Category Archives: Fiat

2017 Fiat 500 Lounge

2017 Fiat 500 Lounge Hatchback

By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2017 Fiat 500 Lounge Hatchback. Until you drive a while in Fiat’s ‘moccasins’ you really have no basis for consideration of its character and performance. If you are in the market for economy and performance all wrapped up in one car, this is a must-see option. Of course, you might say it is only for two people, but that isn’t necessarily true.

Even over the road trips are comfortable for two or acceptable for 4 adults for local short transportation. The ride is smooth and comfortable and I think you too will be pleasantly surprised. What is amazing is that you don’t have that ‘small car’ feeling. It is robust and sure footed.

This is a great commuter with fuel economy of around 33 mpg overall, and it will actually carry four adults with plenty of leg and headroom.

General Information:

It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico; Parts – US/Canadian 19%, Mexico 52%; Engine – USA and transmission – Japan; Classification is Micro Compact. Cars from Fiat: 124 Spider, 500, 500c, 500e, 500L and 500 X.

Handling & Performance:

My wife and I took this Bug-like (in the tradition of VW Bug of historic popularity) on a TREK to Las Vegas for a rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. We were amazed at how it never took a back seat to any car or truck on the highway. Not only did it keep up….. it led the way.

Very impressive performance, for sure, but handling is remarkably the same as larger cars. It is very stable and solid from closing the doors and trunk to the feel on the road. Frankly I would never have imagined it wouldn’t simply be like some other small cars. But it is an incredible little car.

Styling:

Fiat is the 7th largest car company in the world and wouldn’t have achieved that fact unless the consuming public found its products attractive. This Lounge is ‘retro’ with a solid painted dash reminiscent of period cars of the mid to late 20th century.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Amazing if you think about it. How can they make a capable car like this for 18 grand?

Conveniences and comfort:

This car sports most of the features found on larger luxury brands and it is comfortable for a short trip with 4 adults. But you will not be carrying much luggage at the same time.

Consumer Recommendations:

I believe you will be impressed, so be sure to include it on your test drives. Let me know what you think when you drive it.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 Lounge $18,000 (seats 4), Smart for two $19,000, MINI 2-door $22,000 (seats 4), VWGolf $19,000 (seats 5).

Good News:

Very affordable commuter, zippy performance, great fuel economy and generally a fun experience.

Bad News:

Not for those needing space for more than two with baggage.

Standard Equipment:
1.4 liter 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front and side seat mounted and side curtain airbags and driver knee bag, stability control, cruise control, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes, Tire pressure monitor, Remote keyless entry, audio system with Sirius XM radio, USB, Aux ports and 12 volt power outlet, electronic information center, Uconnect, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, rear park assist, hill start assist, power windows and locks, engine immobilizer, 5” touchscreen display, LATCH child system, climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, tilt steering column, leather trimmed bucket seats / front seats heated, rear 50/50 split fold down seat, 15” aluminum wheels, fixed glass roof with sun shade, fog lights, power heated mirrors, rear window wiper / washer, tinted glass windows.

Gas Stats:

$3.05/ Gal avg. June 25, 2017

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

27 City and 33 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $18,495.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica (1174)

Overview:
This is the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica. Personally I thank Fiat for returning this jewel to the US Market. I owned a new 1970 124 Spider and it was one of my favorite little sport cars. It came at a time when there were no kids we needed to transport, but even if you did, in those days there were no government mandated seats for kids. As a two seater mom would hold the kid just as if you had a dog. Gee I wonder when the animal police will require a seat for the dog? “…oops there goes another L-I-B-E-R-T-Y …… Ker plop” – remember the song High Hopes by Frank Sinatra?

You’ll note its assembly point – “say what?” Japan? Yep, and I guess that is a good thing. Me, I would have chosen Korea where quality is among the top rated in the world. That’s what has launched Hyundai and Kia to the hottest auto line today. The good news – Japan has taken note and you can bet your bippy they will work hard to regain their position in the market, instead of leading from behind.

General Information: It is assembled in Hiroshima, Japan; Parts – US/Canadian 0%, Italy 20%; Japan 75%; Engine – Italy and transmission – Japan; Classification is Small SUV. Cars from Fiat: 124 Spider, 500, 500c, 500e, 500L and 500 X.

Handling & Performance:
Outstanding………. Really fabulous on the Crest Test as it hugged the road and had more than I was willing to push it. Literally left a BMW Z4 in the dust; way in the dust. Gotta love Turbo power. Keep in mind this is a 1.4 liter 4-cylinder engine that develops 160 horsepower. Europe was the leader in getting 100 HP per liter – the rest of the world has followed.

All competitors are two door cars and get similar average fuel economy, with BMW on the bottom of the list.

Styling:
Classic Fiat.

Fit and Finish:
Excellent.

Cost:
Consider it as ½ the price of the BMW. Fiat is at the top of the list of largest auto makers in the world. . . and its big brother is the fabulous Ferrari – great genes.

