Car and Driver reviews and compares the new 2012 Fiat 500 and the 2011 MINI Cooper. The two small premium vehicles began competing for the US market earlier this month when Fiat marked its return to the American market.
Here are some quotes from the extensive review:
“Calling the Fiat cute might be cliché, but the 500 is just so darn little (7.0 inches shorter and 2.2 inches narrower than the Mini). This Sport model’s larger grille opening and y-spoke wheels don’t man things up enough to elicit descriptors like “aggressive” or “poised for attack.” Cute still applies.
From behind the wheel, the Fiat feels taller than the Mini, more so than its 4.4-inch-higher roofline suggests. The over-six-foot set will want to forgo the sunroof, as it reduces headroom by 1.3 inches. Mid-five-footers can feel their hair connecting with the burlap-crossbred-with-mouse-fur headliner. The only touch of interior panache is a body-color plastic dash panel. Without that, the cabin would be a black sea with the occasional piece of chrome debris adrift in it.
Ohio’s roads revealed how different the Mini and the Fiat are. The Cooper feels substantial and stiff where the Fiat shows some dynamic gaps. The 500’s body roll at turn-in gives the impression it is nearing, or at, its cornering limit. But there is more to be had. We were surprised to find its skidpad grip at 0.85 g. The high-mounted seats are partly to blame, as they exaggerate the sense of roll.
The Mini Cooper’s more flexible powertrain, more capable chassis, and greater comfort combine to make a car that is as fun as it looks. No doubt, the 500 has style. But the Mini has style and agility.”