2016 500 New Car Test Drive
The Fiat 500 is five years old, which means it has caught up to its personality. Owning a Fiat 500 is like having a five-year-old boy (or tomboy) at his cutest and most fun. After fun, the adjective that's probably used most to describe this itty-bitty Italian car is quirky, but we don't see that. It works, on its small scale, in both looks and performance. There's big character packed in its small body, and there's no mistaking it for anything else. While it gets an EPA-estimated 34 miles per gallon Combined. What's quirky about that?
The Volkswagen Beetle was quirky, because of its looks, and because it was so slow. The Fiat 500 is just cool. It's not called by an insect, it's called “Cinquecento.”
The Fiat 500 comes as a three-door hatchback or cabriolet with a cloth top that slides back, hassle-free. We like it. Eighty percent of the sun and open air, 20 percent of the inconvenience of a convertible.
Of course, there's an Abarth version, which is over the top, and we like that, too. Very Italian, nothing held back, turbocharged 'til it blows out its ears, with 60-percent more horsepower, or rather blows out its exhaust, a deep and unique tuned system that shouts “Lookatme!” with every blip of the throttle. While it sucks gas, getting just 27 miles per gallon Combined.
But the Fiat 500 lineup isn't done impressing. There's also a Fiat 500e, which we can unequivocally say is the most fun and quintessential electric car we have ever driven. With an EPA-rated range of 87 miles, and quickness and balance that's actually better than the regular 500, the Fiat 500e can't be beat for an around-town commuter car. The bad news is it's only sold in California. So take a California vacation, before the state dries up or washes away, and bring home a new baby called Cinquecento Electrico.
The Fiat 500 does a good job of getting the most interior space out of its footprint, but it still has considerably less than a Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark, or MINI Cooper. The base engine is an overachieving 1.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 101 horsepower. It's fun to work it, which you have to do to run with the pack.
Even more fun is working the Fiat 500 Turbo that makes 135 horsepower out of the same engine. The turbocharged Abarth makes 160 horsepower, but maybe you're not comfortable shouting your presence. The 500 Turbo gives you satisfying speed while flying under the radar. Plus it's a lot cheaper than the Abarth.
Standard transmission is a 5-speed manual, but a 6-speed automatic is available in the 500 Turbo, Abarth, and Abarth Cabrio.
For 2016, Fiat 500 updates include new colors and trim, and upgraded infotainment, a 5.0-inch touchscreen for audio and navigation. And there's a new model, the 2016 Fiat 500 Easy, one level up from the base 500 Pop. Above the Easy, there are 500 Sport and 500 Lounge models. There's your quirky, the names.
We like the Pop. When the 500 first came out, a friend of ours bought a Pop for $14k out the door, a clean titanium color, put some cool wheels and tires on it, and it's the most enjoyment and satisfaction, per dollar, that he's ever gotten out of a car.
The 2016 Fiat 500 Pop ($16,995) comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, CD player, power windows/locks/mirrors, and cruise control.
The Sport ($19,700) adds the turbocharger, 16-inch wheels, glass roof, and sports suspension and seats.
The Lounge ($20,395) goes back to smaller wheels, and uses a 6-speed automatic transmission, with upgraded speakers and leather. Then there's the 160-horsepower hot-rod Abarth ($22,575).
There are a lot of ways to customize a Fiat 500. One is the decidedly retro 1957 Edition, baby blue with '50s-looking wheels and old-time Fiat badging. But there's nothing retro about the premium leather upholstery, in brown or ivory.