The 500c ragtop was the second model to join Fiat's growing 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.
For the latest model year, all models but the entry-level 500c Pop gain an instrument cluster-mounted 7.0-inch HD TFT that displays speed, fuel level, Eco index and trip information. The center console has also been redesigned for ease of use, and streaming audio via Bluetooth is newly standard.
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 two trim levels called Pop and Lounge, respectively.
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. A 7.0-inch HD TFT display is newly standard for the latest model year.
Positioned at the very top of the 500c lineup, the 1957 Edition pays homage to the original rear-engined Cinquecento that put Italy on wheels over half a century ago.
Swathed in one of three "classic" exterior paint schemes, the 500 1957 Edition bristles with vintage charm. A white (or Bianco, in Italian) roof, heritage-style Fiat badges and period-style wheels look more to the past than the future.
Based on the Lounge trim level, the 1957 Edition is available in either white, Verde Chiaro (a light green) or an exclusive blue called Celeste. Regardless, all 1957s get the aforementioned white roof plus white mirror caps.
Inside, brown leather seats and accents are included. Once again, special retro-style Fiat badges have been placed throughout the 500. Owners will also receive a special ivory key fob unique to the 1957 Edition.
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.