June 21, 2012

Spin Control: Test Driving The Fiat 500C


I can’t even lie, I felt like a big kid with the best toy in town while test driving the Fiat 500C – And boy did this car turn heads as I drove it in downtown in Washington, DC and in the surrounding cities in nearby Maryland and Virginia.  I couldn’t help but to think – a car this fly, why wouldn’t Jennifer Lopez drive it on her old block?  I sure drove it all up and down mine.

At times I felt like a Chrysler (the Fiat’s parent company) salesman as people flagged me down at stoplights, probed me in parking lots or asked questions any and everywhere I stopped in this pintsized beauty.  They marveled at its petite size, cleverly manufactured convertible top, and beautiful beige-on-red leather interior; and quizzed me on the Fiat’s gas mileage, trunk size and maneuverability.  Men and women, young and old; everyone wanted to know about this mobile eye candy – and I wasn’t even driving the luxed-up Gucci edition.

The Fiat 500C has 101 hp, 98 lb-ft of torque, and a 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder that sits up front with the choice of either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic to back it up. It’s not the fastest car on the highway, as added weight from the roof add a tenth or two to the regular car’s 0-to-60-mph times, which are in the nines. The 500C’s EPA fuel-economy estimates are 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway for the manual, and 27/32 for the automatic.

The design of the two-layer cloth roof is innovative.  The convertible top moves back from the trailing edge of a lengthened windshield and can stop in any position before landing at its final mark above the trunk. The top transitions from fully closed to what Fiat calls “spoiler” position, which leaves the glass rear window in place.  Rearward vision is impaired when the top is in full drop mode, with the driver having to readjust their mirror of optimal vision.

The upgraded model of the Fiat 500C I drove had a $4,000 premium trim which included 15-inch steel wheels, the five-speed manual, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, cloth seats, power locks and windows, Bluetooth, and a USB port. The optional $1250 upgraded Bose sound system with satellite radio, and the automatic transmission, added to the experience as well.

Spin Control: The Fiat 500C is ideal for city living and country dwelling, but to me it would be a great secondary car instead of a primary vehicle.  Though it makes for simple parking and moving through tight garages, it does lack the space you may need for large luggage or lots of groceries.  It’s definitely worth the $23,500 ticket price mine had listed.

Industry Status: B+ List


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