Conveniences and comfort:
Definitely a young person’s sport car in large part because it is low to the ground and entry and exit is a challenge for over 50s. Small cars do not sport all the technology conveniences necessarily due to size. But it is as comfortable as you would expect for a performance sport car. Thus you do feel the road which is a good thing in this segment.

Consumer Recommendations:
June 2015 “Hyundai and Kia’s achievement was made official: Korean cars had eclipsed Japanese autos in quality according to J.D. Powers who states Korean made is tops in initial quality of the mass-market auto brands.

For this 124 Spider, Fiat devoted buyers will definitely agree it is a welcomed return to America. I believe you will be impressed, so be sure to include it on your test drives. Let me know what you think when you drive it.

Recognized Competition:
Fiat 124 Spider $26,000, Mazda MX5 $32,000, MINI Convertible $27,000, VW Beetle $26,000, BMW Z4 $51,000. (ok so I know it isn’t recognized competition but since it couldn’t keep up with me over a tough course I’m including it here).

Good News:
Affordable sport car, great performance that is a turbocharged thrill to drive, good fuel economy.

Bad News:
None noted other than difficult entry / exit for seniors.

Standard Equipment:
1.4 liter 160 HP 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive, front and side seat mounted airbags, enhanced accident response system, stability control, cruise control, 4-wheel ABS brakes, Tire pressure warning lamp, Remote keyless entry, AM/FM Bluetooth radio with 3” display and 4-speakers, auxiliary power outlet, air conditioning, tilt steering column with leather wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio controls, roll bar, manual seat adjustment, power windows, convertible roof with acoustic headliner, 16” silver aluminum wheels, power mirrors.

Gas Stats:
$2.69/ Gal avg. January 1, 2017
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.
26 City and 35 Highway MPG
Pricing:
MSRP $25,000.

2016 Fiat 500 X MultiAir Trekking AWD (1167)

Overview:

This is the 2016 Fiat 500 X MultiAir Trekking AWD. “News flash” for those who didn’t know – the Fiat 124 Spider is returning to the US. It was initially introduced in 1968 and ran through 1985 when it was discontinued in the US. I, for one, is happy it’s back.

Back to the 500X. There are 5 versions of the 500 X –  Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge and Trekking Plus with base prices ranging from $20,000 to $28,000. The dimensions are virtually the same on all 5 versions.

Last year I tested the, then new model, 1.4 liter “Pop” Turbo (a turbo is standard on this version). I enjoyed the ride and the power boost. But where the 500X, without Turbo (not available on this version), it performed great over the Crest. Where the POP comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, the Trekking comes standard with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Although I don’t mind driving a manual trans I prefer the automatic and the 9-speed compensates for the lack of Turbo power.

I have tested well over a thousand cars over that route and it is a great way to compare car performance. The mountain course through the San Gabriel Mountains separating greater Los Angeles from the desert communities directly north. The course is special and challenging and not for the faint of heart. It is a rise and fall of about 5,000 feet between the high desert and La Canada, CA. (Incidentally that is the destination for my auto repair business back in the 1980s).

General Information: It is assembled in Melfi Italy; Parts – US/Canadian 29%, Italy 52%   Engine and transmission – USA; Classification is Small SUV. Cars from Fiat: 124 Spider, 500, 500c, 500e, 500L and 500 X.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent handling and that is noticeable also in tight places and parking, but it is very comfortable on the highway with plenty of power.

The Trekking comes with a 2.4 liter 180 hp engine and as noted it is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and an AWD that gives it a more sure footing for confident handling.

I should note the Fiat is at the low end of the fuel economy of the 4 competitors noted below that range from combined mpg of 24, 31, 31, 27 respectively.

On this AWD 500 X Trekking there is a “Dynamic Control Selector” for three settings: Auto Mode, All Weather Mode and Sport Mode”. It is fairly obvious which mode you want to be in when driving but for a video explanation of this feature go to this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PfiBdArC7w

Styling:

I like the larger 500 4-door option. It provides 5 passenger seating in a family affordable crossover. It also sports some pretty bold colors.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

$25,000 base and it is a value to be considered.

Conveniences and comfort:

The list of convenience and comfort features is as I expected in class.

Consumer Recommendations:

I would definitely suggest you include in your test drives if this is in your budget and need for a small SUV with AWD.

Recognized Competition: (Kelly Blue Book)

Fiat 500 X Trekking $26,000, Mazda CX 3 $26,000, Honda HR V $26,000, MINI Countryman $29,000.

Good News:

Solid well put together, comfy ride, very good handling in all conditions, good fuel economy and affordable 5-passenger small SUV.

