Ownership Verified: 2012 Fiat 500 - The Mexican Wart

93Flareside

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So has come the day to finally post about this. I bought this in early January on a whim. I was bored one day scrolling local classifieds when I saw a couple of Fiat 500s for less than $5,000. I thought "really, and they're not completely destroyed like Subaru Impreza's?" So I went to look at 3 of them that had 5 speed manuals. You could trip over the amount of automatic ones which I never saw the point with a car like this. It's the non-turbo 100HP maybe variant. This will now be my second european that's spent time in Mexico. Both my Golf GTI and this 500 were built at plants south of the US.

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Being a used car of nearly 10 years old, it has it's fair share of issues.

First was the arm rest was broken, not missing. The cushion was missing and finding just that is impossible. Finding a replacement armrest was impossible-er. 2013 model year Fiat redesigned the armrest because apparently there was a design flaw of premature failure. The parts department at the dealer said that if I wanted the armrest, I needed basically a new top half of the seat because the hardware to mount was different from the 2012 and down models. I found a crashed 500 on Facebook marketplace and drove out to some town I never heard of in Iowa to get it. I ended up getting the 2 front seats for $150. Great....

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Next was the mirror adjustment switch. I could move both up and down and left, but the right arrow didn't work. Since both mirrors didn't do this same function I assumed that both mirror motors can't have the same fault and took a punt on it being the switch. 2 #4 allen screws at the door pull handle, and 2 phillips on the back with a load of plastic clips. Easy, and it was the right answer. Mirrors work in all directions now.

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Next was the liftgate wiring, this like the armrest is a well known failure with 500s and I took it upon myself to fix as I had intermittant license plate lights and lift gate functionality.

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Lastly was purely an aesthetic choice. I have grown used to the euro-market mirrors I had in the GTI and I since installed on my company car/alltrack, I figured I could easily get them for the 500. HA HA you're funny. I ended up finding a "blind spot mirror" replacement that gives at least some of that aspherical-ness back.

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I was waiting to post this because I wasn't driving it without insurance. So it stayed parked out of the way which I wasn't thinking of at all until I tried it, but I put it in the back of the garage until the GTI went back. Apparently my 2 car garage is actually a 3 car, if the 3rd car is the size of a Hot Wheels car. :D

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Tram

Ring, ring!
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As much as I generally agree with Frank Stephenson on Fiat 500's design, mostly for its form over function approach (and having displeasure of being driven on the backseat of one of these), they're basically Pandas! And Pandas are always awesome in my book. Besides, it's the only Panda based car you can get on your continent.

Have fun with it! 100HP was how much a sporty version of Panda had (it was actually called Panda 100HP), and considering the car's size, it should be fun.

BTW, I find the gear knob pattern interesting. I guess most manuals don't come with the reverse in that particular place in the US, and that most manuals are 6-speed, so it makes sense to offset the gear position a bit to the right to avoid people accidentally shifting into reverse.
 

rickhamilton620

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Congrats, sounds like a decent lil runabout.

Note - I've driven the Automatic non turbo 500 - Autotragic is more like it - it's a Aisin 6 speed box so I'm sure it's dead reliable but it's both power sucking and poorly programmed so there's some shockingly abrupt shifts.

For running around the city which is what this car is made for, the stick is the move.
 

Perc

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I saw this peek out on your youtwitfacestagrams and thought you had bought an electric 500, for some reason. Turns out it was the dino version. Congrats nevertheless :D
 

Redliner

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I don't drive, I fly.
BTW, I find the gear knob pattern interesting. I guess most manuals don't come with the reverse in that particular place in the US
Maybe it's a FIAT thing?
All the ones I had were like this.
 

Tram

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Both our Yugo and our Citroën Saxo have reverse in that spot, but none has the reverse offset to the right. From what I remember, the Punto Mk2 I drove had also had reverse in the same spot, but it had a safety ring you had to pull up when going into reverse. (Not sure about the exact name for that ring in English.)

