Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Don Cheng
It's cute as a button isn't it? Round lights, a pudgy but tall posture, an iconic design - even its damn license plate is adorable, BWEW 652. And those green and red Italian stripes ($675) running from the front hood to the rear spoiler give it an extra flair of patriotism, so you won't need to hook up any flags to your car after a soccer game (you can also have it with a Canadian Maple Leaf stripe package - I guess Fiat caters to hockey players too). Frankly, I've never driven a Fiat before but I'm starting to see the appeal of these small urban cars - no doubt that they're stealing some of the MINI Cooper's and Ford Fiesta's thunder. Here at Canadian Auto Review, we love hatchbacks - specifically hot hatches with a whiff of quirkiness. The new 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo fits right into that category. Can't say I mind.
It's easy to mistake the 500 Turbo as the more performance-driven Abarth variant. In fact, customers who thought the Abarth was too much to handle, too loud, and too uncomfortable would find safe haven with the 500 Turbo. The power delivery is more dramatic than the base 500's but not as brutal as the Abarth's. Fiat also left the stiffer suspensions and racier bits out of the equation too, resulting in a softer and calmer ride. Unique to the Turbo trim are the gloss black headlamps, taillamps, and parking lamp bezels, an extended front hood to make room for the turbo, larger lower air inlets, a trunk-mounted rear spoiler and a set of devious looking 16-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels ($300).
Under the hood lies Fiat's standard 1.4-litre MultiAir four-cylinder but with a turbocharger that gives rise to 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft. of torque, an increase of 34 and 52, respectively. While those numbers may seem relatively paltry when you look at the MINI Cooper S or Ford Fiesta ST, you must also consider its weight. And in this case, the Fiat only weighs 1,168 kg - less than half of the weight of a Range Rover Sport. To manage all that added power, the 500 Turbo receives stronger mechanical components like larger half shafts, a sport-tuned suspension, a beefier exhaust, semi-metallic brake linings and larger front rotors for less torque steer and maximum stopping power. The Abarth on the other hand gets the same turbocharged 4-cylinder but it's been tuned to produce 160 hp / 170 lb-ft of torque in the manual, and 157 hp / 183 lb-ft with the optional automatic.
The 500 Turbo has more than enough horsepower and torque if you ask me, and the admirable power to weight ratio results in an extremely nimble car. The four-banger likes to rev high and fast, resulting in an emphatic yet thrashy exhaust noise. Thanks to the quick spooling of the turbo, the Fiat has an abundance of low and mid-range thrust but it drones quite a bit on the highway. There's a nice heft and weight to the steering wheel and it gives usable feedback from the road. Though, the Fiat's center of gravity is a little too high up and there's a helluva' lot of body roll. The newly tuned suspension is also a bit stiff but it's more bearable than the one in the Abarth.
New for the 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo is the optional AISIN 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,495). It's certainly not as fluid or as responsive as rowing your own gears with the 5-speed manual but it gets the job done in attracting a wider market audience - not many people these days know how to work a stick and a third pedal. No paddle shifters are available but you can still make use of the sequential modes with the center-mounted gear shifter. The lever is nicely wrapped in leather but it feels a bit flimsy. Yet it protrudes out at a 45-degree angle so it's always within arms reach for a quick downshift. There's also a Sport mode that will sharpen up the throttle response and tweak the transmission so that each gear will be squeezed to their limit.
I stand 6'1 and I'll be honest with you, I don't find this car very comfortable. To be more specific, I'm talking about the driving position. I can ingress and egress through the doors wonderfully but the seats are positioned way too high and there's no way to lower them any further. If I try driving in my regular seating position (seat pulled back but slightly reclined), my head will get a constant dose of static headliner therapy, and I like my hair the way it is. Hitting potholes and bumps is no fun either, a few brain cells get sacrificed each time. The steering wheel also lacks any telescoping feature so you're limited with moving it in only two directions, up or down.