Bad News:

n/a

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 180 HP 4-cylinder engine, 9-speed automatic transmission, front and side seat mounted airbags, driver knee airbag, LATCH child seat anchor system, Passive entry keyless go with remote start, electric park brake, 4-wheel ABS brakes, dynamic control selector, stability control, security alarm, air conditioning, Uconnect with integrated voice command with Bluetooth, Media Hub USB and Aux, 6-speakers, Sirius XM satellite radio with 1-year subscription, 3.5” color display, steering wheel mounted audio controls, manual 6-way driver and passenger seats, front passenger fold flat seat, 12 volt auxiliary outlet, two glove boxes, power windows, heated power mirrors with turn signals, auto headlights, fog lights, 17” aluminum wheels.

Gas Stats:

$2.69/ Gal avg. November 13, 2016

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 30 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,000.

2016 Fiat 500 X MultiAir Turbo (1110)

Overview:

This is the 2016 Fiat 500 X MultiAir Turbo that is an all new model. It is an unbelievably impressive car and I don’t think the Viagra had anything to do with its growth. It was made that way. It is classified as a Small SUV but to me it is a 4-door hatchback and more car like than SUV.

What was most impressive was the general handling characteristics. It was especially noticed on my Crest Test mountain course through the San Gabriel Mountains separating greater Los Angeles from the desert communities directly north.

Literally it could blow the socks off most cars on that mountain course. It hugs the curves like a sailor who has been to sea too long time and finally makes port for liberty. This Fiat has great acceleration when pulling even the steepest hills. Outstanding ride if you enjoy performance.

General Information: It is assembled in Melfi Italy; Parts – US/Canadian 29%, Italy 52%   Engine and transmission – Italy; Classification is Small SUV. Cars from Fiat: 500, 500c, 500e, 500L and 500 X.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent handling. It is a perfect size for running about town. Easy to park in tight places and when you get on the highway it is very comfortable.

Something that is a long running fact is that Fiat (and most of Europe’s auto products) have been able to generate about a hundred horsepower per liter. This is not true generally of non-European cars. I’m sure you can think of some exceptions.

You can opt for a 2.4 liter 180 hp engine mated to an automatic transmission and an AWD (all wheel drive) model option. I don’t think the extra horsepower is needed but the AWD would only add to an already great road handling FWD car. The standard 1.4 liter 160 hp is more than enough and I like it just the way it is.

Styling:

Design is typical European where function over form has always been most important. I’ve owned a few VW Beetles over the early lean years for the very reason that ‘transportation’ was the reason to buy a car. It is way easier on the wallet or purse. After college I was able to justify more luxury. But compared to this Fiat 500 I gave up a lot of performance.

Those Beetles weren’t as pretty as this Fiat but you gotta love the little buggers anyway. I’ve also owned a few Fiat’s… and the 124 Spider was one of my all-time favorite cars. Neither the Bugs nor the Fiat had as much passenger and cargo space as this 500 X.

Fit and Finish:

Assembly of this fairly basic car is very good.

Cost:

$20,000. For a brand-spank’n new car this also has to be impressive.

Conveniences and comfort:

It has most of the basic necessities but I did miss not having Nav and Bluetooth. Because I have Nav on my cell phone and carry a portable Hands free device I was ok with that. I think Hands Free should be required on all cars just like seat belts. Frankly the seat belts are not as important as the safety accorded by preventing texting use in today’s world.

Although this test vehicle didn’t include ‘state of the art’ high tech stuff like lane departure and frontal collision and blind spot warnings these and others are available in other trim levels.

Consumer Recommendations:

If you are looking for an affordable commuter that carries four comfortably and efficiently don’t miss including Fiat in your comparison. It will surprise you. Its closest rival is the MINI Cooper Countryman and will cost less than the MINI.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 X $20,000, Honda HR V $21,000, Mazda CX 3 $21,000, MINI Countryman $23,000 Jeep Renegade $21,000, Kia Sportage $22,000.

Good News:

Very good fuel economy, priced right, great handling and performance and a comfortable ride. Flat fun to drive.

Bad News:

Radio reception was poor but I didn’t look into why. It’s like it didn’t have an antenna.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 160 HP 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, front and side seat mounted airbags, driver knee airbag, LATCH child seat anchor system, Remote keyless entry, speed sensitive power locks, electric park brake, 4-wheel ABS brakes, stability control, security alarm, tire specific pressure monitor, rear window defroster, wiper and washer, hill start assist, air conditioning, radio, outside temperature display,  USB/Aux ports, steering wheel mounted audio controls, tilt and telescopic steering column, manual 6-way driver and passenger seats, front passenger fold flat seat, 60/40split folding rear seat, power windows, 12 volt auxiliary outlet, to glove boxes.

Gas Stats:

$2.89/ Gal avg. October 18, 2015

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

25 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $20,000.

2014 Fiat 500 C Abarth Cabrio GQ Edition (1048)

Overview:

This week I had the opportunity to test the 2014 Fiat 500 C Abarth Cabrio GQ Edition. The Cabrio is a convertible in the easiest sense of the word. The soft top simply accordions to the back with a push of a button and reverse to close. No latches to disengage or re-engage. It is more like a full length moon roof but it is close to a full convertible and it is really cool.

