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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 2012 Fiat 500: Improved and Refined (part 2)

This article is part two of an earlier post where we began examining the differences and improvements of the 2012 North American Fiat 500 over the European version (read part one here).

We'll continue the story of the new Fiat 500 with a look at the interior and other key features.


The US Fiat 500 Sport seats...note the armrest.

To adapt the Fiat 500 to American driving requirements Fiat looked at how we drive.

Americans typically spend more time commuting in their cars, with commutes of an hour or more being typical. To accommodate these requirements, Fiat redesigned and improved the driver and passenger seat comfort, specifically in the seat cushion area.

An armrest was also added to enhance comfort and entry to the rear seat has been improved over the European car with an easy access system.

Another shot of the Fiat 500 Sport seats. Compare them to...

... the European Fiat 500 Sport seats. The US car has a more cushioned seat, more suitable for long distance driving. The differences between the two cars are very hard to detect in this picture.

The US Fiat 500 has round power window switches outlined in chrome trim and no parting seam (see below).

The European Fiat 500 console has squared off power window switches with a construction seam running just below them.

The US Fiat 500 has optional heated seats. You can see the controls just to the left and right of the shifter. In Europe, heated seats appear to be a dealer installed option with switches installed between seats near the handbrake.

New heated-seat controls have been relocated to the lower instrument panel for added convenience, while larger heated-seat elements provide front-passenger comfort in colder weather.

The US Fiat 500 has cruise control with the control buttons having been added to the right side of the steering wheel. These replace the radio controls of the European car, which are now combined with the left side steering wheel controls.

The European Fiat 500 has radio controls on both sides of the steering wheel.

One area often mentioned in road tests on the European 500 was its road noise level. This has been thoroughly examined and addressed with newly designed floor, tunnel, trunk and instrument panel sound-deadening material. Additionally, new body and door seals, along with foam-in-place carpeting, help make the US Fiat 500 the quietest version yet.

The heating and ventilation system has also been upgraded for the North American climate. Be it the frigid weather in northern Canada or the torturous heat of Death Valley, the Fiat 500 has been adapted to handle these extremes in stride.

Here is another shot of the console in the US Fiat 500. It has a cleaner look without the seem running through the middle of it. Also note the glove box lid and the storage netting on the side of the console. Just visible are the enlarged cup holders.

The console on the European Fiat 500 has a large assembly seam that breaks up the the smooth look. The European car also has an opening compartment on the side of the console but no glove box lid. Just visible are the smaller European cup holders (yes, the Euro car has cup holders!)

The European Fiat 500 has a package shelf under the dash with a small drop down compartment for the owners manual.

The European Fiat 500 Sport interior. Compare the seats, headrest and head liner...

... to the US Fiat 500 Sport. They look very similar but there are some differences, the seats appear to be taller and slightly larger. The front seat headrests are of the active type (they move to protect the neck in an accident) and the head liner is in black. The Pop and Lounge versions have a light color headliner like the European car.

The European Fiat 500 dashboard

The US Fiat 500 dashboard...nearly identical

In Europe, Fiat offers a premium stereo upgrade for the 500 called the "Interscope" sound system, and comprises of six speakers (two tweeters, two woofers and two full-range, all 40 W), one 100 W sub-woofer and a 30 W amplifier.

In the US, a new BOSE® Energy Efficient Series (EES) premium audio system is available. The Bose system is engineered for a vehicle's unique acoustic signature and in the Fiat 500, features six premium speakers and a subwoofer.

This component of the Bose sound system is the amplifier.

Some Details

The European Fiat 500 projector beam headlight

The US Fiat 500 projector beam headlight...note the 500 logo

The US Fiat 500 Pop has a plain tailpipe

The US Fiat 500 Lounge and 500 Sport have a polished tip

The US Fiat 500 stows the optional space-saver spare tire under the car. The European car keeps its spare inside the trunk. Speculation suggests this was moved to increase luggage capacity and/or to accommodate the strengthening of the rear chassis for higher speed US rear crash standards. We'll try to confirm this.


You might think this is the end of the story, but, as they say, this is just the beginning. There is still plenty to explore on the new Fiat 500, so watch this space....

With thanks to Chrysler Media
Photo Credits: Matt from
Midwest Bayless, an Anonymous Fan, Patrick and Chrissy,
Fiat Group Press and Chrysler Media


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your effort! You deserve high praise.

w!L. said...

