With a Jennifer Lopez lookalike seated behind the wheel, a Fiat 500 actually broke down on a Bronx street during the recent filming of a TV commercial purportedly showing the actress driving around the borough in which she grew up.
As seen above, the Fiat came to a halt during filming in September on East 136th Street in Mott Haven. While two men tinkered with the engine, the J. Lo stand-in sat patiently at the wheel, her face obscured by honey-colored hair styled just like Lopez’s.
I happened to be given a rental Fiat 500 Sport accidentally a couple of weeks ago and got to drive it in a variety of urban and rural settings for a few days:
It was so small, it literally occupied only half of a normal parking spot. Slightly smaller than a Mini Cooper and slightly bigger than a Smart ForTwo, the car has a number of disappointing qualities:
• The Sport starts at $17,500
• The car is woefully underpowered, pumping out 101 horses while weighing a relatively staunch 2,400 pounds (for comparison purposes, the 2012 Mazda Miata generates 167 HP and weighs only 100 pounds more). The answer to the 0 to 60 question is... uhm, yes, it can go 0 to 60. I think.
• The build quality is spotty; the sunroof liner was falling apart in the unit I rented (with only 3,000 miles on it)
• The backseat is so small it's just a rumor; the front is plenty cramped for anyone over 6-feet tall
The price is what really gets me: you could buy a base Nissan Altima for $20,270 or a base Nissan Sentra for $1,500 less than the Fiat ($16,060). In fact, the sport version of the Sentra -- the SR -- is only $17,990.
Both the Sentra and Altima are infinitely larger, more comfortable, and drivable than the Fiat 500. And you would certainly feel safer in either Nissan.
The Fiat may be fine if you live in inner-city Rome, where the streets were designed for horse-drawn carts. But in this country, it feels like you're driving a scale-model of a real car.