General Information: Parts from the US / Canada 23%; Mexico 42%. It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico, Classification is Minicompact. Cars from Fiat: 500, 500e, 500L, Abarth, C Abarth, C Lounge, C Pop, Lounge, Sport and Turbo

Don’t you just love the multi-national make up of cars today! Above information about the cars origin should speak volumes of how global the auto industry has become. And this Italian company is not alone, of course, but joined by all other car companies in all countries. From the Big 3 in the US – only half a century ago for the vast majority of cars produced in the entire world we now see cars being made around the world.

China 25%, United States 13%, Japan 11%, Germany 7%, South Korea 5%, India 4.5%, Brazil 4%, Mexico 3.5%, Canada 3%, Russia 2.5% and others 21.2%.

Handling & Performance:

What a kick to drive around town and it is also a great commuter with close to the top for fuel economy of cars in this price range. It is very quick with turbo power that gets you in and out of traffic with ease and it is a very stable ride, albeit a little stiff suspension. So it will not be noticed on your commute other than if you drive in the truck lanes where you will feel the road imperfections.

Styling:

Design has left it a bit noisy inside and I didn’t expect that for the money. Its looks are very identifiable but I rather prefer the design of the 500L 4-door sedan, more so because it offers much more room. However if you are OK with smaller it’s cute and I’m guessing it will appeal especially to young girls.

As you may know one of my pet peeves is for a car to have sun visors that don’t extend to give adequate coverage of the side window. They are also narrow and that adds to the problem even for front windshield glare. I’d say about 75% of cars I test drive have the ability to extend or they have a plastic piece inside the visor that pulls out to give more coverage. Well, of course, this is one of those cars that irritates me in this regard.

Fit and Finish:

Very good and reminiscent of the VW Beetle.

Cost:

A point of departure for me as to cost is that it is more expensive than I would have guessed but the engineering and features including the Cabrio top and Turbo power give support for the higher than expected cost.

Conveniences and comfort:

It has all the usual bells and whistles and safety features you would expect for a car in this price range. But I was not thrilled with the ride characteristics as the seat is not as cushiony as I would expect.

Consumer Recommendation:

If I were considering the MINI or the VW Golf or even the VW Beetle, I would definitely include this in my list of cars to test drive.
Recognized Competition:
Fiat C Abarth $26,000, Chevrolet Cruze $24,000, Chrysler 200 $22,000, Honda Fit $17,000, Hyundai Azera $31,000, Kia Forte coupe $21,000, Mazda 2 $16,000, MINI Cooper $28,000, Nissan Versa Note $14,000, Volkswagen Golf $27,000.

Good News:

Very good fuel economy, well-engineered and turbocharger fast.

Bad News:

A little pricey and more importantly the sun visors don’t extend.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 160 Horsepower inline 4-cylinder turbo engine, 5 speed manual transmission, front, side and side curtain airbags and driver knee airbag, LATCH system, stability control, torque transfer control, 4-wheel disc performance brakes, hill start assist, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power door locks, engine immobilizer, rear window defroster, rear park assist, turbo boos gauge, 12 volt aux power outlet, security alarm, air conditioning, rear 50/50 split fold down seat, power windows, AM/FM CD, MP3 audio system, Blue and Me hands free communication, USB/Auxiliary audio input jack, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, tilt steering column, 16” aluminum wheels, Nero black performance soft top, side sills ground effects, power heated mirrors and fog lights.

Gas Stats:

$3.65 / Gal avg. September 6, 2014

www.fueleconomy.gov
For more information.

28 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:
MSRP $26,195.

2014 Fiat 500 L (1044)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2014 Fiat 500 L that is a grown up version of the 500. I have to say I thought small cars would sell like VW Beetles did in the 50’s & 60’s when it was a departure in the world of large cars in America. Fuel cost wasn’t a consideration back then because the US was blessed with an abundance of oil and gas prices less than 50 cents a gallon. The VW Beetle or endearingly referred to as a Bug was homely, and to some even ugly, but there were enough who thought it “Cute” to make it a huge success. I thought the Smart car would also sell briskly but it did not. It is wildly popular in Europe but it didn’t take off in the US.

On the other hand Fiat is not hard on the eyes and it has grown in size that is more needed in the US market. The advantage of being quite roomy should help it to be received with open arms. Looking at it next to SUV’s / wagons dispels the image or perception of it being a “Small” car. It is a lot larger than I had imagined it would be.

In a world where big is always perceived as better, small cars still have a definite market in America. There are few pressures for people to buy smaller however, other than the high cost of gasoline now. We have large parking facilities and the size of spaces are generous generally. Big IS truly better, all things being equal, when you have a need to haul lots of people and stuff. But in a sense you can have your cake and eat it too because of improvements in fuel economy and service intervals of 100,000 miles.

Bottom line is that this Fiat will accommodate 5 adults and the cargo area is pretty good too. And it will do that and still get 33 mpg and only set you back $24,000.

