at the pump for as long as you own the car.
The Fiat 500 Hatchback has front-wheel drive and handles nicely - easy to maneuver thanks to its small size. Long-term reliability is not yet known, due to its recent arrival. Pack lightly for your weekend getaway as the 9.5 cubic feet of trunk space fills up quickly. With both back seats folded down, this goes up to 30 cubic feet. It might not sound like a lot when compared to mid-size sedans; however note that this is 20% more than competing mini cars. Safety features include a tire-pressure monitoring system, seven standard airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and stability control.