The 500c ragtop was the second model to join Fiat's U.S. lineup, preceded by the 500 hardtop and followed by 500 Abarth hot hatch. Essentially the same quasi-convertible model that has been on sale in Europe for the last couple of years, the U.S. version of the 500c features a power-sliding cloth roof that opens up the cabin to sun and fresh air.
Personalization is the name of the game with the 500c, with Fiat offering three soft top colors, 14 exterior colors and 12 unique seat colors and material combinations. Two "interior environments" are also on offer.
Power comes from a new 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine, good for 101 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 98 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Thanks to several mechanical tweaks for the latest model year, the five-speed manual-equipped 500c returns 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway (up by 1 and 2 mpgs, respectively). A six-speed automatic is available to satisfy the clutch-averse, although it lowers efficiency drastically to 27/32 mpg.
What's different compared to the hatchback?
While one might assume that the only real changes from the fixed-roof Fiat 500 would come in the form of a sliced off roof and some added reinforcement for roll-over protection, there's more to it than that.
For starters, the Fiat 500c has a slightly longer windshield than the hatchback and is designed to provide passengers with a maximized outward view. As you would imagine, the design is also intended to conceal the reinforced upper-cross member which Fiat says is intended to help retain spirited driving dynamics.
Even from the side the profile is a bit different as the Fiat 500c's pillars stand out more, and of course the soft top is a bit more slender than the hatchback version. Changes continue to the rear of the 500c, as a roof-mounted and color-matched spoiler is added to improves aerodynamics, and also integrates the center high-mounted stop lamp.
Pick your poison
The 500c comes in three models: Pop, Lounge and Gucci.
The 500c Pop is the entry-level model and comes with a manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels with chrome-accented wheel covers and all-season tires, seven standard air bags, air conditioning, CD/MP3-compatible radio with auxiliary audio input, chromed exhaust tip, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, speed control, Bluetooth with USB port and eco:Drive. Other features include iPod control capability, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, reconfigurable Electronic Vehicle Information Center with trip computer, miles-to-empty, average fuel economy and a tire-pressure monitoring display.
The 500c Lounge takes the basis formed by the Pop, and adds front- and rear-fascia chromed accents, chromed mirror caps, fog lamps, 15-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires, premium cloth seats, Sirius satellite radio, automatic climate control, and Bose Energy Efficient Series audio system with six premium speakers and subwoofer and a security alarm.
The style-focused Gucci trim brings heated front seats, a Bose premium stereo system, a power sunroof, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod integration, 15-inch color-keyed aluminum wheels, green brake calipers and a host of Gucci badges inside and out. The six-speed automatic transmission is included as standard.
Developed jointly with fashion magazine CondÃ© Nast, the GQ stands out from the regular 500c thanks to an Abarth-inspired front bumper equipped with a large air intake, dual-spoke alloy wheels with red center caps, an air diffuser integrated into the rear bumper and QG badges on both B-pillars. The headlights, tail lamps and parking lights feature a gloss black finish.
Inside, the 500c GQ gains a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with a white inner rim and edition-specific sport seats upholstered in black leather with a thin strip of contrasting white leather and Alcantara inserts.
The 500c GQ is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine lifted straight from the Abarth parts bin. Linked to a five-speed manual transmission, the four-banger sends 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, enough to propel the car from zero to 62 mph in a little over seven seconds.
Standard safety items include dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems.
Open-air rivals to the 500c include the smaller smart fortwo cabriolet and the slightly larger MINI Cooper Convertible. Those willing to pay a bit more can opt for the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which doesn't offer the practicality of rear seats but features incredibly pure rear-wheel-drive handling.