General Information:

Parts from the US / Canada 0%; Italy 19%; Serbia 21%. It is assembled in Kragujevac, Serbia, Classification is Small Wagons. Cars from Fiat: 500, 500e 500 L.

Handling & Performance:

You will be impressed at how quick this Fiat is. A 1.4 liter turbocharged engine delivers 160 horsepower. No one has done it better than the Europeans who traditionally got 100 horsepower per liter or better. American car companies have rarely been able to or simply didn’t want to do that. Cheap gas prices allowed the luxury to afford big V8s with huge displacement, by comparison and moreover the consumer demanded it. We still had that cowboy spirit and would “do it ourselves” and Hop them up to be faster and prettier than OEM. Even today our gas prices are half that of most of the world and surely all of Europe so the size thing is still alive and well.

Styling:

A little boxy for my taste but that is the only way to get the most interior space out of a smaller body and footprint. It is however nice looking. Not beautiful but practical, and since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and only skin deep, as they say, you may find it more attractive than I do.

Fit and Finish:
Very good.

Cost:
Well priced with the closest competition and better than most.

Conveniences and comfort:

Features include most of the customary stuff we expect in this technologically advanced world we live in. No Wi-Fi but most would not find that customary. However although it is a remote keyless entry I’m spoiled and much prefer the push button start where I can leave the key in my pocket or purse (only when I wear a dress). For the life of me I cannot understand why it has hill start assist when it has an automatic transmission. What am I missing here?

Consumer Recommendation:

This field of competitors are all nice cars. I might suggest you consider seriously the VW Golf TDI for sure in this group and Hyundai is a must to include as well.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 L $24,000, Chevrolet Equinox $24,000, Honda Fit $21,000, Hyundai Elantra $23,000, Hyundai Tucson $26,000, Kia Forte $21,000, Mazda CX-5 $25,000, MINI Paceman $26,000, Nissan cube $18,000, Nissan JUKE $22,000, Nissan Rogue $28,000, Subaru Outback $25,000, Volkswagen Golf $27,000.

Good News:
Well priced, roomy, fast and easy to maneuver.

Bad News:
Transmission is a little jerky and brakes grab until you learn to have a light foot.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 160 horsepower inline 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 4-wheel ABS power assist disc brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitor, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry with a key, cruise control, hill start assist, security alarm, variable intermittent wipers, rear window wiper washer and defroster, front, side and side curtain front airbags with driver knee airbag, LATCH system, 12 volt auxiliary power outlet, Uconnect, Bluetooth, AM/FM/ Sirius XM satellite radio, 6-speakers, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, manual seat adjusters, front seat power lumbar adjusters, tilt and telescoping steering column, electronic information center, 16” aluminum wheels, daytime running lights, fog lights, deep tint sunscreen glass.

Gas Stats:
$3.73 / Gal avg. August 5, 2014

www.fueleconomy.gov
For more information.

24 City and 33 Highway MPG

Pricing:
MSRP $24,395.

2013 Fiat 500 (993)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2013 Fiat 500. I had tested the Abarth model in 2012 and now this 500 model that is less money by about $2,500. As you will notice it is assembled by our neighbors south of the border in Mexico, as are many brands today, including Toyota and other Chrysler company products.

Perhaps the most common concern and question I’m asked is about its safety. It is so small, like the Smart Car they say. Well it is not as small as the Smart with no back seat and a cargo area that is so small it will carry only a few bags of groceries or limited luggage.

The Fiat 500 does have a rear seat, and although it is small little people will be just fine there, or added luggage can be accommodated. But when it comes to concerns about safety you will agree it is a solid and stable ride. I never felt my safety was compromised. And to boot it is fast and fun to drive as well. If you are considering a high mileage commuter that is priced fairly you came to the right place.

General Information: 

Parts from the US / Canada 21%, Germany 49%, Engine USA, Transmission Italy. It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico. Classification is Mini-Compact. Cars from Fiat: 500, Abarth, Gucci, Lounge, Pop, Sport.

Opinion:

Diamond Lane – is it legal to cross over the double lines during “Off Peak” hours?

I have to address this to David M., a regular reader of the Country Journal, who sent me a great explanation on the LAW. Specifically I was referring to the Diamond lane used on CA 14 between Palmdale and Lancaster and Interstate 5 freeway leading north to Sacramento and South to Los Angeles.

David shared many Vehicle Code sections to explain the LAW. He noted there was no reference to my specific question about off peak hours usage. He, as a man who says he carries a badge, said he had spoken to law enforcement in the area regarding my question and it sounded like a toss-up. Some would cite those who crossed over the painted barriers during off peak traffic hours and others would not.

Signs are posted that infer the Diamond Lane is no longer a diamond lane during off peak traffic hours. But at the end of the day, right or wrong, his recommendation is not to cross over the double double or double lines.

As for me, I’d rather the matter was clarified than risk fines that are imposed arbitrarily. By the way these citations for offending our proud men in blue or brown or whatever carry monetary fines that are excessive by any standard when you consider you may have to pay a minimum of $481. . .

