2014 Fiat 500 Test Drive

Fiat 500 Sport

Fun, Flirty, Feisty

In A Nutshell

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!

Rolling Off The Lot

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!

Around The Block

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.

Myth #1:  The Fiat is  not suited to winter driving in Canada.

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.

Myth #2:  The Fiat  isn't a safe car to drive.

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.

Myth #3:  The Fiat is  "the Scooter of the Automobile World".

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!

Bringing It Home

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!