Highlights: The Fiat offers a better new-vehicle warranty than its siblings Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. The Fiat, which is an Italian built vehicle, is outfitted with a 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty where as its siblings offer a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty. Maintenance is also covered under Fiat’s warranty for a 3-year period too. Moreover, the Fiat 500C is available with 14 paint colors and 12 unique seat color and material combinations, personalizing the vehicle. Fiat touts that there are more than 500,000 ways to personalize this Italian compact.

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $21,750 (Base price convertible start at $20,200)

Seating Capacity: 2 adults (and possibly squeezing two additional folks in the back seat)

Standard Safety Features:

  • front, side rear and knee airbags
  • hill start assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling on an incline, traction control; and a tire pressure monitoring system

Standard Equipment (on Pop Convertible):

  • 15-inch wheels
  • a/c
  • power windows
  • power door locks
  • chrome exhaust tip
  • power heated mirrors
  • a power operated cloth top
  • leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls

Standard Audio: AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with a limited subscription-based Satellite system

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty:  4 years or 50,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes

MP3 Capability: Yes

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.4 -liter, 4-cylinder/101-hp

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage: 28-city/40-hwy

Trim Levels:

  • Pop (Hardtop And Convertible)
  • Sport (Hardtop)
  • Lounge (Hardtop And Convertible)
  • Abarth (Hardtop)
  • Convertible (Hardtop)

What’s New: After a 27-year absence, Fiat re-entered the U. S. in 2011. The nostalgic compact is in the same league as BMW’s MINI brand. Like the MINI brand, the Fiat is available in both a hardtop and ragtop.

Pros: At first glance, we felt ill-at-ease about putting this tiny compact on Atlanta’s dangerous highways. However, once we were behind the wheel, we felt extremely safe. In fact, we were so confident that we actually made our way into the fast lane while this compact pumped-out 101-horses from underneath the hood. We wouldn’t recommend pulling-out in front an 18-wheeler. We only decided to navigate toward the fast lane, after we got the vehicle up to speed.

The roomy front seats were extremely supportive too. The placement of the gauges and the interior color coordination took us back to the cars of yesterday.

Furthermore, we had an opportunity to spend time behind the wheel of a ragtop with its fun-to-drive, easy-to-shift 5-speed manual transmission. Boy, this vehicle was a blast to drive. We can only imagine how the fun factor will increase once Fiat introduces the Abarth edition.

Moreover, it’s easy to personalize the Fiat 500. As noted earlier, there are about 500 different ways to personalize this vehicle. Buyers can opt for such features as a manual transmission to an automatic transmission to a TomTom navigation system with a large touchscreen that offers real-time traffic and weather updates to a hardtop to a ragtop. Buyers won’t be disappointed with the array of options.

Lastly, the easy-to-use power ragtop slides out of the away just like an oversized panoramic sunroof. There are no latches to connect. The top can be open and closed at highway speed if a fast moving storm suddenly appears out of nowhere, which we experienced several times, while being behind the wheel of our Fiat 500.

Cons: While many critics have questioned the long-term reliability of Fiat due to its past history, just in the short time we spent behind the wheel the vehicle seems to be put together well.

Also for buyers looking to haul two adults in the rear seating area, it’s going to be an impossible feat. The rear is only capable of carrying small precious cargo like kids.

Furthermore, why does this vehicle require premium fuel? In this day of fuel conscious consumers, this just doesn’t quite add up.

The Verdict: For those seeking an easy-to-maneuver vehicle, which harkens back to the past, the Fiat 500 should fill that void. The vehicle is affordable, eye-catching and fun to drive. With sales of the vehicle being relatively soft in most places around the country, serious buyers should be able to work up a pretty sweet deal.

Competition: MINI Cooper

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him https://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.