… And injustice for all.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent and fast and fun to drive.

Styling:

Classic Fiat. “I love the look, it’s so cute and sporty”. “the chicks love it”. But I say if the guys drive it they will get a ‘macho’ high since it is so fast and agile.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Well cost is a matter of opinion and perception. If you consider the price per pound it may be expensive. If you consider the money you will save on gas it will be a bargain.

Conveniences and comfort:

This Fiat 500 is comfortable and is well equipped for its size and pricing. Small back seat is marginal at best but does fold down flat if you need more cargo area.

Consumer Recommendation:

When I was in Poland some years ago Fiat cars were everywhere you looked because they were affordable relative to other cars on the market. Gas prices today, in Poland and most of Europe are about $8 per US Gallon.

1 liter equals .264 US gallons and I have seen prices as high as $2.50 a liter. In the Netherlands, most expensive in Europe, gas cost is over $9.00 per gallon.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 $20,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12,000, Chevrolet Spark $12,000, Ford Fiesta $14,000, Honda Fit $20,000, Hyundai Accent $15,000, Kia Rio $17,000, Mazda 2 $15,000, MINI Roadster $27,000, Nissan Versa $15,000, Scion iQ $15,000, Smart fortwo $15,000, Toyota Yaris $14,000, Volkswagen Beetle $28,000.

Good News:

Turbo power, small commuter with good fuel economy easier to find a place to park and good leg room and head room.

Bad News:

Rear seat folds down but is not totally Flat, visors don’t cover side window glare because they don’t extend.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder 135 horsepower engine, dual intercoolers, 5-speed Manual transmission, electronic stability control, front side and side curtain front and rear airbags, driver knee airbag, LATCH system, 4-wheel ABS performance disc brakes, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitor, engine immobilizer, rear window washer wiper, 12 volt power outlets, air conditioning, Blue&Me hands free, Audio with CD/MP3, aux audio input jack, six speakers, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, tilt steering column, rear 50/50 fold down seat, 16” aluminum wheels, fog lights rear spoiler, tinted glass.

Gas Stats:

$3.79/ Gal avg. August 22, 2013

www.fueleconomy.gov

For more information.

28 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $19,500.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2013 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Fiat 500 Merkel

Overview:

This week we’re visiting with car aficionado Merkel Weiss and his observations of the New 2011 Fiat 500 and a sprinkling of inside information you only hear from auto industry insiders. Frequent readers of this column will recall Professor Weiss taught several of the best auto designers while at Art Center College of Design over the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

You may know that Fiat is huge in the rest of the world. I bought a shiny new 124 Spider back in 1969 and we loved it. Fiat has always provided efficient transportation across all of Europe. Under Communism and beyond into Capitalism in Poland after 1992 Fiat seemed to me to be over 50% of every car I saw on the roads from north in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea to Krakow and Bytom in the South of the country. Why, because even back then 50 mpg was common and that little car seated 4 adults. Today Poland is a thriving democracy and I suspect they are driving larger cars as well. Herewith some of the New information and expectations for Fiats re-entrance into the US market from Merkel Weiss.

Opinion:

THE FIAT 500 ENTERS THE WORLD STAGE

I attended the Fiat Gala held at a Chrysler dealership on S. Figueroa near the Los Angeles Convention Center. It was packed with the typical Los Angeles socialite crowd that usually makes me want to run away and hide. But this time was different. I visited with a few in the know friends surrounded by new, Mexican built, pre-production Fiat 500s everywhere. There were people there that actually knew about the car.

Friend Rex was able to speak with factory reps who said that, contrary to what we had
been led to understand in the automotive press, there were a few things done to the
European car to “Americanize” it, but the US version is fundamentally unchanged. We got some
new cupholders along with reinforced bumpers that add a little more to the overall length. But the good news is that although it may well sit on softer springs, this car is still very much the car we were all hoping it would be. It’s lovely.

The Fiat 500 is a completely modern little car that is about as charming and Italian as anyone could have hoped for. It was designed by Frank Stephanson (stef-an-sun), the very same guy who designed the Mini Cooper when he was at BMW. He also did some good work at Ferrari as well.

The new Fiat 500 is a nicely constructed car. The paint and panel gaps are all very
respectable and the interior is charming. Seating is good in front but rear seating is another story. Short rides would be ok back there but forget long trips. Rear head room is severely compromised.

There is no word yet on the US introduction of the diesel engine. The turbocharged engine will allegedly make its appearance in the Abarth model. There will also be a roll back roof convertible, and a 4-door wagon type, reminiscent of the old 500 Giardinera.

As I was leaving the event I ran into the head of Fiat, Sergio Marchionne. He was speaking softly to a small crowd of journalists who were taking notes on small tablets. I walked up and stood there silently when someone said: “Mr. Marchionne, what do you think of the new GM IPO?” Everyone looked confused for a second and I instinctively blurted out the price was initially $24 but is now pushing well over $30. Marchionne turned to me and I instinctively reached over to shake his hand and introduced myself. I spent a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation with this very savvy guy.

