By on July 17, 2012

Sometime toward the end of my high school years, “fast fashion” shops like Zara and H&M set up shop in at the local malls, and became the place to shop. The clothing there wasn’t any better than the Gap or the Ralph Lauren remainders at Marshall’s, but if you paid for your own clothes, you would have been silly to shop anywhere else.

Shopping at those stores went beyond mere fashion considerations. If you spilled beer all over your shirt at a party, it wasn’t even worth sending it to the dry cleaners. Just throw it in the washing machine and hope it comes out. If that fails, pay $9.99 for another one. Eventually, people got wise to the fact that after three washes, the clothes tended to fall apart, but we willingly ignored the cheapness because we could look cool on a tight budget. Which is exactly why the Fiat 500 exists.

Just as H&M and Zara exploded in popularity in Canada, so has Fiat. American sales for the little Mexitalian minicar have been slow to ramp up in the United States. Not so here. In May of this year, Fiat outsold Buick, Volvo, Infiniti, Mini, Cadillac, Lincoln, Suzuki and Scion, and Canada is already confirmed for a third model line – likely the widely acclaimed Panda. And yet, up until now, I hadn’t driven one. All I had to go by were mixed reviews. One Mini-owning friend disparaged it as “a Neon in a cool wrapper”, while TTAC’s own Andrew Bell felt that there was a quality gap between our North American-spec model, and the examples he saw during his multi-year stint in Denmark.

The first thing I noticed upon climbing inside is that you sit really high up, or at least have the illusion of doing so. Imagine getting into a life-sized Kinder Surprise egg, and then plopping your rear down on a bar stool, and you have a good approximation of the Fiat’s driving position. The interior is dominated by a big panel of body-colored plastic, while the window switches and stereo knobs are all easy to reach for and can be operated without taking your eyes off the road. The steering wheel has controls for the Bluetooth system, but strangely no audio controls are visible – until you discover that they’re situated on the back of the wheel, like paddle-shifters for your music – well-intentioned, if not cleverly executed idea.

In the same way that the “top-stitching” on my Roberto Cavalli for H&M suit coat betrays a fused canvas, a closer look at the details shows that the 500 was built to a price, down to the last penny. For an outside opinion, I called in TTAC’s interior materials specialist, Berthold Schmaus, who is able to get down into the nooks and crannies that us humans can’t quite see.

Herr Schmaus’ first observation was that the headliner wasn’t just “mouse fur”, but it was his own fur. No, really. It may be difficult to see it in the photos, but Fiat and Herr Schamus must have some kind of common ancestor that supplies them both with their downy coverings. Herr Schmaus was also unimpressed with the naked metal seat rails, not so much for their utilitarian nature, but on account of the sharp metal edges that left him unable to scamper underneath to confirm reports of exposed electrical connectors and tasty wiring (yum!).

The 1.4L Multiair engine is, to put it mildly, gutless. Going up moderate grades in third gear necessitated a downshift to second. The “Sport Mode” is required for anyone who gives a whit about driving. The rumored 500T cannot come soon enough. On the plus side, the chassis isn’t bad, nor is the gearchange feel, and the diminutive footprint is perfect for bobbing and weaving in and out of Toronto’s traffic jams, which are longer than the lines on Yonge St for a Justin Beiber autograph session. You could almost lane-split in this car. Almost.

If you look around, it’s possible to get a base model Pop for $199 a month lease deal around these parts, or $13,999 in cash. A well-equipped Lounge, like my tester, is going for $18,600 at dealers – though every community newspaper in town is being supported by Toronto area Fiat dealers advertising steep discounts on their copious Fiat inventories. For the price, the 500 isn’t a terrible proposition. While a cheap shirt can be worn out and thrown away after a few months, a cheap car can be worn out, but leave you stuck with a note for 5 or more years.

If I were to go for a “fast fashion” car (i.e. something with less functionality but more cred than say, a perfectly good Kia Rio), I’d step up to the “Zara” level of quality and get a Mini Cooper. There weren’t any pressers available for me to drive, but my Zipcar membership gives me access to a fleet of some of the hardest-worn Mini Coopers in town.

 

 

Herr Schmauss and I went over the Mini quite carefully, and came away impressed. The interior is busier than the Fiat, to the point of being incoherent, but the quality of the materials is a noticeable cut above. Rather than being deathtrap-slow, the Cooper is Miata-slow; pokey, but enjoyable. It’s still small enough to be city-friendly, but not enough to be lost in the blind spots of SUVs. The driving experience is a whole other order of fun, with weighty, direct steering, a communicative chassis and the feeling that you’re driving a real car and not an espresso cup with a motor. Of course, Mini’s reliability record ranges from “not great” to “abysmal”, depending on who you ask ($8000 CVT replacements, anyone?)

