Following a 27 year hiatus Fiat has returned to the US and is set to make a large splash in the econo-car category with the 500 or Cinquecento as it is known in Europe.
I just spent a few days with this unique and interesting small automobile and I can tell you up front. It is quirky, fun, and has a few limitations. However, considering the sum of its parts, it was great experience; in fact, I enjoyed the heck out of this little odd looking car.
To start with, to most who see it for the first time consider this is an interesting looking automobile. It says Italian design all over it. Yet, the Fiat 500 makes a great deal of sense in today’s marketplace for those who would enjoy a quirky and economic two-door.
Fiat claims this is a real four-seater, however I know of no one in my circle of family and friends I would put behind the front seats. This area is best left to non-animated objects such as luggage or shopping bags. The rear seat backs fold to add cargo space accessible from the rear hatch, so there is a great deal of space back there for your stuff.
The front bucket seat cushions (the place where you put your rear end) are a bit short, yet even with my long legs I was comfortable. One of those drawbacks, I spoke of earlier, occurs if you opt for the sun roof. The headliner is lowered by about two inches, which made it nearly too low for me. I was able to wear a baseball cap; however it rubbed slightly most of the time. The driver seat has the ability to be lowered a bit, but it was barely enough to keep from hitting the headliner. I would probably opt not to have the open air capability. But, it would be a difficult decision because I love the free flow of air a sunroof provides.
There are more than enough combinations to assure a buyer can have a car that is unique from your neighbors’.Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America,claims thousands of combinations available to make this possible. No matter what color scheme you choose, you are certain to draw attention no matter the street scene. You will feel you were just dropped into the real world out of a Pink Panther movie. This car is that unique. But, it is fun and adds surprise after surprise as folks see you drive through town.
I loved driving the 5-speed manual transmission up into the hills east of San Diego which are similar to those we find around the San Francisco area. Keep the rpms high for the state of art 1.4 liter 4-cylinder engine sitting under the clam shell hood and the 500 reacts quickly. I zipped through canyon after canyon.
I must admit there were times when I let the speed drop and got caught trying to regain my speed with less voracity than I might have liked. But I also must say this didn’t bother me much and once I became familiar with the capabilities I had little trouble. It turned into a wonderful day of motoring.
A very adequate six-speed automatic transmission is also available for those who find shifting a bother. This automatic has a “sport” mode that offers quicker shifts and has unique throttle mapping for sporty engine responsiveness.
The new engine is equipped with a unique induction system Fiat calls MultiAir, which gives the 500 good power, cleaner emissions and good fuel efficiency. While the efficient 1.4-liter Inline-4 cylinder engine may not be the most powerful it provides a good bit of fun no matter if you are cruising the local tourist area or a back country road. This little car is going to surprise you.
One way this Fiat will surprise is in a feature called eco:Drive Application which collects data relating to vehicle efficiency and, through the BLUE&ME™ USB port, transmits it on to a USB memory stick. Plug the memory stick into a personal computer, and the system will present the 500’s detailed environmental performance, including the CO2 emission levels. In addition, it will offer up analysis of your driving style and provides recommendations on how to change how you drive to help reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Its time has come, the Fiat 500 is a unique and fun small car that you can have a day of adventurous driving while knowing you are not putting a huge drain on your wallet. I had a ball during my time with the car and look forward to the next drive. Boy, do I have a lot planned for the 500.