The 2012 Fiat 500C Convertible might not be a true convertible, but U.S. car buyers don't seem concerned. This tiny Italian import has a retractable top resembling a giant sunroof, made of double layered cloth. When open, the roof rails stay put while the glass rear window and top fold neatly on the back liftgate. Bear in mind that rear-view visibility is dramatically decreased with the top retracted, which can be a downside. Maximum speed with the roof completely open is 50 miles per hour. You can go up to 60 mph with it partially retracted. The mechanics of the open-air top add some weight when compared to the hatchback version, bringing the total to about 2,500 pounds. It also adds about 1.2 inches of headroom for backseat passengers when it is closed. However, the already small storage space in the back goes down by nearly 50% - from 9.5 cubic feet to only 5.4 cubic feet.
A 1.4 liter MultiAir four cylinder provides 101 horsepower, making this tiny car powerful enough to zip around the city satisfyingly. Highway drivers might be disappointed, as Fiat 500C Convertible is slower that its rivals. The base model offers a choice between a five-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic. However, the classier trim only offers the automatic option.
The convertible version of the Fiat 500 is not available in the Sport edition, which is popular with Fiat 500 hatchback buyers for its improved suspension and steering. However, the base Pop model and luxurious Lounge trims with additional available options offer something to satisfy every need. Those that select the manual transmission will enjoy 30 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, the automatic drops substantially to 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
The primary competition for the Fiat 500C Convertible is the Mini Cooper. While it has fewer standard features, the Fiat is poised to do well, because the base price is $4,600 lower. In addition, it offers more interior space for passengers, without sacrificing the petite, fun-to-drive feel. Steering and handling are a little loose, but these can be remedied by using the sport button found on the dash.
Whether American car buyers will embrace the Fiat depends primarily on how they feel about the entire tiny car concept. Most are accustomed to piling friends and family in for long drives, which is more challenging with the cramped rear passenger seating. U.S. drivers spend a lot of time on the highways, which is where the Fiat 500C Convertible is least comfortable. Luckily for Fiat, the trend is towards smaller cars, so the 500C has a fighting chance at success. It's cute design and budget-friendly price tag are expected to carry significant weight with new car buyers.
Safety features include traction and stability control, as well as side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, and front side airbags. Anti-lock disc brakes brought the vehicle to a stop at only 119 feet, from 60 miles per hour, in safety testing. The 2012 Fiat 500C Convertible has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.