Logo



NYT on the Fiat 500 Soft Top

With a small fleet of press vehicles out for review at the moment, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more and more reviews of the Fiat 500 online. This one from the New York Times caught our attention because of their take on the inevitable MINI comparison. Read their excerpted summary after the jump.


The 500C is often compared to the similarly adorable Mini convertible. But the 500C, which is seven inches shorter than the Mini, feels softer. The steering is considerably less crisp, and the Fiat leans more in the corners than its BMW-owned competitor. But the Fiat is quieter over every type of road.

Over all, the Mini feels more like an economical sports car, whereas the 500C feels more like a sporty economy car.

In addition, compared with the low-slung driving position of the Mini, the Fiat 500C’s is noticeably loftier, like being perched on a sofa. Then again, Americans tend to enjoy sofas, which might explain Fiat’s decision to equip American-bound 500s with wider front seats than models sold in Europe.

It’s been our contention all along that the MINI and the Fiat 500 aren’t really in the same class. On both price and performance, there’s enough distance between the two cars that it’s only really their diminutive size and quirky aesthetics that lump them together. The common thread throughout these reviews (and our experience backs this up as well) is that once you drive both, you quickly realize how different the two cars really are. That’s not a bad thing, and hardly a knock against the 500. It isn’t even that the MINI is a better car, simply that it’s a very different car.

Special thanks to Aurel for sending this in.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Written By: Nathaniel Salzman

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148637467 Trevor Zaharichuk

    I can’t really see how they can call that convertible really…  More like a super sun-roof to me.  I agree, the two cars are totally different.  Perhaps they should start comparing the 500 to the Smart car instead…

    • Cheswick

      I would call it a cabriolet. To me a car with the full retractable roof is a convertable and those with only the centre retracting retaining the sides is a cabriolet.

      I think Fiat might refer to it as a cabriolet.

  • Anonymous

    The upcoming 500 Abarth is very much on my shopping list as the recent (heavily camouflaged) spy pic of the 3rd gen Mini seems to indicate just an evolution of the R56/57.

  • Aurel

    You’re welcome! :)

    Judging by the photo above with the top down there must be ZERO visibility out the back of that car.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1205190001 Hunter Pontife

      I was thinking exactly the same thing–I thought the MINI Cabrio’s rear visibility was bad….

  • http://www.facebook.com/googlemyface Jack Mosher

    There really isn’t much rear visibility- when I went to check one out, even the dealer admitted the view out the back was “compromised” to say the least! It’s not nearly as bad on the hardtop, but it’s still no comparison to my zero-blind-spot, wrapped-in-glass-windows MCS.

    Side note: I think this is a pretty accurate review. I love the comparison between MINI being economically sporty and the Fiat being sportily economic; it’s dead-on. The MINI manages to be upscale, sporty, and downright fast while being relatively good value for money, while the Fiat is like a sportscar, cleverly watered down and distilled.

    • Really?

      Sat in one of these recently. Pretty cool! And the design doesn’t add weight or compromise rigidity. When this comes in the Abarth version at 190 HP folks will be whistling a new tune. It will be what the Mini “used” to be 2002-06. Unique, quirky, fast and fun. Not a bloated (looking) plasticish(ok, not a real word) version mass produced for maximum sales volume vs an exclusive gem for the enthusiest.

    • Harry Dill

      Jack, please clue me in on how you, and a few others, have managed to post your pictures next to name. Thank you — HD

  • Aurel

    For those of you longing for the Abarth … have you even driven the current base 500 yet?

    • Anonymous

      I have not driven the US version because there is no dealer near me yet, however I have briefly driven a friend’s 09 Abarth in Munich. Obviously a test drive is a must, especially since the US versions seems to have received some major “upgrades”. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. Major concerns with the extra hp is torque steer, overly soft clutch feel and overall NVH.

    • Really?

      I drove it. It sucks. Nice looking but a drag to drive. But at $5k less than a base Mini (which sucks just as bad IMO) it has the edge in the cheap but stylish car world.   If the Abarth is the car I’ve read about it will compete with a JCW at $10k less. Plus, it has the “new” factor going for it whereas Mini has the “used to be cool” factor going against it and Mini is doing nothing to reclaim it’s “made for enthusiests” glory of 2002-6 (08 for Cabrio).

    • Really?

