Piston Slap: FIAT 500…Good or Garbage?
TTAC commentator AMC_CJ writes:
My retired mother has come to the conclusion that she needs a 2nd car. Currently she has a 06′ Trailblazer that she keeps in mint condition, and despite having issues with the headlights going out automatically, and a lengthy dealing with GM, it’s been a good vehicle (and to GM’s credit, we think they finally found and fixed the problem with little expense to her). She loves her Trailblazer and it’s perfect for running up to our homestead in WV. But it’s the only car she has, and when it was in the shop recently it left her with a sub-par loaner she couldn’t drive very far. When I lived at home, I lent my parents a vehicle out of my own fleet when they needed.
My father made it several months after I moved away before he bought a 2nd car (which was my old PT Cruiser). My mother has held out for 4 years, but now she has come into a little bit of money and has come to the realization that;
1. When her Trailblazer is down, she’s stuck.
2. She likes her Trailblazer a lot, and wants it to last a long time as midsize true SUV’s are nearly dead. She’d like to save it for trips back and forth to WV and split the miles with another vehicle for running around town. I commit to the same strategy with my 06′ Liberty CRD and have proven it’s a great way to make a vehicle last longer. This was always common sense to me, but most people seemed pretty dumbfounded on why I owned so many cars. Other family members are starting to see the light too.
She doesn’t need anything fancy, or really practical. Just something to run to the store, go see her friends across town in, and the typical putting around retirees do. She doesn’t want another GM product after being left on mountain roads at night with no headlights; more times I care to mention. In fact, she doesn’t really like any new cars; but the Fiat 500 has caught her eye. So, being I’m a mechanic by profession and have a degree in this stuff I get asked all the time what I think. Well, I work on heavy trucks and have never seen a Fiat 500 mechanically, nor do I know anybody that has ever worked on one, owned one, etc. So I’m reaching out to the community here.
Maybe it’s that they’re too new. I’ve always thought of picking up one, probably used, when our 12′ Mustang is paid off and figured by then a few of them should of made it through their life cycle. But at this point, I haven’t heard of anything bad. We looked them up online and she’ll probably go with a base model, even a manual transmission. Maybe the turbo model if the base is just too slow (which is a possibility for her). I think she’s too used to her big SUV to feel comfortable in a small car again, but we’ll see how a test drive goes. But before we get that far, I’d like to know, how are these cars holding up?
What’s the word out there? Are they safe? If nothing else, I figure a comment section from the B&B would shine some light on the subject. This will probably be the last car she ever purchases, so it needs to last with her Trailblazer. I’d see her putting around 5,000miles a year on it, and it needs to probably last a good 15-20 years. Her main residence never really sees snow, so salt/rusting isn’t a concern.
As expected with a foreign brand re-entering the US car biz, the first year of the FIAT 500 was plagued (hat tip to TrueDelta) with more problems than newer models. I suspect it has less to do with the car, more about Chrysler dealerships ramping up their training, tools, parts, etc. for an eye-talian job they’ve never seen before…much less worked on.
There’s little doubt that today’s FIAT isn’t what left us back in 1983. And the delta between a bad car back then and a bad one now is different: the variance in quality today could easily be statistically insignificant. But would I want a FIAT for 15-20 years? Nope.
I have doubts as to the future long term cost/availability of aftermarket support, availability of qualified repair shops, or the longevity of FIAT USA. Buy a more mainstream brand, it’s just a safer bet. I’d change my tune if she was keeping it for the duration of the warranty period, for sure.
Stick with big name American and Japanese brands for long-term ownership without the headaches. Well, with less headaches…
[Image: Fiat/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
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Hi CJ. I read through the comments (importantly yours) and while I'm a day late it sounds like your mom wants a tercel about as much as mine would. For a second car when the other is capable of hauling cargo and pulling through mud/snow I stand by the Miata or if frugality and low total cost are more important than spirit (not MY mom) the TTAC hated Prius should get a look.
Once again, people answer from the frugality point of view and not from the heart. Your mom has how many driving years left? She thinks the 500 is cute and fun and will give her peace of mind knowing that she has a backup car if one or the other fails. Does she have enough money in her portfolio to warrant such a purchase? Is she doing something drunk and disorderly in regards to her future financial viability? If the answer is no, then what is the harm? You've now heard from a number of owners above that the 500 is a pretty reliable car. If it brings a smile to her face and doesn't put her in financial jeopardy, then encourage her to do it. Life is much too short to suffer from the automotive stinginess so often seen in posted comments here by curmudgeons. Go have her drive a 500. If it passes muster, then have her pick out one exactly as she wants it, from engine and transmission choices right down to the color. It is likely the last car purchase she will ever make. Might as well make it a good and fun one.