Marchionne is frank and open with his observations and has been quoted in the Italian press that he says Italian factories are underperforming, especially the Sicilian one, producing only a small fraction of the efficient production of their Polish facility. He said the Italian auto workers union needs to make some serious adjustments to their contract. He has further stated that Fiat would do way better financially without Italian plants. I’m confident he was using the Italian plant closure threat as ammunition to get his stalled labor agenda moving again. Italian politicians, clearly labor supporters, jumped down his throat claiming that he spoke as a Canadian (which he is) as opposed to an Italian.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, Volkswagen led by Engr. Dr. Ferdinand Piech, grandson of the great Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, indicated VW would like to purchase Alfa Romeo, and he would be patient in that quest. Marchionne, however, announced recently that Alfa is not for sale and in fact they will produce a whole new line of Alfas to be sold as Chryslers and some Chryslers will be sold in Europe as Lancias.

Piech’s exploits are nothing short of amazing and his conquest of Porsche was simply epic. They already own Bugatti, Lamborghini, and others, totaling some 13 companies in all. He also said he will pass Toyota in sales and be the #1 car company in the world. And VW has begun to do exactly that.

In further developments, Ferrari will offer an IPO of its own shortly. One can only imagine the feeding frenzy on that one. I don’t want to say, so much for Alfa Romeo not going to Volkswagen, because Ferdinand Piech is about as clever as clever gets. In the past, whatever he has wanted, he has eventually gotten, from small companies like Skoda to large ones like Porsche.

So there we are. Given a background of the free world economy just hanging on
with no real recovery in sight, and the Italian labor situation on the edge of major disaster, up walks a quiet Canadian Marchionne with the Fiat 500 that is met with great reviews and promise of moving Fiat into even more profitable years ahead.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 16v 94 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 6 speed manual transmission, 15” steel wheels, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, air conditioning, power windows & locks with keyless entry, audio with CD/MP3, front and side and side curtain airbags, traction control & stability control, 50/50 split folding rear seat, tilt steering column, two 12 v dc power outlets, rear window washer wiper / defroster, cruise control & power heated mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$3.17/ Gal avg. Dec 14, 2010
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

35 City and 45 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $15,500.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth (939)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth which is the racing version of the 500.

The first competitor that came to mind is the MINI Cooper that is however a more expensive option. Of course the Abarth is more comparable to similar “Small”, “Inexpensive” Smart fortwo and the Scion iQ. These are super practical cars that are super popular in much of the world where gas prices are much higher than in the US.

Many cars these days blend in with the crowd but Fiat has always stood out and this Abarth will turn heads, whether they think it is great, a shocking looker or just because it is the new kid in town.

General Information:

Parts from the US / Canada 11%, Germany 59%. It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico. Classification is Mini-Compact. Cars from Fiat: 500, Abarth, Gucci, Lounge, Pop, Sport.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent. Fun fast and furious.

Styling:

Not the prettiest but unique and the Abarth model stands out. Abarth is like what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz – a tweaked version of the 500 in this case.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Competitive across the spectrum of prices and is a good value relative to the entire field and overall in the top contenders.

Conveniences and comfort:

It is comfortable and is well equipped for the money, size and pricing. But this class is small, and the small back seat is marginal or folded down you have a reasonable cargo area. But you can’t really have both 4 seats and cargo area.

Consumer Recommendation:

As you may know, Fiat owns Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, Zastava and Iveco car companies. And in addition, it owns over 50% of Chrysler. It is not the largest car company outside of Italy, but substantial and Fiat cars, in particular are exceptional leaders in the world when it comes to being recognizable as affordable, and economical to operate.

Of all the suggested competition here, all of which I have driven with the exception of the Scion iQ, this Fiat 500 Abarth has been a real performer and a ball to drive. And if you are not into performance cars you may be happier with one of the others that offers a larger rear seat, or better fuel economy. However, Fiat is very competitive with even the more expensive MINI and Beetle. It fits between those and the smaller most economical options.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback $22,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12,000, Chevrolet Spark $12,000, Ford Fiesta $14,000, Honda Fit $20,000, Hyundai Accent $15,000, Kia Rio $17,000, Mazda 2 $15,000, MINI Roadster $27,000, Nissan Versa $15,000, Scion iQ $15,000, Smart fortwo $15,000, Toyota Yaris $14,000, Volkswagen Beetle $28,000.

