Some cars get a bad rap as a "chick car." Take the Mazda MX-5 Miata, whose sprightly and balanced handling is marred by its testosterone-deprived, angry-guppy sheet metal. Other rides deserve the ignominious label, like the Beetle, which Volkswagen futilely tries portraying as butch. But there's a new queen in town. Meet the 2012 Fiat 500 Gucci Edition, which makes a Volkswagen Eos feel like a hairy-chested brute.
Admittedly, I like the Jennifer-Lopez-endorsed design of the standard 500. Although not as pint-sized as the original, it's a chic design for the city. The Gucci Edition comes with some nice touches like satin aluminum trim, which includes door handles that—unlike the stock trim—don't feel like they'll fall off. It's a joy to look at the oversized dash cluster, with the speedometer and rpm needles playfully dancing around the rim. Still, whimsical styling can't overcome the cheap fit and finish, which pales in comparison even to a Toyota Yaris. Plus, the relentless Gucci branding and striped seats embroidered with the double-G logo are only hip if you're a sorority co-ed that shops at Forever 21. I can't recall another gauche car where I'd bury my head in shame at every stoplight.
The retro styling of the Fiat 500 unfortunately also comes with throwback dynamics. Its short wheelbase, torsion-beam rear suspension and convertible top don't help, but in turns the chassis twists in agony like an old Dodge Omni. Nor does the 500 enjoy being pushed to the limit anyway; although quick in turns and fun to dart around in corners, the Fiat's body roll seems to quickly overwhelm the 15" wheels and tires.
Most egregiously, engineers didn't address wind buffeting from the sunroof and driver's side window; at 50 mph it's like a jack hammer incessantly thumping around your head. What good is a convertible top if you can't keep it open at cruising speeds? The 1.4-liter, 101-horsepower engine nostalgically grunts like a vintage motor and makes adequate power, but it's paired with an aloof automatic transmission that in spite of its lurches doesn't change gears quickly.
At least the dolled-up 500 is a tight-turning, agile car that fits into any parallel parking spot, but too flawed for its $23,750 price tag—even if you love Juicy Couture jeans and sequined shirts.
2012 Fiat 500 Gucci Edition
|ENGINE||1.4-liter inline 4 cylinder|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed automatic or manual|
|WEIGHT||2363 lbs. (manual); 2434 lbs. (automoatic)|
|0-60 MPH||9.7 seconds|
|EMISSIONS||5.1 tons CO2/year|
|CONS||Humiliatingly gaudy badging|
|PROS||Easy to drive in tight urban spaces|