All very cool...can't wait to actually see one in person! :) The only thing I am a bit disapointed in, is the fact that it has a spare tire. :-\ I was kind of hoping it would be like my Mini and have the run-flat tires. Maybe it'll be an option?
Great work as always on the blog! :D

Anonymous said...


There is a reason I think Fiat chose not to go with run flats, they are not as good handling as regular tires from what I hear. As good as run flats are, apparently, their construction compromises in the handling characteristics of a good handling car, something a more enthusiastic driver may not want and many appear to ditch their run flats because of this.

I can't say as I've never had them as to how they perform but if their performance is what some say, then I'm glad for that.

That said, tire pressure monitoring is standard if I recall so you can keep an eye on your tire pressure much easier.

peterjerome said...

From what I have read I have to agree with ciddyguy on the run-flat tire situation. At this point in their development they cannot match the handling and (especially) ride characteristics of regular tires. I would say that there is an aftermarket opportunity for some one to create a spare tire cover for that under car location. Chrysler minivans used this format. If you need the spare tire in (northern)winter it is wet, dirty and possibly frozen in place. Putting the damaged tire into the cradle is no fun either. With extended exposure to the elements the release mechanism (usually a crank to lower the cradle)can get pretty hard to use as well. As you can see I am not a fan of this spare tire location. However, protecting the tire and its attachment mechanism from the elements wil go a long way to ensure easy use when needed, but make sure not trap any water. It seems from the photos that the North American Sport seats have more thigh support than the Euro versions. What do you think? said...

Peterjerome, I was thinking the seats did look to have more support. That pic of the euro car cuts off so it's hard to tell.

You had a chance to sit in the car, what did you think?

I was surprised about the spare's location. The car comes with a repair kit. I would do as you said, and grease everything up and protect the wheel somehow (wax, protectant?) Probably not much you can do.

This no spare thing really shows my age!

Anonymous said...

I would rather not get the spare tire. It adds to the price and adds weight.

For the rare occurrence of puncturing a tire; the fix-a-flat gunk and air compressor included with the car should be sufficient to get the car going until the tire is replaced.

As far as the run-flats go, why on earth would someone actually want those? Most people that get cars with run-flats end up going back to normal tires pretty quick or at the very least, once they are due for a tire change.

The run-flats compromise your driving experience 100% of the time. Sure, the car will be drivable in the rare case of a puncture. But maybe there is a case where you would have to swerve to avoid an accident. Perhaps the run-flats would lose traction that the normal tires would not. So it seems like a wash to me.

L8BRKN said...

Chris, great analysis! I'm digging the 500 logo in the projector beams- too cool. A very nice touch.

As a longtime MINI owner trust me when I say that not having run flats on the 500 is a GOOD thing. Run flats can be considerably more expensive than their radial counterparts. Plus, while the incredibly stiff sidewalls on run flats give you the ability to drive 50+ miles in the event of a flat, that same stiffness contributes to excessive road noise and an overall rough ride in my experience. This quote says it best:

"There are some serious disadvantage come with run flat tires. The first is comfort the second is cost. The third, they are just a temporary solution compared to a full size spare tire. Currently run flat tires are not repairable. Even after a nail they must be discarded due to the bending (breaking) of the sidewalls. They tend to be harsh over bumps since the sidewalls don't flex, they are considerably heavier than standard radial tires, they don't last long compared to radial tires, and they are very expensive to replace." said...

Okay, I'm digging that fix-a-flat stuff more and more!

Terry said...

Great post, as always Chris. I have two questions in regard to the NA version: Did FIAT retain the selectable steering where you can push a button to lighten up the steering for parking and city driving as on the Euro versions? Also, don't recall seeing a photo with both rear seats folded to get a visual of what the space looks like. Is a pic available? said...

Thanks Terry,

It looks like all versions have a sport setting that changes the feel of the steering. If it is exactly like the Euro version hasn't been published..

I've uploaded a picture of the seats folded down. These were just flopped down for me to take a quick picture, so they may go flatter.

By the way, check out my photo gallery. I currently have nearly 2,000 photos hosted on this site and I am working on making the vast majority of them public for all to enjoy. I've uploaded a 100 or more pics the last day or so.

Best regards,

Unknown said...

You missed one of the biggest and most important difference: The US version will have no automated manual gear box and will only get a standard transmission.

I think this a big mistake by the Fiat guys! said...

Hi mehtars,

No worries, Fiat does have a fully automatic transmission available. It is a six speed automatic that can also be shifted manually.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. Would seat covers for the U.S. model be an exact fit for the Euro model? I understand the U.S. one has more padding but has that changed the shape?