Thousands of Canadians are seemingly happy with their Fiats, and for good reason; it does exactly what they want it to do; look chic and stylish, not sip too much gas and fit into small parking spaces. Long-term reliability and the driving experience don’t factor in too highly for them, even if those factors give me pause when it comes to recommending either of them outright.

Personally, I’ve had a change in perception, and have begun shopping with classic looks and quality in mind. Sometimes, it means going to a second-hand store for gently used but well made clothing. The good news is that it’s easy to find, the *ahem* designer labels that are really cool…

 

 

 

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55 Comments on “Generation Why: Fast Fashion Comes To The Car World...”


  • avatar

    Hi Derek,

    Thanks for your review! Herr Schmaus gave a unique perspective.

    As to exposed seat rails, well welcome to my world. All cars are like this here (and pretty much all over the developing world). It can be a bitch to clean. Exposed connectors? To a degree yes, but not as much as other cars. Put the car up on a lift and you’ll see the underbody is clever and all essential parts are well-protected. This is Fiat ya know. The mechanicals are well-thought out and placed, but they pinch a pretty penny when they think they can get away with it.

    As to engine, maybe you’re not used to small ones? Yeah, it can take a while to get up to speed but you learn to work with it. It’ll cruise all day at high speeds and (do your maintenance!) will last a long time. My impression was not as bad as yours.

    Comparing to Mini. Yeah the interior in the Mini is a step above, but it’s so ugly (inside)! Can’t stand the pizza platter thing. And, like you mentioned, the maintenance is no laughing matter.

    That’s the 500. It has (many) weak points. But it gives you more than you expect. It’s beautiful and modern. Built to a price. But capable of giving many years of reliable service. When you buy it, you not only buy fashion, but a piece of automotive history. A piece of la bella Italia if you will. It makes me want this car. Few modern cars make me want them. This one would be the one for me.

    • 0 avatar

      Senhor de V, I am indeed spoilt with regards to engines. I drove a N.A. spec Focus immediately after and it felt like a GTI compared to the Fiat. I have to give Fiat/Chrysler credit for introducing it. It means the needs of plenty of my countrymen well. Not for me. Can’t wait for the Abarth though.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Thing is, Marcelo’s and your point of view of performance may be very different.

        My V6 car has heaps of torque compared with the 4 cyl cars I had before. I can chirp the tyres if I step on it… mildly, and would be hopeless with wet tram tracks if it didn’t have TC. And even so, I’ve driven a car with 400+HP and almost cried… my car is slow, SLOW.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t get your hopes up too much. From what I’ve read the Abarth is ore powerful, but not by much. Write your impression when you get a chance. I for one would love a regular one. This car is not for high speed racing or stoplight racing for that matter. It’s a car for comfy city driving and small incursions out into charming places in the country.

      • 0 avatar

        Hahaha Athos! I know what you’re talking about. I still remember that Omega from back in the 90s…But high power perfromance cars seem like such a one trick pony in today’s world. For me, and I stress, for me, a car has to be well adjusted to the conditions of the world. And from my little part of the world, a powerful car is just too much sacrifice. I prefer to spend that money on other things. It’s not just gas, but the insurance, the increased visibility and thus lack of safety. My vision is warped but I have to make do with my reality. In my reality a 500 would be a bit flamboyant, but not by much. And it would serve well in just about every department.

        But I understand totally what you say. If I lived in Oz or America, maybe my view would be different.

      • 0 avatar
        kuman

        which is worse, fiat’s reliability or mini’s im not convinced on both, i would take a manual yaris or jazz over these cars.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    There’s one thing that will keep me out of a Mini: the center-mounted speedometer. It was a not-so-great eccentricity at first, but now it’s like a Saturday Night Live skit – they never know when to stop doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The center mount speedo, from what I’ve heard, will be history soon. You must be one of many for the maker to change it.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Am I the only one that doesn’t-mind the center speedo?

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “Am I the only one that doesn’t-mind the center speedo?”

        I’m a fan as well. I have cars with instruments directly in front and cars with center mount. I’m starting to prefer center because no matter what position the tilt wheel is in, nothing is blocked by the wheel rim. Having both, the conventional layout will start to piss you off pretty quick if you like to change driving and wheel positions and you get used to the unblocked view of the center mount.

