2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

NEW YORK — If there was ever a city that was suitable for a Fiat 500 Cabrio (another word for convertible) its New York. Sure you shudder and tremble as giant Crown Vic yellow cabs try to squeeze you into pulp, but let them try to park in a half sized parking space.

If you can stand the pace of moving traffic in New York or any giant metropolis from Rome to Mexico City to Los Angeles then you’ve got a leg-up on winning the daily David vs. Goliath battle.

The good thing about driving in traffic is that you’re not apt to worry about zero to 60 times (the Fiat runs a leisurely 9.1 seconds); what you get with the Fiat is the ability to scoot in and out and around. With the convertible you can do it as a gentleman (or lady) from Verona, with the fresh air (as it is) whipping through your hair (as it is) and blowing the silk scarf that is so casually wrapped around your neck (kind of like Snoopy).

Fiat makes it easy for you to look good as it probably has a color to match your scarf. With a choice of 14 exterior colors, two interior colors, 12 seat colors and three colors available for the dual-layered soft-top there is bound to be a combination to please your palette.

 Without a doubt the smartly crafted top is the star of this show; firstly the power operated top doesn’t infringe on any interior space including the trunk; it slides effortlessly and fairly quickly on exterior rails finding a multitude of open positions based on when to take your finger off the power button. The top stops automatically when it reaches the rear spoiler. You can do this at speeds up to 60-mph. Press the button again and it will fold all the way open. The bugaboo here is that it interferes with to the rear sight lines.

For the convertible those whacky Italians have pared your choices to two; the Pop or the Lounge. (Please don’t ask about the names!) Both come with the now familiar 1.4-liter, 101-horsepower engine. Really more than enough to get you around town, and enough to let you keep pace on the open highway. The Pop comes with a nice 5-speed manual and the pricier Lounge has the new 6-speed automatic.

Depending on your choice of automotive voices and what side of the bed they got up on, you might find your interest in the 500 based on fuel economy lambasted as foolish or stoopid! (Brooklyn is everywhere) or praised as smart (usz gotitrite pal, from a Bronx expert). Judge for yourself; is 30-mpg city and 38-mpg highway with the 5-speed good enough, or 27/32-mpg with the 6-speed the best you could do?

There are obviously many cars that have better numbers. They are indeed ubiquitous. But are those couple of miles per gallon extra so important that you bleed into the background or is the style and panache of the 500 Cabrio enough to offset what may not be the best gas mileage in the segment?

Here’s a quick round-up: the ride is solid; the cabrio is fun and charming; there are enough options available to keep anyone happy; standard equipment has everything you probably need (although the Bose audio and TomTom navigation system are both fun); and the prices are in the ballpark - $20,000 for the Pop and $24,000 for the Lounge, both include destination charges. And you will be noticed no matter where you go, so buy a nice scarf.

— Ted Biederman