So every time I drive this Fiat, I have to either slouch my head like a hunchback or recline my seat so far back that it looks like there's nobody driving the car. We have the optional sunroof ($1,200) to thank for this. It creates a noticeably large bulge on the roof rendering any extra headroom obsolete. If you stand over six feet tall, I'd suggest you opt without the sunroof or find your way into the 500 Cabrio. Your brain cells (and your neatly done hair) will thank me later.
On the bright side, that high seating position awards the driver with a great level of visibility out in front. The rear view on the other hand is heavily compromised and the blind spots are actually quite terrifying. Luckily Fiat realized this and equipped our tester with extra blind spot mirrors - no blind spot monitoring technology is available.
To address any skeptics, the Fiat 500 actually has two usable rear seats but I wouldn't expect any adults to want to sit, or fit, back there. It's clearly meant for extra luggage or smaller children. The rest of the interior is very neatly laid out. The white metallic dashboard is clean, the contrasting red leather seats look wonderful, but the headrests look more than punching pads than anything else. The new 7-inch instrument display is a feast for the driver's eyes but the passenger will have nothing to look at except the low-resolution radio light strip. GPS navigation is option, but the TomTom available ($495) needs to be attached separately - there's a dedicated adapter and slot for it on top of the dashboard. Ours didn't come with one unfortunately.
The location of the controls takes some getting used to. For example, the window switches are positioned in the center console next to the gear lever - reminiscent of the previous generation MINIs? Door-locking buttons are missing as well. Instead, to lock the door you push the door handle inwards, to unlock, you pull - this one reminds us of the Jaguar XK. You won't find any circular volume dials either; the Fiat uses push-buttons for that instead.
The four-cylinder engine makes quite a clamor but the sound insulation in the cabin is above par, especially on the highways. If your ears are quite sensitive, you'll be happy to know that Dr. Dre makes a surprise appearance with optional Beats speakers ($995). Though word on the street says his speakers are substandard, I found the ones in the Fiat quite powerful and filled with bass. Six speakers located on the A-pillar, door, and rear quarter deliver an output of 368 watts and there's also a fancy looking subwoofer situated in the trunk well. The price for these brand name speakers is a bit steep, costing just shy of $1,000. My money would be on the Alpine audio system that costs only $495 and will probably sound just as good to 90% of buyers - most of us listen to FM, AM, or satellite radio rather than taking advantage of the sonic virtues from FLAC and Lossless files anyways.
The Americans have the Ford Fiesta, the British (more so German now) have their MINI Cooper, and now the Italians have joined the fray with their Fiat 500. It's a fun and youthful hatchback, one with a turbocharger and an automatic transmission that hits the sweet spot of usability and performance. Paired with its refreshing exterior and tasteful interior, the Fiat looks like it belongs more on the Amalfi coasts than in a Canadian snowstorm.
The transmission and seating position are quite a disappointment but as my colleagues have explained, "How could you ever get mad at this car? Just look at those cheeks!" If I was looking for a small track car, I'd look no further than the Abarth. But for real world commuting, I'd spec my Fiat with the Turbo paired with the 5-speed manual and ditch the sunroof option altogether. It's also hard to go wrong with such an attractive starting price. The new Fiat 500 has certainly earned a special place in my heart (my hair and brain cells disagree), and I'm certain that it's alluring charm and character will tug at the strings of others looking for a small and usable two-door city car.
(At first, we were going to compare the MINI Cooper S 5-Door against the Fiat 500 Turbo as you may well have noticed from the photographs. After a long photo shoot and a lengthy debate, we ended up scrapping the idea because the two hatches were spec'd way too differently. The MINI had a manual, two extra doors, a bigger boot, and a much more powerful engine, while the Fiat carried an automatic with subpar engine output. It would've been fair to compare a 3-Door MINI Cooper S against the Abarth, but none of those press vehicles were available at the time. Hence we split it into two separate reviews but you'll still see pictures of their cute little faces together.)
型号 Model: 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo
顏色 Paint Type: Bianco (White)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $21,395
試車售價 Price as Tested: $28,575
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,301
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,668 / 1,867 / 1,519
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,168
引擎 Engine: 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged I-4
最大馬力 Horsepower: 135 hp @ 5,550 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 150 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway)- L/100 km: 9.6 / 7.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P195/45 R16