The weird thing about it to me is just that it's (at least on the graphic) offset to the right, did your FIATs have it offset as well?
 

93Flareside

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Maybe it's a FIAT thing?
All the ones I had were like this.
I remember when my dad had a ‘92 Ford ranger with a 5-speed it also had the reverse off to the side a bit. I’m not sure why this fiat has it because you have to pull the chrome ring under the knob up before it will go in reverse. Opposite of the VW which was next to 1st but you pushed the whole shifter down first. That makes more sense to me.

Not sure how long I will keep this. I don’t have the same feeling with the 500 like I had with the Golf.
 

93Flareside

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How many miles?

Interesting choice. I wondered why you were looking at that one they wouldn't let you test drive that one day.
This one I could drive. There was a few others that I was told if I wasn’t serious about buying their specific car, then I couldn’t drive it. Another guy never called me back. It has just over 101,000 miles. And I have no idea who’s driving this for such a distance.
 

CraigB

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This one I could drive. There was a few others that I was told if I wasn’t serious about buying their specific car, then I couldn’t drive it. Another guy never called me back. It has just over 101,000 miles. And I have no idea who’s driving this for such a distance.

That a bit over 11k miles a year. Easily done with a 20-30 mile a day commute and nothing else.

I'm sorry though, I'm serious about buying a car if I go to test drive it. If you treat me like that, I am not going to even think about buying form you. Before I bought my truck I test drove an Xterra a local lot had. I didn't buy it because it seemed to have the dreaded SMOD problem.
 

93Flareside

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That a bit over 11k miles a year. Easily done with a 20-30 mile a day commute and nothing else.

I'm sorry though, I'm serious about buying a car if I go to test drive it. If you treat me like that, I am not going to even think about buying form you. Before I bought my truck I test drove an Xterra a local lot had. I didn't buy it because it seemed to have the dreaded SMOD problem.
Oof.... well, what drew me to this specific one is it had a nicely detailed carfax which as you know are usually jokes outside of “the owner maintained registration.” This has every routine service until is bought by another person up here. Even then it was maybe a year or two before the place I bought it from acquired it. It has also lived in central Florida since the beginning of its life so I’m hoping that means little to no beach time and fasteners not rusted to hell. I looked underneath and it seems promising.
 

Redliner

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did your FIATs have it offset as well
No, they were a straight pull from 5th gear, but then again this might be just "artistic liberty" in the gearknob.
 

Matt2000

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There was no way I could've seen this coming, are you trying to challenge my nonsense car buying? :p

Hard to believe the design is over 10 years old now, still looks good. I hate the whine you get in small automatic cars so good on you for getting a manual.
 

93Flareside

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So, first failure is my fault. Left the "nice" key in a hoodie and ran it through the washing machine... It's been sitting overnight with the battery removed, but I'm not feeling hopeful it'll come back. :(
 

Matt2000

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Put it in a silo of rice.

...

Then you won't be able to find it, so the fact that it doesn't work is no longer an issue.

When you say nice, do you mean visually? Can you swap the shells or buy a replacement for the not-nice one?
 

93Flareside

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Put it in a silo of rice.

...

Then you won't be able to find it, so the fact that it doesn't work is no longer an issue.

When you say nice, do you mean visually. Can you swap the shells or buy a replacement for the not-nice one?
Nice as in, the buttons for unlock and stuff aren't mushed into being unrecognizable.
 

leviathan

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Always liked the 500, neat little car, fun looking and not at all bad to drive. Correct choice on the manual, obviously :) While the 1st gen EV version is supposedly also rather good, it's not easy to find, nor is it really usable as anything but a "city runabout second car" due to limited range, so in this case the petrol was the way to go imho.

Every one of my cars so far has also had one "used" key and one "nice" key :) Matt's idea of replacing the shell is probably the way to go if it doesn't come back to life - should be cheap and easy to do.
 
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