        BTW, I believe since at least 2003 you’ve been able to display the speed in digital form on the MINIs tach. The option for a center speedo has been always available as a dealer added option.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        I thought everyone knew about the speedo display on the column-mounted gauge (First gen ‘New’ Mini this was it’s own gauge, current gen it’s a digital readout on the tach.) I just assumed people complained about the center speedo because they thought it was ugly.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Berthold Schmaus –> EPIC!!!! Stealing the furry friend from your girlfriend was FTW!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The Fiat dealer in Kearney Mesa has a cream colored one with giant $5990 red numerals down the side. I’m curious what the gotcha is, but I was on my way to dinner with a friend when I saw it. A couple stores down was an old-style Kia Rio 4-door with $12,990 down the side in the same script.

    • 0 avatar

      Mybe that’s just the down payment?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I would expect a competitive lease for the Fiat 500 to require no more than $2,000 down at signing. $5,990 is way too much. That’s about what we put down to lease a $58K Audi A6, while the Fiat is priced closer to a bunch of cars that are advertised for $0 down, $200 a month lease deals or $2,000 down, $159 a month. There were Fiesta leases here for $77 a month, but I don’t recall the down payment. Chances are if the Fiat was $6K down, $50 a month then the dealer would have the monthly payment in giant numerals instead of the high down payment.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I don’t really think it is fair to compare the Fiat 500 directly with the MINI, since they sell at significantly different price points. Other small, cheap cars that sell at near the same price also look cheap, and are obviously built to a price. For example, the Honda Fit doesn’t look or feel any better (and maybe worse) than the Fiat. The Honda is more practical, but the Fiat is more stylish. For my money I would rather have a Mexican built Fiat than a Chinese built Honda.

    While long term durability is an open question, according to Michael Karesh initial quality of the Fiat 500 has been excellent – so that is an encouraging sign. Since these seem to be well screwed together at the factory, and basic design has been around for a few years, I suspect they won’t be too bad if you keep up with the maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Are you talking about the Canadian market Honda Fit? In the US they’re still Japanese, and the difference in quality between our Fit and our 500 is about what anyone should expect the difference in quality between a Honda and a Fiat to be. They’re like day and night. If Honda is building cars in China without maintaining their quality standards then that stinks.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I think it is entirely fair, since they’re basically in the same ‘car as fashion-accessory marketed to exploit the cachet of an old and much-beloved model’ niche.

      Of course that being the case why aren’t we comparing it to the Mustang/Camaro/Challenger? ;)

  • avatar
    wmba

    Agreed with you on the Scion FR-S, Derek, but not here. A good pal of mine is the warranty parts specialist for our biggest Chrysler dealer here in Halifax, NS.

    He’s always bitching about Chrysler parts quality, but not about this little beast. He got one for his daughter, and bought a Sonata for himself from another dealer in the group. So, I think your analogy about buying a cheap shirt (Fiat) and throwing it away after three washes is just plain wrong. This little Fiat is screwed together properly, and he can remember all the warranty issues on over 60 cars. There were about four items, the main one being the seat-back release lever. They gave a new rearview mirror cover to a guy who claimed his fell off, even though they didn’t believe him.

    And then to hold up a MINI as a paragon of quality relative to the Fiat? That’s strong espresso they serve up there in Canada’s smog capital!

    Hell, even Karesh says the Fiat’s good over at True Delta, and who believes JD Power IQS surveys anyway? They’re for the people who can’t figure out the controls and don’t realize the car comes with an owner’s manual.

    You want to see a disaster looming? Quality of the new Scion FR-S — the bitching is truly in full flight on the forums.

    • 0 avatar

      I wasn’t trashing the Fiat, but it was a comment on how the long-term reliability is a question mark…and it’s a bit of a moot point, as the car is fashionable NOW, but may not be in the long term, hence the analogy.

      Also, nowhere did I praise the Mini’s reliability, unless “abysmal” is synonymous with “quality”

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t worry Derek, anybody with minimum reading skills got your point. I think your writing was fair and balanced and anybody who’s read your previous work know you’re willing and open to give Fiat a fair shake. BTW, that’s why I liked your review, it pointed out some possible weak points for the car but that’s ok. This is the real world afterall. If the car cost 100 000 dollars there would be no space for weaknesses. That’s not the case of course.

