“Despite having a mini-compact designation, you can spot these adorable Italian creations from miles away…”

When was the last time another motorist waved at you because you were driving a similar make and model as theirs?

A couple of weeks ago? Months? Never?

Most wouldn’t even consider acknowledging the presence of other cars in the same category with a friendly hand gesture.

I mean, if you drive a Toyota Corolla, your hands would rarely be on the steering wheel!

Then again, there are few breeds of cars that foster such responses.

One is the Fiat 500.

Not once, not twice, but thrice did I have random 500 owners wave at me in commuting situations. At first I was confused, and awkwardly waved back. Then it became commonplace so I just rode the wave, so to speak.

Despite having a mini-compact designation, you can spot these adorable Italian creations from miles away. It did help that the 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo I was captaining came clad in a very nationalistic robe. Red, white and green racing stripes adorned the hood, roof and rear of the hatchback.

Normally, I’d consider this overkill and highly unnecessary. But it somehow worked really well with this model.

It’s not for everyone but that’s the beauty of the Fiats. There are so many ways in which you can personalize them (there are 15 exterior colours to choose from, not to mention countless ways in which you can dress them up), and unless you’re getting a black-on-black vehicle, chances are, you might not see another like it in your area.

Another beauty of this vehicle is its versatility. Sure, it’s small but it actually can do a lot with what it has been given. For example, there’s room for four inside, as well as 269 litres of trunk space.

Kick out your rear passengers, fold down the seats, and you have even more space with which to work. So much so that I was able to fit my road bicycle inside. Okay, I had to take off the front wheel, but I have been in coupes much bigger than the 500 and didn’t have the same luxury.

Then there’s the engine. Its humble 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque being produced from its 1.4L, MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder might look mediocre on paper, but it brings this car to life.

And of the three available engines offered, the base, naturally aspirated 1.4L MultiAir, the Turbo, or the Turbo from the Abarth version (160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque), the 500 Turbo (middle child of engines) is my top pick.

It is spirited, peppy and makes driving fun. It’s enough horsepower to play with, but not enough to get into too much trouble.

Adding to the fun factor is the introduction of an all-new Aisin heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission. A manual lover to the core, I quite liked the new addition to the fold. It also took the edge off in urban commuting.

And for the times when you want a little more gusto, there’s a “Sport” mode. You’ll find this magical button on the instrument panel. What it does is change the throttle mapping for improved engine responsiveness.

While I love the car as a whole, I still have a couple of quibbles with it. The instrument panel (with the push buttons and all) looks archaic and is a headache to work with.

Furthermore, the optional navigation also sits atop the dash, which eats up prime real estate with it comes to forward visibility. And it looks misplaced.

But for the reasons I wrestle with the Fiat 500 Turbo, there are plenty more favourable features that put me at ease. The optional Beats stereo system sounds great in the cabin, the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob feel nice between my fingers and the optional red leather seats make the interior pop.

Then there’s the drivability. I love its competency in corners. It handles much like a decked out go-kart but doesn’t give you same kinds of aches and pains.

I guess it’s no surprise why fellow Fiat 500 drivers wave at others. They’re excited about their car and want to share the love.

The Fiat 500 Turbo Hatchback has a starting MSRP of $21,395. But with all the options, the price as tested comes out to $30,370.

Visit www.fiatcanada.com for more information.


 

Contact the writer at alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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