The 2012 Fiat 500 can be viewed as this decade’s Mini: a small, clever, retro-styled minicar that’s appealing, cheeky, fun to drive, and adds a dose of brio to a category often drenched in grim. And like the Mini, the 500 offers a relatively low starting price that buyers can come close to doubling if they’re heavy-handed on the options list that lets them “personalize” their 500s.

The Fiat 500 comes as a three-door hatchback or a two-door Cabriolet (known as the 500C). The latter is an open-air model with a power retractable cloth roof that’s one of the neatest pieces of small-scale engineering we’ve seen. The roof rolls back on rails to several positions, one half-open, one fully-open but with the rear window in place, and one all the way lowered with the top stacked just above the trunk lid.

But anyone expecting the 2012 Fiat 500 to return truly stellar gas mileage numbers is in for a bit of disappointment. It’s rated at 30 mpg city,...

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UPDATE2012 Fiat 500: Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2012 Nominee

GreenCarReports nominates 2012 Fiat 500 as one of the six contenders for its Best Car To Buy 2012 award, given to the car or cars that provide the best and most practical alternatives for car buyers who want to drive green. Read Update

UPDATENext Fiat 500 Minicar: Abarth 'Hot Hatch' Sports Version

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth model to be launched in November at the 2011 LA Auto Show will be the fastest, best-handling model yet in the growing Fiat 500 minicar line. Read Update

UPDATE2012 Fiat 500 Minicar Named IIHS Top Safety Pick Despite Size

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the 2012 Fiat 500 minicar one of its Top Safety Picks despite the diminutive car's size. Read Update

UPDATEThe Bamby P50: How Small Is Too Small?

Bamby Cars Limited has begun building a replica of the world's smallest production car, the Peel P50. You can park it anywhere, but there isn't much room for luggage. Read Update

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