Generation Why: My Gen Y COTY

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
generation why my gen y coty

With the TWATs under way and awards season about to gear up, I would like to take a moment to highlight the one car I’ve found that ticks all the boxes for me personally. It’s the Fiat 500 Abarth.

The base 500 might as well be the template for the “premium city car” segment that’s slowly cropping up (the 500, Opel Adam and even the Ford Fiesta and Smart ForTwo can be included). It’s stylish, economical and carries a small footprint which makes it easier to park and maneuver. It’s also bog slow and dull to drive.

The Abarth fixes all that. 160 horsepower won’t light anyone’s hair on fire, but its quick enough by anyone’s standards, with serious punch above 3000 RPM that’s great for merging and passing big rigs on the highway. In the base car, those are white-knuckle feats of derring-do. In the Abarth, you want to do it again and again. The power comes in handy in city traffic too. There’s very little lag, and you can take nearly anything from a stoplight. A stopped taxi or dawdling driver blocking your lane can easily be evaded without downshifting – wait for even the tiniest gap, punch the throttle and you’re gone.

It sounds like a tuner car, and tries to look like a serious performance machine but doesn’t have any of the “I work at McDonalds” vibe that a tuner car (factory or aftermarket hackjob) carries. Girls think its cute, seniors take a real shine to it and you’d never be embarassed to take a client or your boss out to lunch in it. That wonderful exhaust note that everyone goes on about? It never drones or buzzes like an aftermarket unit does. But it sounds wonderful with the windows down, when you can hear the turbo spooling, the wastegate exhaling and the unburnt fuel crackling and popping.

Some of the cars flaws, like the high seating position, are actually a boon to city driving. Visibility is excellent and you quickly adapt to it. Others, like the excessive body roll and darty steering at high speeds make it less than ideal for serious performance driving. This isn’t something you’d take to the track. But for the kind of road courses you tackle on a daily basis, it’s superb. I even fit a Cotsco-sized grocery shop in the trunk without folding the seats down. In a pinch, I took a couple friends across town to go for lunch. Even though I drove the car vigorously all week, I had no trouble matching the 28 mpg the EPA claims for this car.

The Abarth is definitely a niche product, and a lot of people will be more comfortable with something else, whether that’s a Mini, a Mazdaspeed 3 or even an FR-S. But if you are that mythical Millenial; downtown-living, employed in the creative field, the kind of person that GM and Ford are trying so hard to cultivate, then this is your car. I love it for more tangible reasons; it can fit in nearly any parking space, easy on gas and has just the right amount of performance. Do I love it enough to take on a car note? No. But of all the cars I’ve driven this year, this is the one that I’d buy. Maybe in a few years, when things are a little more stable and I’m firmly entrenched here at TTAC, I’ll take the plunge. Right now, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any more stable economically, and that means even a $22,000 new car is something to be second guessed.

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  • Occam Occam on Nov 26, 2012

    I sat in one just out of curiosity. It was surprisingly roomy in the front seats - at 6'1, mostly legs, I'm usually quite cramped in subcompacts, particularly ones that emphasize a tall cabin to make up for a small footprint. It didn't feel like it would be a whole lot of fun though - the driving position was kitchen-chair upright, with a low beltline. It reminded me of a first-generation CR-V, but smaller. It was nothing like the comfy legs-out seating position of the Mini, and the low beltline was disconcerting. THat said, I only sat in it; I didn't want to risk taking it for drive (ya know, just in case I decided that I like it.) My fiance saw one in traffic yesterday and asked if it was the New New Beetle. She's mostly oblivious to cars - drives a Versa with a CVT - the fact that she even noticed it at all says something. Not sure what generation I'm supposed to be - I'm 31, she's 34. We're both pretty cheap with cars - our household income (after paying my child support) is around 95K/year, and neither one of us would spend more than $20K on a car. Having an expensive car and not being able to take extended/international vacations doesn't sound very enjoyable. (I guess that makes us "Why" in spirit)

    • Rreichar Rreichar on Nov 26, 2012

      Good point on the vacation vs. car thing. The driving position felt odd for a couple of minutes then it was fine. Being an old guy I kind of appreciated the ease of entry compared to a Mini. Had the one I drove cost $22,000 I'd be answering to "Tony" today. I think Fiat does the options much better than Mini. The one I drove had leather, navigation, 17 inch wheels, and Beats audio. All things I would have trouble saying no to. Still $28,000 seems high for a little car. Of course no one fels Lotuses cost too much for their size.

  • Rreichar Rreichar on Dec 01, 2012

    So I went and bought an Abarth. Too early to really have much of an opinion. Under $28,000 with every option. They say proper break-in is 300 miles. Supposed to stay under 4500 rpm until then. I am still a little shocked at how loud the exhaust is. How did they get that past the Feds? As a guy who was raised on rwd V8s it requires a bit of a paradigm shift to buy this car. It feels light, fast and twitchy. I was thinking originally of buying a Mustang GT but honestly the Abarth feels faster and more raw. I know it's quite a bit slower but it has kind of an exotic feel to it. The whole time I was sitting in the dealer I was thinking, "We'll this is stupid. What am I thinking?" Now that I have gotten to drive it a bit I feel better about it. Time will tell I suppose. The shifter remains vague and rubbery but other than that I have no complaints. Black with red stripes and red seats.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