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      Oddly, no one on the FT86 forums seems to have posted on the legendary crankshaft failure.
      But a lot of little issues which shouldn’t appear in a Toyota/Scion – Subarus, on the other hand, don’t appear to be synonymous with fit and finish excellence.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    What are the maintenance costs on a Mini? Their being owned by BMW makes me nervous in that respect. I test drove a 500 and liked it. No money down and 200 bucks a month is really tempting.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The maintenance costs on BMW/Mini cars are very low in cash, since they are included for the first 40K miles or so and you should structure your lease to end after 36K miles. You’ll still be out the time to take the car to the dealer about every three weeks, but my Mini Cooper owning ex-gf really appreciated all the loaner Z4s, convertible M3s, and X5s; even if the 140 mile round trips to the dealership were a PITA from my perspective.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      My maintenance costs over 2 years came to $40, because I like to change my oil after the engine’s done breaking in. Had to make two trips to the dealer for minor issues,no big deal, each took a couple hours.

      As for the $8000 CVT Derek mentioned, Mini stopped using them five years ago. The 6-speed auto that replaced it seems to be pretty solid. Although why anyone would by a Mini sans clutch escapes me.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        I have been looking at the Mini with auto because 1. my wife SUCKS at shifting 2. arthritis in my left leg makes shifting increasingly problematic.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I was speaking with a friend who likes cars but isn’t, let’s say, an avid consumer of automotive information. She commented to me about how nice the 500 looked but that it was just “so expensive.”. She hadn’t actually priced one, was just going on hearsay and an assumption that as an Italian brand it had to be pricey. I explained that the base model with a stick (really, it has everything you really need) is only about $16k before discounts and negotiations. She was a bit shocked.

    In my area, Pop manuals seem to be in low supply and lots are filled with Lounges… Whether this is due to strong sales (my assumption) or poor mix selection by the factory (likely a combo of the two) is beyond me. My point, however, is that you need to drive a base with a manual transmission to understand the price/value on these and the manual makes the most of the small engine to boot. If my assumption about sales mix vs production mix is correct, Fiat fans are making the same calculation. At $16k, the Pop is a fun alternative scooter. At $20k for a Lounge auto, you start to get into a different comparison set. Small and slow usually seems to lose the comparison once one starts shopping at the $20k level.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    We have H&M, Zara, and Forever21 in Edmonton. I’m in the wrong age group to shop there, but the appeal of fast fashion is the hunt. They turn over merchandise so quickly you can miss a find or size if you skip a week. It leads to more foot traffic and less discounting for the store, and it strikes a chord for novelty seeking teenagers and 20 somethings.

    The clothes are mostly low quality, but seeing how I buy classics yet turn over my wardrobe every 5 years, it’s a good strategy for that niche.

    The downside of fast fashion is that you’re always looking for the next fix when you’re bored with the disposable look. The Mini has impressive staying power, but the 500 is just another PT Cruiser, xB, or Fortwo.

  • avatar
    vagvoba

    For a Canadian it might be self evident that everyone in the world knows the Kinder Surprise egg-candy. And in fact it is self evident to all the citizens of Earth, except for the people in a special corner of the planet: the USA. For the Americans, who don’t know about it: Kinder Surprise is a chocolate egg with a small toy inside. It’s been manufactured for countless decades and has a cult following built around it. It is available and loved in virtually all countries of the world except in the US of A. Here it is banned because of some regulation that prevents food makers from putting any non-edible items inside packaged food.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      Looked it up. I don’t think we in the US are missing anything.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Speak for yourself! I grew up in Germany and when somebody goes back, the MUST bring Kindereggs back. Chocolate is better than most candy bars, and some of the prizes inside are quite the engineering marvels.

        As for the 500, it’s a car that just makes me smile. I’m struggling with an infection of really trying hard to find items made in America to buy (long story…but I won’t apologize for trying my darndest these days to support my fellow countrymen), so the 500 is a tough pill to swallow, even though in my mind I’m trying to justify a potential purchase by telling myself that the engine is produced in America and that if Fiat does well, so does Chrysler. I’ve rented two and test-driven the Sport and Abarth. Given my driving needs, a Sport with 5-speed and sunroof would fill the bill for years to come. Is it the most practical? Nope. Fastest? Not even close. But for me, there has to be a connection to the car…something that grabs my attention and makes me want to drive it. And the 500 does that for me like few cars have recently.

        Oh, to be a patriot and a car-nut at heart is a truly difficult thing sometimes…:)

      • 0 avatar

        Threeer, maybe this will help you :).

        -If you do buy, Fiat becomes more and more American.
        -Maybe some of the goodness spills over into Chrysler.
        -The more money Fiat has the more they’ll put into Chrysler.
        -If the 500 succeeds in America, there’s no doubt some of the development (and money) for the next generation will be done in America.

