Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, Fiat had a horrible reputation. Today's Fiat is a different story entirely. Fit and finish, paint quality, everything about the Fiat 500 Sports feel top notch- like far more expensive cars than they are. So far, both have been entirely trouble free.
Fuel economy has been excellent with a low of 36.9 and a high of 42.1 MPG with mostly highway driving. Fiat specs the car for 91 octane fuel, although 87 is permitted. I use 93. I have tried most of the major brands and have seen no difference in economy, with the exception of Mobil, which routinely returns a 2MPG improvement over other brands. Not sure why- I had a Hyundai that did the same on BP, so please don't think I am pushing a preference, as I have none,
The car is also very sensitive to tire pressure in relation to fuel economy. The factory recommends 38 PSI, 34 rear. I am running 40/36 with no difference in ride quality but slightly improved economy.
Safety & braking
Rated safer than my last car (Mini Cooper) although smaller and lighter.
The car has 7 air bags, ABS, and traction/stability control, so it has all of the safety features of larger more costly cars.
Brakes are good, and give off little brake dust in comparison to the Mini Cooper. Pads should last far longer than the Mini Cooper as well.
With only 101 BHP on tap, the Fiat 500 Sport is not a speed demon. However, there is plenty of power on tap if the manual transmission is driven correctly-on the highway if more power is needed to pass, shift down to 4th gear, pass, and shift back to 5th. I have not driven an automatic transaxle model, so I don't know how that performs.
While "only" 101hp, it feels peppier than our old Hyundai Accents, which were more powerful on paper.
Most think the 500 may make a great city car, and that is true, but it does extremely well on the highway as well- mine is driven on my daily commute 120 miles a day, and is so much fun that I look forward to my next drive in the 500.
Driving position & visibility
Driving position is very "upright." Easy entry and exit to the front seats, It always felt like I was in a bowl sitting in the Mini due to its low seating position.
Rear seat room is not a concern for me (or my wife, who bought one as well.) Mine has never been used, but my mother in law rode in the back seat of my wife's 500 and said it was very uncomfortable.
Think of the rear seats in a 500 like the emergency "jump" seats in a Porsche 911, and you will be fine- certainly not something I would want to use regularly.
Visibility is excellent with the exception of a large blind sport on the driver's side: Fiat has fitted the driver's side door mirror with a convex addition, which works.
Warranty, maintenance cost
The Fiat 500 comes with a 4 year 50000 mile warranty.
Oil changes are dictated by the computer, which will indicate oil change necessary via a light on the dash at either 4,000 or 8,000 miles depending on how the car is driven. I have 4600 miles on my highway driven car, no light yet, so it looks like highway driven cars will need service every 8,000 miles, city cars every 4,000 miles.
Even if the light never illuminates, service is due at 6 month intervals.
For DIY types, the car does have a canister type filter (like Mercedes, BMW, Mini) and is a bit more involved than some other cars, but still easy enough. There are sites with pictures available online.
Rear seat room & comfort
As previously mentioned, I would not want to use my rear seat on a regular basis. It is tight in back, and I think of it as emergency seating.
Not so much dealer practices (our dealer was super easy and stress free to deal with) but rather the number of Fiat dealers there are at the present time. More are opening, but I would not want to have to travel large distances if assistance was necessary, or for routine maintenance. Fortunately, I have 2 Fiat "studios" within 15 miles of home.
I think the 500 Sport is the perfect blend of style, features, safety and performance. While not Fast by any stretch of the word, driving the 500 is a real joy. I have owned dozens of cars, and while the Fiat is far from the most expensive, It may already be my favorite.