Good News:

Fast turbo power that adds 60 hp to the standard 500 engine, great commuter with good fuel economy, unless you push the performance side

Bad News:

Almost useless visors for the side since they don’t extend. If you opt for the Nav system, it is a TomTom that is removable from the mounting on the dash. I noticed it did not make continuous connection and it needs some attention by Fiat.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder 160 horsepower engine, 5-speed Manual transmission, performance leather high back bucket seats, electronic stability control, front, side and side curtain front and rear airbags, driver knee airbag, LATCH system, 4-wheel ABS performance disc brakes, hill start assist, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power windows and locks, engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitor, rear window defroster, variable intermittent wipers, turbo boost gauge, performance tuned suspension, dual Intercoolers, air conditioning, driver memory seat, rear 50/50 split fold down seat, Bose premium Audio with CD/MP3, Bluetooth with USB port, aux audio input jack, steering wheel mounted audio controls etc., tilt steering column, Abarth Performance leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, information center, 16” aluminum wheels, spoiler, fog lights.

Gas Stats:

$4.03/ Gal avg. Sept. 7, 2012

www.fueleconomy.gov

For more information.

28 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,000.

 

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2012 – An Automotive Love Affair 

2012 Fiat 500 Sport Hatchback (873)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Fiat 500 Sport Hatchback. The first things that come to mind are the VW Bug that I owned in college. They were not pretty but they did the job and did it efficiently. Second was my owning a Fiat 124 Spider that was great fun and finally my experience with the older Fiats in Eastern Europe, in particular in Poland. Only 5 years out of Communism at that time, gas prices in Poland, and as was the case in most of Europe, right at $8.00 a gallon. The experiences gave me a healthy respect for Fiat cars.

Some will say I have joked about the acronym F-I-A-T that stands for fix it again Tony, but that is just poking fun. But in my automotive repair facility Fiat repairs would never have sustained us. For 12 years, we at G&I Automotive (for German & Italian), learned the real money to be made was from repairs of BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Ferrari.

Friend Merkel owns several Fiats as a collector and is an automotive engineer as you may recall from his guest columns here. He loves Fiat for a lot of reasons including the engineering. He is more than happy to share his views with anyone who will listen. He’s the most knowledgeable person I know in the world about anything automotive and I’m always happy when he agrees to write a guest column for me.

A couple of cars that are not on the competition list for this 500 include the Smart from Mercedes and the MINI from BMW came to mind as well.

General Info:

11% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 59% come from Mexico; The Engine and Transmission come from Italy. It is assembled in Toluca, Mexico. Class is Sub Compact. Cars from Fiat – Freemont, New Doblo, Qubo, Bravo, Linea, New Croma, 500C, Idea, Sedici, Palio, 500, Multipla, Palio Weekend, Doblo, Panda, Punto, Albea, 600, Siena, Stilo, Ulysse, .

Opinion:

Look for more on the Governments retort to my charge that it is Government who is addicted to OIL.

Handling & Performance:

Nimble and faster than I would have thought. This puppy can take care of itself on the highway even though it is nothing like another product from Fiat, Ferrari. Yes, Fiat owns Ferrari which is the spoiled brat of the family, but anything that beautiful generally gets all the attention.

Fiat 500 is powered by a 101-horsepower 1.4-liter engine with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 500 Sport adds sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, the 6-speed automatic and chrome accents.

Styling:

I know many will take issue with the outward appearance but consider the Nazi product the world embraced and especially in the US – it was Hitler’s pride and joy the Volkswagen.

Fiat didn’t pick up any of the Ferrari genes, but take a look at Scion – only a mother could love that child.

Fiat is offered in Pop, Sport and Lounge trim levels. Standard equipment on the 500 includes seven airbags, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, power windows & door locks, power heated mirrors and an ElectronicVehicleInformationCenter. The 500 Sport adds distinctive fascias, larger honeycomb grilles and aerodynamic updates.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent in class.

Cost:

More pricey than I thought at $17,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

Another thing you’ll notice with this Fiat 500 is how well appointed it is and features you’d expect of larger more expensive cars. Take a look at the very impressive listing of standard features.

Consumer Recommendation:

I believe Fiat 500 will be a real winner in a world of rising fuel prices. It is a welcomed addition to the US auto scene. For the rest of the world you already know the legend of Fiat in the Automotive world. Write me and I’ll give you Merkel’s Cell phone to learn more than you wanted to know about Fiat.

Recognized Competition:

Fiat 500 $17,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12,000, Ford Fiesta $13,000, Honda Fit $15,000, Hyundai Accent $12,000, Kia Rio $16,000, Mazda 2 $14,000, Nissan Versa $14,000, Toyota Yaris $13,000.

Good News:

Efficient, great fuel numbers, roomy small car.

Bad News:

A bit more pricey than competition named here.

Standard Equipment:

1.4 liter 101 hp 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, electronic stability control, cruise control, hill start assist, sport suspension, front, side and side curtain front & rear airbags and knee air bags, power windows & locks, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitor, sentry key immobilizer, rear window washer/wiper and defogger, air conditioning, driver seat memory, BOSE premium audio with CD / MP3 players, Blue&Me hands free and USB port, leather wrapped wheel with audio controls, tilt steering column, vehicle information, 50/50 split fold down rear seat, LATCH system, 16” aluminum wheels, Halogen lights and fog lights.

Gas Stats:

$3.85/ Gal avg. June 25, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

30 City and 38 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $17,500.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair