At heart, I'm a minimalist. I don't like unwieldy, overly complicated things. This definitely plays into my bias as an automobile aficionado. While I like to see sophisticated under-the-hood elements and feature-filled driver amenities, I like to see these presented in compact form and in clean, simple lines. The Fiat 500 Sport is a great example of this and it also has the virtue of being fun, flirty, and feisty!
It's been a while since I had the chance to drive a sub-compact and my week in a Fiat 500 was just what the doctor ordered. Zipping out of the parking lot, I darted down towards the river valley and scooted across the bridge to the south side. The Fiat was peppy (a bronco busting out of the chute), curve hugging, and immediately responsive to pressure on the gas pedal or a slight correction of the steering wheel. Feist's "1, 2, 3, 4" was playing on Satellite radio and the vibe made me feel like the hipster wannabe that I am.
I pulled over onto the side of the road at a spot overlooking the river valley and the downtown cityscape and studied the very cool-looking interior aspects of the Fiat. This particular model was outfitted with the available 6-speed automatic transmission with Auto/Stick conveniently placed at arm's length so that you can rest your right hand on the chrome shift knob. (Like many driving buffs I generally prefer a manual transmission on a smaller vehicle and I made a note to myself to find an opportunity to drive a manual version of this vehicle in the near future ?" but more on this a little later.) I surveyed the various controls such as the automatic temperature control system, the power window activators (which are unconventionally placed in the central instrument console), the heated seat controls, and of course the audio system array. Directly in front of me was the sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio & cruise control buttons and dead in the middle of the beautifully curved instrument panel sat a unique Electronic Vehicle Information Centre display (EVIC). The EVIC is surrounded by the speedometer and tachometer and displays information such as tire pressure, ambient temperature, time and date, odometer reading, trip meters, and even your radio preset. It is fully customizable to allow the driver to display as much or as little of this data as desired.
I drove home and parked in my garage. Unbelievably, given the compact footprint, I could easily park four of these vehicles, in a two-by-two formation, inside my two-car garage!
Over the next few days the Fiat 500 Sport attracted a lot of attention. Complete strangers sidled over to me and asked my opinion of this vehicle relatively new to the North American market. A lot of myths were revealed in these conversations and I did some research so that I could get to the bottom of these.
If this were true, how ironic is it that the Fiat is one of the top-selling vehicles in Norway, a country with a climate akin to ours? In my research I came across an article published on the TripAdvisor.ca website titled A Drive to the Arctic Circle in a Fiat 500 which is a testament to the versatility and ruggedness of the Fiat. On the third day I had the Fiat, I drove to work in a snowstorm with the mercury dipping to -20C. The vehicle performed admirably and I felt totally confident (and comfortable on the heated leather seat) in reaching my destination safely and in good time. The Fiat is no stranger to cold and sometimes harsh climes. It heats up quickly and handles snow and ice like it was bred to it.
In 2013, the Insurance Institute recognized the Fiat 500 as a Top Safety Pick for Highway Safety (IIHS). This might have something to do with the exceptional "protection on all sides" provided by seven (yes, seven) standard air bags (advanced multistage driver and front-passenger air bags, a driver's knee blocker air bag, front-seat-mounted side air bags and side-curtain air bags which extend protection to passengers in all rows.) This coupled with Reactive Front Head Restraints, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), All Speed Traction Control, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution and Hill Start Assist (all standard on the Fiat 500 Sport) is assurance that the advanced safety technology in the Fiat is backing you every inch of the way.
Rather than a pejorative declamation about the Fiat 500, I prefer to see this as a term of endearment. Hey, I love scooters! But, objectively, given Fiat 's efficient, yet peppy engines today, I'm not sure this description really works. The Fiat 500 Sport houses a 1.4L Multiair 1-4 Engine that uses sophisticated technology to increase power up to 10 percent and which reduces fuel consumption and emissions up to 10 percent compared to similar engines. The result is 101 horsepower, 98 lb-ft of torque and exceptional fuel economy. To top it off, depressing the Sport Button instantly adjusts the steering feel, shift points and throttle for more responsive performance.
Driving the Fiat 500 Sport around the busy city hub is both organic and satisfying. Parking is never an issue (this vehicle can fit into the tightest quarters!) and it proverbially "turns on a dime". And talk about economical - 6.4 L/100 km (44mpg) city and 4.9L/100 km (58mpg) highway!
Just as I had on that first day, I spent a lot of time over the next little while navigating the river valley roads and bustling downtown streets. Edmonton is made for the Fiat 500 Sport. And if you are at all environmentally conscious you need to seriously consider one of these sporty, but economical puppies. You're not going to repair the rent in the ozone layer, but you are going to be part of the movement to reduce carbon emissions and to lessen the impact of your footprint on Mother Earth - if these things matter to you. For these reasons the Fiat 500 could be considered 'mother-in-law approved' ?" at least that would be true for my mother-in-law!
Just to satisfy an itch, part way through my 500 Sport test drive, I took out a 5-speed manual Abarth for a spin just to see how it compared to the 500 Sport - not really a fair comparison with the Abarth racing engine putting out 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. Abarth is the Fiat racing division based in Europe and has an illustrious, award-winning pedigree. I have to say that the Abarth satisfied my need for speed and for the adrenalin-producing rush only a stick shift can give you. More on the Abarth another time when I can really put it through its paces!
You 'wear' the Fiat 500 Sport as much as you 'use' it. This car takes on your personality and when purchasing one you can customize it to the nth degree. (There's even rumor of a Gucci-inspired model!) Go to the Fiat Canada website and try the Build and Price feature. This will give you a good indication of the 'personality' and this little number is rife with.
I'm sad that my week with the Fiat 500 Sport has come to an end and I can't wait to drive one again. It really was fun, flirty, and feisty!