2017 Fiat 500c: Sassy, inexpensive alternative for drop-top driving [Quick Take]

2017 Fiat 500c 5.JPG

If you ever drive in warm weather, you might dream of owning a convertible, but the price tag is often prohibitive – especially if you’re looking at it as a second car. A two-seat Mazda MX-5 has a base price of about $25K, and it only seems to go up from there.

Until you look at the Fiat 500c. This sassy little cabrio has a starting price at about $17K, which makes it a viable alternative for someone who wants to spice up his or her commute without breaking the bank.

I recently had the opportunity to test the entry-level Pop trim of the 500c, and it was a really good reminder of how much fun it is to drive this vehicle.

It has power push-button top operation and a standard smooth-shifting 5-speed manual transmission.

The 500c comes equipped with the 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, which delivers 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. While that really doesn’t seem like a lot of power, keep in mind this vehicle only weighs 2,424 pounds.

I thought this was plenty of power for highway merges, and with some strategic downshifting, it fared pretty well in passing maneuvers as well.

Much of my time in the 500c, however, was spent in stop-and-go traffic, and I’m pleased to report the clutch isn’t too stiff – which makes this an easy everyday driver even in traffic.

Though if you don’t want to mess with a manual, the automatic is a $995 option.

One of the best things about the 500c is the clever design and array of Skittle-colored paints available.

The test vehicle was Rosso, and had attractive black-and-grey houndstooth cloth seats punctuated by red headrests. I loved that the exterior red wraps around to the interior on the dash.

Options to the test vehicle included the popular equipment group, sport package, navigation and Beats premium audio. And except for the premium audio system, I could take or leave the rest of the options.

The as-tested price was still an attractive $20,365.

While nothing about this vehicle is supersized, it does fairly well with average-sized drivers and passengers. And if you’re petite like I am, you can actually have some backseat passengers. But most people will likely use that back seat as a shelf for a purse or briefcase.

The trunk is right-sized for the vehicle, and while a golf bag might be a tight fit, it will easily hold a standard carry-on suitcase and a backpack – and then a little bit more.

One thing to be aware of: When driving this in cold weather or rain or with the top up, expect wind noise. The trade off of the low price point is a lack of sound-dampening materials for the canvas top.

The 500c lineup includes the Pop and Lounge ($20,985) models, adding features such as an automatic transmission, heated seats and leather seating surfaces when you level up. If you want to be really sassy, there’s even an Abarth Cabrio ($22,485).

The bottom line

I really like the 500 and have long said if I were looking for a city car, this would be top on my list. Whether you opt for the coupe or the cabrio, the 500 is inexpensive and offers a unique sense of style.

Plus, it’s really easy to parallel park.

There were a couple of features I did wish the test vehicle had – such as a rearview camera and heated seats – but overall, I thought the 500c was really well equipped at a basic level with things like rear parking sensors, attractive seating surfaces and Bluetooth hands-free phone pairing.

Drop top driving for around $17K? You can’t beat that.

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