        I can go on, but these are some reasons you can use to convince yourself.

        BTW, I agree with you completely. You don’t have to give excuses to anyone as to why you prefer to spend your mony on local hardware. And the 500 also grabs at me. SOmehow, someday I’ll have to find a way into one. And living in Brazil it’ll cost me quite a bit more (something like 10 000 more USD) to do so. But few modern cars make me want one like this one does.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Speaking of “fast fashion” stores, by older brother was very nearly addicted to “Filene’s Basement” while he was at law school. Personally, I buy all my name-brand apparel at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. It’s all the same stuff for a fraction of the cost.

    This article doesn’t mention the latest entry into the fast fashion segment: the “million color combo” Opel Adam. It’s being unveiled at a bad time for the company, and probably won’t lift it out of its dire financial straits, but at least they fielded a player. Seven years late, but present. I wonder if the quality matches or exceeds the Fiat/Mini/et al.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    So, lets see. For the same 18k, one can buy a Mazda3 with Skyactiv which is much better on the highway due to its shape and just as easy to park in the city.

    Or if one is adventerous, a 2012 Impala Lt (heavily discounted according to Autotrader) with th 300hp.

    The problem with the mini and Fiat is it seems like a lot of money for not a lot of car.

    • 0 avatar

      But we all know the best presents come in the smallest packages, right? :)

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      3 more feet in length may not make any difference in the city where YOU live, but where I live it can mean the difference between finding a convenient parking spot and walking another 5 blocks.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Mandalorian,

      Obviously you don’t understand small cars much, do you? These days, the differences between a larger car and a small one in terms of features is often the size, though hp is usually more in a larger car, unless it’s a turbo, then the power may be more closely matched.

      That said, I agree with Steve65, size does count where you have to fend for yourself in finding parking on the street and you don’t have it marked out so people can leave you with little crumb sized parking spaces to slot your car in and it is then that a car the size of a Smart fourtwo, Scion iQ or the Fiat 500 will easily slip into those spaces very nicely.

      I drove a Fiat and didn’t find it too small for my needs and rather liked it myself.

      So in essence, bigger/faster isn’t always better.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “The problem with the mini and Fiat is it seems like a lot of money for not a lot of car.”

      I have to agree with you, and while small cars such as Miata do have a place, sometimes less isn’t more, its just less car for more money. I think the only reason these things are being sold at all, besides as a fashion accessory, is because they are the flavor du jour in the last few years. Personally I don’t car how many airbags one of these mini-cars (haha a pun!) has, get hit hard enough and you probably won’t walk away, as opposed to a normal sized car in which you might have a sporting chance.

      Everyone’s needs are different but in my view if you’re living somewhere you cannot park something Civic-esque (90s Civic) and public transit is insufficient, consider living elsewhere.

  • avatar
    afuller

    The 1.4l Multiair engine itself it’s horribly slow, however the software for the electronic gas pedal really limits the acceleration.

    There are a few options for a unit that goes between the gas pedal and the wiring harness which reinterpret the signal from the gas pedal and vastly increase the performance of the car.

    I also have to question your statement that a moderate grade requires a downshift to second.

    Perhaps a moderate grade in Canada is different than what we see in the US?

    I live on the top of a mountain and have to drive up and down it on my commute, I would not call it a moderate grade but more to the steep side. I too have to downshift to keep my speed above 50mph but my downshift is from fifth to fourth.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      The problem, as I see it, with the 500 and it’s 1.4 litre power plant, is the North Americans are far too used to big fat engines with gobs of torque off the line. I have taken Mrs. Monty to test drive the 500 on three different occasions, and each time she’s been uncomfortable with the high revs required to get the most out of the FIAT. She’s very used to lots of low end torque and doesn’t use the optimum power band in small engines. So for her, and I assume many other North Americans, the FIAT will seem underpowered and pokey, when in fact, it’s very zippy and entertaining to drive, if you’re higher up in RPM’s.

      Oh, and here’s the other thing – I own a Ford Ranger with a 4 cylinder and a manual transmission, and it makes the FIAT 500 seem like a F1 car in comparison.

      • 0 avatar

        Monty, it seems like you have some evangelization to do! Teach her how to do it and point out that after a while it becomes second nature. Who knows, maybe you’ll convince her.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Do the high rev shifts in the 4.0L V6 version of the Ranger truck and yes, it wakes up just nicely as like any NA motor, get the revs over 3K, the torque spools up even more.

