Perfectly positioned below the Abarth When the regular Fiat 500 was brought over to our side of the pond last year, I tried to make myself love it, but I just didn’t.
Over the past few years, there have been more and more “niche market” cars popping up on the market. Most are either a hit or miss; people either love them or hate them. Take the Nissan Juke for instance; it has a face that would make even its own mother shudder, but that little thing has been selling superbly well. I personally adore the Mini Cooper. It corners like it’s on rails, the styling does it for me, and it has a few quirky character traits that make it lovable. When the regular Fiat 500 was brought over to our side of the pond last year, I tried to make myself love it, but I just didn’t. The 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo however, struck just the right chords.
Sharing the 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder with its significantly louder sibling, the 500 Abarth, the 500 Turbo is “detuned” to put out 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. These numbers seem very modest until it’s taken into account that the little Fiat only weighs 2400 lbs. Coupled to the 5-speed manual gearbox, the car that is strangely reminiscent of a Christmas tree ornament hustles. It’s no rocketship like the Audi RS5 I had simultaneously, but the 500 Turbo definitely impressed me. Shifting action on this box is almost Honda-levels of good; though the clutch is a tad lighter than I’d like. The tone of the exhaust was just right too: I had a big issue with the Abarth’s exhaust droning a bit too much at highway speeds.
The 500 Turbo is a bit roly-poly in the corners. It doesn’t share the Koni shock/springs or the rear suspension components from the Abarth, so it tends to dart around on the highway as well. It does feel a significant bit more put-together at higher speeds than the regular 500 (or the much floppier 500C) but the Turbo is by no means a highway hauler. That being said, this “best of both worlds” Fiat is in my opinion, the perfect city car. It’s small enough to zip around with confidence and ease in an urban setting, and it’s ridiculously efficient in the city too.
There’s one huge thing keeping me from favouring any version of the Fiat 500 over the Mini Cooper. I truly can’t get over the exceptionally weird driving position. It’s great to get in and out of, and it’s fine for city maneuvering, but I just couldn’t get comfortable on the highway with this thing. I typically enjoy upright seating positions in SUVs or dare I say, minivans, but not in a car the size of my shoe.
Starting right at the $20,000 mark, one huge determining factor the Fiat 500 Turbo does have is aggressive pricing. My tester was optioned out pretty well, and stickered right at $25,000. The optional leather seats are great, and the Beats by Dre sound system sounds surprisingly good. Voice recognition from the “Blue & Me” multimedia system is wonderfully responsive; but I couldn’t get over the fact that voice recognition is the only way to get into the menu of my trusty iPod. A bit of a tick-off, but I thoroughly like the simplistic way everything is set up in this little car, so I made do.
One of the main reasons people buy these zippy little city cars is to achieve incredible fuel economy. However, due to the manual transmission in the Fiat having five gears instead of six, the RPMs at highway speeds are quite high, and fuel economy suffers. I managed 7.0L/100km highway while driving as light-footedly as I possibly could. In city traffic, I actually achieved the exact same number. Not as great as I’d have expected, because I get 5.2L/100km combined every day of the week in my aging 2005 Mini.
I really grew to like the Fiat 500 Turbo. My pre-drive hypothesis was definitely correct; the Turbo is the sweet spot between the anemic 500 and the slightly over-the-top Abarth. If I were to buy one, I’d skip on the optional leather seats and opt for a sunroof. If you live downtown or in a similarly urban setting and require a car, the Turbo is a much better choice than, say, a Chevrolet Spark. If driving feel and passion is a priority though, the Cooper S is still my pick. It’s worth the extra nickel and dime.
2013 Fiat 500 Turbo Gallery