“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

“Those in the market that are looking for a small crossover that has style and swagger now have the 2016 FIAT 500X to look at.”

Beverly Hills, California.

Winding down an exceptionally sinuous road near Malibu in Southern California, I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow, FIAT was pretty brazen in putting their new, small crossover on such technical roads.”

Switchback after switchback, the turns just keep coming at me. The road was narrow; barely accommodating another motorist, who decided to ascend such a route, so you need to be at the top of your game. So does the vehicle.

But as I weave the all-new 500X through these bends and twists that move faster than a slithering snake ready to pounce on its prey, I also think this vehicle is doing really well.

Steering is weighted to give the driver good feedback. There’s also a Sport mode that can be accessed through the Dynamic Selector system (depending on the trim opted for), to give you a little more oomph in those kinds of conditions. For situations where you want more traction, there’s a Traction + mode, too.

Talking of trim selection, there are five to choose from. The entry-level Pop has an MSRP of $21,495. Then there’s the Sport, which jumps to $25,995, the Trekking at $26,995, the Lounge for $29,990 and the Trekking Plus for $30,490.

Then you can choose between two engines. The first is a 1.4L, turbocharged, MultiAir that has 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The optional of the two engines is the 2.4L, Tigershark (love that name) MultiAir with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.

The 6-speed manual transmission only comes with the 1.4L engine and the front-wheel drive configuration. Meaning, if you opt for the bigger 2.4L, than you’re going to get a 9-speed automatic. However, you can get the 2.4L engine either with front or all-wheel drive. Another set of choices for you.

Fun fact, it’s the first FIAT to be designed globally and the first FIAT to have AWD.

Here are even more numbers for you!

There are eight wheel choices, 12 exterior hues, and five interior colours.

I had the opportunity to try both engines in the 500X. The 2.4L definitely feels better suited to the size of vehicle.

The X accommodates up to five passengers and offers 524L of cargo room behind the second row seats. Legroom in the back is decent, especially for its small crossover designation.

The 1.4L with the manual isn’t bad, but you can feel the engine working overtime to get up steeper inclines. Though I still love it because it’s a manual!

The drawback, some might encounter, with the 9-speed auto is that there are many gears it has to choose from, so it likes to shift. To placate that characteristic, simply put it in Sport mode. It makes a big difference.

The exterior styling – whether you’re a fan or not – gives this vehicle character. Its interior is also another strong point.

Furthermore, you have the ability to hook the X up with the brand’s Uconnect system and a 165mm (6.5-inch) screen.

A pet peeve of mine on previous FIAT’s was the volume button. A knob has now replaced that. Thank goodness! It wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me, but more of a nuisance.

The ride remained comfortable throughout the various environments we drove through, whether on the twisty roads or cruising along at highway speeds.

Additionally, the cabin remains quiet from outside noises, so carrying on a conversation even while accelerating up a hill wasn’t bothersome.

Those in the market that are looking for a small crossover that has style and swagger now have the 2016 FIAT 500X to look at.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

“There are imperfections that drive me crazy but I can’t seem to dislike it…”

The top is down. The sun is shining. It’s not a bad day to be stuck in downtown traffic.

John Legend’s “All of Me” comes on the radio while behind the wheel of the 2014 Fiat 500C. As I wait in the Georgia Street parking lot, I listen intently to the song. Some lyrics of the song are: “Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.”

As I contemplate this, it applies directly to the pint-sized Fiat I’m captaining.

In fact, there are imperfections about this four-seater that drive me crazy but I can’t seem to dislike it.

One example is the sound that greets you as you enter its cabin. There is nothing melodic about it. No mellifluous ding-dong ding-done; just a harsh monotone noise that seems to stay longer than an uninvited party guest. Even passengers commented on how annoying it is.

The volume buttons on the dash really should be knobs. You should be able to crank up The awesome Beats premium audio system in a hurry, not push by push. (It’s worth the additional $495 price tag.)

Visibility is mediocre at best, especially with the top up. The canvas roof doesn’t allow for great visibility when backing up – top up or down – but thankfully there are backup sensors that help guide you into the spot you want to be in.

The trunk only hosts 269 L. Unless you’re packing light, or just ditching the bags and merely bringing a debit card with you on a road trip, fitting four people inside and their luggage will be a challenge. On the plus side, the drop top doesn’t take away any precious space when open.

Then there’s the optional TomTom navigation that sits atop the dash and cuts into one’s forward visibility. An awkward spot for GPS system. Pairing a Bluetooth device isn’t that straightforward either.

Not to mention, the 500C, with its 1.4L engine and humble 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque isn’t a stable stallion. Despite its lack of power, pressing the Sport button helps it feel a little peppier. The 5-speed manual transmission is hardly a chore, even when I’m just inching along at a snail’s pace.

While its imperfections should cause me to think about ever wanting to drive or own one, I still can’t seem to stop loving this little car. I like its quirkiness and the fact that it’s not perfect.