        I loved leaving the truck in second gear and just use the accelerator, the reaction of the throttle was nearly immediate due to keeping the revs up higher (at more of a boil) and when I needed a quick acceleration, second gear is your friend (yes, mine had the 5spd manual).

        So even a “honking” pushrod V6 can benefit from the Italian way of driving, just that you really should not let it get much over 4K rpm though as it’ll begin to get near redline (I think it’s 5600rpm or so).

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        I have test driven the sport with manual and love these little cars. I’ll be the first to admit, these are NOT pocket rockets by any means, but they really aren’t as slow as many claim.

        I DO believe in keeping the revs at the boil, so to speak, that is don’t let them drop too low like we in the US in particular tend to do, loaf along at a mere 2500rpm when 3K is more beneficial for all concerned (that’s how they can get a V6 to achieve such ridiculously high mileage on the highway). I like to keep my car’s rpm above 2500rpm as much as possible, even if driving at much less than highway speeds (like in rush hour), though when you’re doing 15mph, it’s harder to do unless in 1st gear, but to help conserve gas, if the rpm get near or over 3k, then I go up to the next gear.

        Also, I don’t mind shifting down to achieve acceleration and letting the revs sing over 4K while doing so. I’ve done it in my Mazda a good bit. Once, I had to accelerate on an incline and got over a lane, dropped from 3rd to 2nd and stomped on it and the revs shot quickly to over 4krpm to about 5krpm before I kicked it back into 3rd and by then, I’d long passed the slower driver and slid back into my original lane and zoomed off further up the hill.

        This was my Protege5 with the 2.0L inline 4 that’s NA and only produces 130hp too, but with a 4spd sport stick autobox.

        All that said, I found the Fiat fun to drive and a car I’d be begging to drive any chance I get and I get that with the Mazda too and in 6 months, I’ve put over 3500 miles on it and I’ll be adding even more miles on it as I take it to the Pacific Ocean to good friend’s family cabin for the weekend and may end up taking the long way around since I’ll be leaving at 3:30pm from work at the beginning of rush hour and it’s a 3 Hr drive if I took the straight route there.

        I don’t know if the design is as flighty as some as the car has been built since 2007 and it seems to have held up nicely as I’ve been aware of this car since 2009.

        They are common enough around Seattle that some of the novelty has worn off, but the car still is very attractive.

        I’d probably get the sport or maybe the turbo version of the sport but not the Abarth since I like driving a slow car fast, it’s way more fun.

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    Is the US/Canada spec Fiat supposed to be of lower quality then the ones encountered in Denmark? If so, how the hell did they pull that of? Lowering the quality of a fiat is something of an automotive mission impossible.

  • avatar
    sching

    Derek, I assume that in TO the 500 is sold in “old school” car dealerships. As I mentioned in another post, in other parts of the world, Fiat has blurred the cars and fashion line even further by opening Fiat Caffes, where one can have, well a coffee, and a meal, while sitting next to the 500 of your choice.

    Given that the price of a latte is significantly less than that of a cinqueciento, nearly everyone in there is there for the surprisingly tasty bevs and eats rather than the “500 by Gucci”.

    The Fiat Caffe in my city does have one interesting menu item: “The World’s Most Expensive Espresso”, which is said beverage with an Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari…all for US$100K.

    • 0 avatar
      sching

      In case anyone thought I was kidding about the “500 by Gucci”, here’s the link to Fiat’s UK site:

      http://www.fiat.co.uk/500bygucci/

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen one Fiat “store” but nothing like the boutique showrooms you speak of. In TO, the Italian community (and other European countries where Fiats were popular) has such a strong affinity for these cars that they could sell them at the sewage plant, covered in effluent and they’d do just fine

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I think the Fiat 500 is endlessly charming – to LOOK at. I’ve not yet driven one, but reviews have me believing that this car is NOT well suited for the typical 30 minute workday commute in Houston, Texas: Stop-go-stop-go, then be prepared to punch the gas and achieve 72 mph (merge NOW or miss your freeway entrance ramp AND get run off the road by a cargo van, a semi, and three SUVs).

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    The Abarth is waaaaaaay more fun to drive than the base 500. 160hp, great brakes, and one of the best exhaust sounds in the business make it so. The only downside is a stiff/bouncy ride courtesy of the short wheelbase, sport suspension and 17″ wheels. Oh, and can someone please write a check so I can get a telescoping column in the damn thing? If I had to buy a 500, the Abarth would be the one.


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