      I drove it. It sucks. Nice looking but a drag to drive. But at $5k less than a base Mini (which sucks just as bad IMO) it has the edge in the cheap but stylish car world.   If the Abarth is the car I’ve read about it will compete with a JCW at $10k less. Plus, it has the “new” factor going for it whereas Mini has the “used to be cool” factor going against it and Mini is doing nothing to reclaim it’s “made for enthusiests” glory of 2002-6 (08 for Cabrio).

  • Harry Dill

    Yes, aside from being small cars, MINI and FIAT are significantly different. ABARTH will undoubtedly reduce the disparity and may hopefully give MINI designers more than a few good reasons to resurrect the increasingly absent, enthusiast inspired design that many of us seek, but (since 2006) regrettably fail to find.

    • Michael

      I do not want to buy a new MINI, but am looking for a gently used 2006 S model because of the reasons you list.  The new cars are like baby BMWs, and not, to me, true MINIs.  Well put Harry Dill

  • gokartride

    I, too, am content to leave them in seperate classes. 

  • Anonymous

    …”feels softer”…”less crisp”…”leans more in the corners”… ”like being perched on a sofa”…warning bells and alarms clang loudly when I read these descriptions from an automotive journalist. Even “quieter” makes me leary.  Seven inchs shorter, now theres something I can appreciate. 

    Personally, I like the lines of the car. I think the stylists captured the essence of the Fiat 500/600 in both size and form almost to perfection. However, I can’t get away from the lackluster performance and marginal handling which seem to dominate almost every review I’ve read about this car… 

  • Sven L

    I traded my mini in for a 500, couldn’t be happier… However, I will say if I didn’t have problems with my mini, I would have kept it. Dealing the the dealer on warranty issues is like pulling teeth. I couldn’t take it anymore, plus, I am a student who couldn’t afford the potential repairs once warranty was up… They are right when it’s said that it’s quieter while driving…

    • Fasterthanafiat

      I’ll stick with 2005 JCW (Supercharged) already caInned an abrath from the lights, My brother has a fiat 500 and all he wants is my Mini….He’ll never take it while i’m alive….Fiat 500 competing with Minis never in a million years MINI’S build quality for one as the saying goes Fix It Again Tomorow (FIAT).

    • Fasterthanafiat

      I’ll stick with 2005 JCW (Supercharged) already caInned an abrath from the lights, My brother has a fiat 500 and all he wants is my Mini….He’ll never take it while i’m alive….Fiat 500 competing with Minis never in a million years MINI’S build quality for one as the saying goes Fix It Again Tomorow (FIAT).

      • Sven L

        Everyone is entitled to their opinion… However, with the problems I experienced with my Mini, plus the service experience at Mini…. are not worth it to me… Anyone who wants to say BMW’s build quality is better, I am not convinced. When I purchased my S in ’08, I was very pleased. But, through-out my owner experience, all the BS I went through wasn’t worth it. BMW needs to stand by their product. In my case, they didn’t, I feel they fell far short. Every time I went in with a warranty issue, I felt like I had to teach them customer service. Plus, good going comparing Fiat 2011 to Fiat 1988… I would like to think if a corporation still built cars with questionable quality, they would go out of business….. Remember Yugo?

  • Eric

    Looks like a Toaster.  Nuf’ said.

    • Really?

      LOL!!  Yes it DOES look like toaster! Good call Eric.

      I saw my first 500 in the “wild” yesterday when a guy drove past me in a parking lot. It was really nice looking (even in brown-gak) and sharp inside. The guy loved it. It was the base “Pop” model without a sunroof and additional doo-dads.

      It really creates the same feeling I had when I first saw the Mini in 2002. Quirky and unique = fun. the head turning and the questions from curious folks who wouldn’t ask about a Scion because the Fiat looks so “Euro”/cool. I am very interested in the Abarth not to mention the aftermarket tuner possibilities.

  • tomfrieder

    Rear visibility is OK if you do not make the roof go all the way back (roof has 3 positions). The roof rails are barely noticable and keeps the car rigid without having to add extra weight as other convertibles have to do. The Fiat is quieter than the mini and much cheaper and takes regular gas and my 6’3 body fits into it better


Sort by MINI model

MotoringFile on Instagram








MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

Advertise with MotoringFile

If you or your company are interested in advertising on the most influential MINI website in the world, please visit our Advertising section. If you have further questions about becoming a sponsor or would like to see our rate sheet please feel free to contact us directly.
mini mini
Translate MotoringFile with Google: 
 

BF

MotoringFile Buyers Guides

R50 ('02-'06 MC) Buyers Guide
R53 ('02-'06 MCS) Buyers Guide

BF

SF



MotoringFile Reviews

Reviews:
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range


cafepress