I love the exterior colour: Espresso. It sparkles in the sun and has a warm richness to it.

When matched with the two-toned leather-trimmed bucket seats, it looks stylish and chic.

Bringing the outside in, the espresso paint also colours to life the dash. Combined with ivory touches, it has an upscale ambiance.

The tester, being the Lounge trim of 500C, it has an MSRP of $23,995.

That comes with keyless entry, a chrome shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel (and the aforementioned leather seating surfaces with heated front seats), 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, hill start assist and more.

When not stuck in traffic, the 500C actually remains quiet on the open road, with the top up, of course. It certainly doesn’t handle like its race-primed sibling, the Abarth, but still manages to turn on a dime when required.

It’s also a lovely road companion because imperfections on the road aren’t felt with abrasion or discomfort.

Furthermore, if you want to shed some light on the cabin, there are three settings you can use at the push of a button. One is a sunroof-like option, the next goes about 2/3 of the way down, and the last is all the way down. Either way, you have options on how much Vitamin D you’d like to consume.

I feel like I’m back in grade school, sitting on the grass field at lunch, plucking the petals of a dandelion, one by one, saying, “I love it, I don’t love it, I love it, I don’t love… I LOVE IT!”

Visit www.fiatcanada.com for more information.


Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Perhaps what really stands about this compact car is just how much people room there is inside…

The Fiat 500 Lounge (L)
The Fiat 500 Lounge (L)
The Fiat 500 Lounge (L)
The Fiat 500 Lounge (L)
The Fiat 500 Lounge (L)

The Fiat 500 is cute but might not be the most practical choice as a family vehicle.

Sure, it has room for four, a peppy personality (even with its base 101 horsepower engine,) but accessing the rear seats isn’t the easiest and the cargo room is minimal.

Enter the all-new-for-2014 Fiat 500L: The “L” stands for “large” so those interior volume deficiencies listed with its pint-sized sibling are no more.

Dimensionally, the L is 27 inches longer, 6 inches taller in height and in width and there’s an extra 42 percent when it comes to inside space.

But wait, there’s more. Literally.

The L comes with two additional doors to allow for easy access to the rear seats. And room for five passengers.

It loses a little bit of its pinch-the-cheeks cuteness but its practicality makes up for it.

In the driver’s seat, you have an almost unadulterated outward visibility. The 500L features a segment-exclusive glass from the A- to D-pillars that provide nearly 360-degree panoramic views.

Parking is easy because you can pretty much see out of all four corners. And the 500L – even with its “large” designation – still fits comfortably into urban settings.

Driving the 500L, I noticed it doesn’t have quite the same amount of panache as the 500 Turbo. Granted, it’s a heavier vehicle.

But to still keep some of the driving fun behind the wheel, Fiat has outfitted it with a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine that provides 160 horsepower, 184 lb-ft. of torque.

It’s also is available with two transmission options. Firstly, there’s a 6-speed manual. Then there’s an available 6−Speed Euro Twin Clutch “automatic.” The latter of the two costs an additional $1,450 and came equipped on my 500L Lounge trim.

To be honest, this dual clutch transmission was my least favourite part of the vehicle. It felt as though the gearing was off or it had some sort of gremlin inside causing a raucous to disturb the smooth functionality of what I would have expected.

On the flip side, there’s nothing that I felt was fundamentally wrong with it. The transmission changed gears, got the car moving and did exactly what it was supposed to do. It also just felt weird/awkward to me and unlike any other dual clutch transmission, I’ve operated. Perhaps it is one of those features I would just need to get used to over time but our time together wasn’t long enough for me to embrace its quirks!

There were, however, other highlights of the 500L.

The Lounge trim comes standard with leather trimmed bucket seats and front heated seats, perfect for those chilly mornings.

An upgraded item that was optioned on the L was the Uconnect system with a 6.5-inch screen (the standard is a 5-inch screen) complete with Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio and a Beats Premium Audio System ($500.) If you’re a music lover, this is a great to add to a Fiat.

Besides, I find that the Uconnect media interface is one of the most intuitive infotainment systems to work with in the industry.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) 
Hill Start Assist and 4−Wheel ABS brakes are part of its DNA along with a ParkView rear back−up camera, dual zone climate controls and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

When cruising along at highway speeds, road noise is kept to a minimum, which allowed me to enjoy the music via the Beats stereo system a little more.

In corners, the 500L doesn’t have as tight of a setup as the 500, so don’t push it too hard since body roll is more evident.

Perhaps what really stands about this compact car is just how much people room there is inside. I never felt cramped nor did my passengers. Not to mention the 633L (22.4 cubic feet) of storage behind the second row seats.

The MSRP of the 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge is $25,995. With the options and destination, the price as tested comes to $30,850.

Visit www.fiatcanada.com for more information

Contact: Alexandra [dot] Straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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