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Gucci hoochi: 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

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Gucci hoochi: 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

Sold in Pop and Lounge models, pricing for the Fiat 500 Cabrio starts at $20,000 and $24,000. The Gucci test car was $28,000 with the trademark red and green colors.

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POSTED May 9, 2012 6:27 p.m.

Gucci hoochi: 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

The Fiat 500 Cabrio is about what you'd expect and not as much as you'd like from an economy car. But its endearing charm converts the complainers.

My week in a 500c Lounge Cabrio with the Gucci package drew glares and stares — as if onlookers were hoping to see J. Lo, who jumpstarted awareness of the brand in the breezy TV ad campaign.

Sold in Pop and Lounge models, Cabrio prices start at $20,000 and $24,000. The test car was J.-Wow at $28,400 with the Gucci gear. But Fiat blew out the first run of 2,000 Gucci models and is sourcing more. The $4,000 package — in white or black paint — highlights the hallmark Gucci colors of a red stripe in a band of green and adds satin trim, 15-inch white alloy wheels, leather-trimmed bucket seats with Gucci logos, green brake calipers, heated front seats and six-speed automatic transmission.

The package features are first-rate, particularly the leather seats and stitched steering wheel cover. The white metal flake paint is gorgeous, glittery and well applied. The creamy white interior appointments are attractive and precious. And they are of higher quality than the basic plastics that surround them.

With the sales success of Gucci, more niche models are being planned, such as the high-performance (160-hp) Abarth, now on sale.

There are desirable features in the Cabrio's standard equipment, such as remote locking, automatic air conditioning, height-adjustable driver seat, cruise control, power locks-windows-mirrors (heated), six-speaker Bose audio system (with USB, iPod and satellite radio), Blue and Me hands-free phone connection, steering-wheel cruise-phone controls and floor mats.

Compared to the hardtop, the Cabrio has a slightly longer windshield with a reinforced upper cross member for rigidity. True to the original Fiat convertible, the slide-back roof opening works well and it's power operated at up to 60 mph. Ride quality with the top peeled back is surprisingly not shaky.

The cabin is fairly quiet with the dual-layer top, but you know you're in a ragtop from sound penetrating from above. With the roof open, there is some top bustle at the rear that cuts into visibility, and when opened partially, buffeting is noticeable above 40 mph. The back window is glass with a defroster.

Interior space is comfortably open with easy entry and exit for all ages. The slightly raised roof gives 38.6 inches of front headroom, and there is shoulder room for full-size adults. Back seat space is doable for the flexible passenger, but Fiat considers the seating to be 3+1 (child). The 50/50 back seats fold to stretch the 5.4 cubic feet of trunk space to 23.4.

I liked the fold-down driver armrest on the right, and my phone hooked up in seconds with Blue and Me. The TomTom navigation unit ($400) attaches to the top of the dashboard, but the screen was too much in my sightline. Fortunately, it can be detached when not needed.

With a 101-hp four-cylinder engine, running errands feels almost as healthy and wise as eating responsibly. 0-60 mph acceleration isn't stunning, but the 500 scoots through traffic like a water bug and it's almost small enough to park in a pocket. With this subcompact footprint, all roads feel wide and roomy. It is a pleasure to never worry about parking-space size.

But weighing less than 2,500 pounds, it rides like a little car and is bumpy over rough road. But the steering is steady and its four-wheel disc brakes have plenty of stopping force. Safety features include seven air bags, electronic stability control and hill-start assist.

Fiat 500s are 11.6 feet long and at their best in the city and romping along back roads, not dicing for space on the harried commute among trucks and American-girth vehicles on the Interstate.

Around town fuel economy with the automatic is good at 27 mpg, but highway mileage of 32 mpg isn't what most Americans expect from such a small car. The manual gets 30/38 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended for peak performance.

The 500 Cabrio is friendly with benefits. You'll like this car if you smile at the styling and are ready for some fun in your life.

 

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