Styling is a bit eclectic, different from all the other econoboxes out there. For my tastes, the design is appealing, even compelling... especially up close. Think round, think feminine form cuteness in a sort of 60's Euro-chic way. Its not everyones cup-of-tea, but I've always preferred 'Euro-curves' over 'American-box/fins'. Oh, and its easy to wash.
Like the exerior, the interior exudes a euro'chic vibe. Materials, fit and finish are good, but certainly not in the same category of more expensive cars... in spite of that, the Italian designers have been very creative with inexpensive materials. The dash is pleasing to look at.... not the ho,hum black/grey expanse you find on most cars in this price range. A color matching panel adorns the front of the dash, and the rounded displays compliment the general form-theme of the car. Its very pleasing to look at, not at all boring but not at all cluttered with switch-gear. Controls are ergonomic, simple, and easy to find while driving. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, even on base models (pop), and provides a pleasantly visceral grip as you interact with the car. In short, the driver's seat is where you 'live' in any car... and its a pleasant place to be.
Color choices are many and varied. Its a mix and match sort of thing. I chose the ivory (a sort of beige or off-white) steering wheel and A/C control panel rather than the black. The interior dash panel is Olive green and matches the exterior paint. The green/ivory is a very pleasant combo. Though I don't have the 'rag-top', I've seen various color combinations of tops/bottoms... Its part of the appeal, I think.
The 1.4 liter motor in the base model is adequate for street legal driving. With the manual transmission, I can 'hot-rod' the little motor if I want to feel fast. The 'sport' button tightens up the suspension and increases throttle response for a sportier ride... and it works. Mash the sport button and you feel a noticable increase in acceleration and the steering 'tightens' up. Its all I need to remind myself that I'm in a 'hot little Italian car". The turbo 1.4 is quite a lot quicker, much more torque and horsepower... but for everyday driving, you'll never need it.
Driving position & visibility
Visibility could be much better. When backing out, a look over your shoulder gives you a view of the rear seat head rests... I've simply removed them since I rarely have passengers in the rear seat. And with the drivers seat raised vertically all the way up, I can't see out of the windshield well enough to see high-mounted stop lights. I have to stoop my head to see them. With the driver's seat all the way down (vertically), the seat just isn't as comfortable, most of your weight rests on your lower back. There is a 'sweet spot' sort of compromise position, but I think more work needs to be done on position and visibility.
Handling is ok. Compared to other cars in this price range, it is more than adequate. But driving an Italian car, I should be able to feel more of the road through the steering wheel. Additionally, rain gooves on the highway sometimes affect the handling... and pot holes and irregularities definately are felt. This is not a 30 foot long Chrysler, so shouldn't feel like a boat. But perhaps the engineers at Fiat might lengthen/widen the wheel base a couple of inches for a sturdier 'footing'.
Coming from an older economy car, a Dodge Neon, economy has jumped considerably from about 25 mpg on average (Neon) to 35mpg average (Fiat 500). With a little attention to how efficiently I'm driving, I can get a few more mpg. But most of the time, I just want to drive and sometimes have a little fun with the car. I live in San Diego, California, full of canyons and hills. Very few 'flat' places to drive. Highway/urban driving for me is about 50/50 throughout the year. Some folks report averages of 40+ mpg, but likely live in flat terrain and lots of highway driving. I'm pleased the mid-30's mpg, seeing a 10mpg increase... that means a 10 gallon gas tank gets an additional 100 miles of distance... that makes a real difference. If mpg is important to you, you should consider the Fiat as an alternative to the many econoboxes out there. Fiat's Real world averages are very high compared to many other makes/models.
Interior storage compartments
Interior space seems larger on the inside than it appears on the outside. I've surprised many folks with how much I can get through the hatch. The hatch door is very wide and tall, and with seat down can accomodate much more than many smaller SUV type vehicles. Its easy for me to open the hatch, fold the seats down in one click of a button, and watch as my 65 pound dog jumps into the back. Thor (my boxer) can stand upright with plenty of room to move around, look out the windows, lick my wife on the cheek, or lay down. LOTS of room for groceries. Shopping at Costco is no problem, I've never not had enough room for a couple hundred dollars of groceries. Its a pleasantly surprising utilitarian quality of this little Italian car.
If you are a family of 4 or more, you may need to consider the larger Fiat 500 Long, a newer model out this fall. If you need better handling and can live with the style/colors you might consider the Mazda 2. More mpg... maybe a used hybrid. But for an overall fun, pleasant to look at and drive, inexpensive utiliarian hatch with great mpg... its hard to go wrong with the Fiat 500 pop.