Wedged some where between a go-kart and a hot hatch sits the Fiat 500. Or in my case a Fiat 500 Turbo. It’s a zippy machine that puts the kid back in driving thanks to its diminutive size, a some what unforgiving ride, and a set of 16-inch wheels that look almost toy like, save for the disc breaks.
At a glance the Fiat 500 is smaller than it looks. Largely because the rest of today’s cars are perceivably twice its size. It’s something akin to when I first saw Mercedes’ Smart Car on the road. The Fiat 500 isn’t quite as extreme, but as depicted in the above video, you’ll see how it sizes up to me, a 6-foot person.
That said, the interior is surprisingly spacious. Some of this can be attributed to the center console that doesn’t extend through the entire front portion of the cabin, and fairly deep footwells that results in what is a high driving position, all things relative of course. I didn’t realize this until I stepped back into my car, a 2003 GTI, but the Fiat 500 has you perched relatively high while at the wheel, which in my experience lends to some trepidation in the corners since the experienced center of gravity is higher.
On the road the Fiat 500 rattles and tumbles around. Fit and finish, in other words, isn’t what I’d call tight. The dash and much of the cabin is finished in plastic, and to further my point the relay for the heated seats pops when activated. But hey, at least they’re heated, because the cabin feels cold, aesthetically. Leg room is ample enough in the front seat, but at 6′ 2″ I was still subjected to knee space that is perhaps best described as restraining.
The infotainment system, or lack there of, includes a Beats option. It’s an added cost to the tune of $1,600, and while I haven’t tried the stock system in the Fiat 500 Turbo, this one isn’t half bad. For that kind of money you’d expect an in-dash system, right? Wrong. Instead you’ll get a set of plastic buttons, Bluetooth connectivity, and a dedicated power port/mount for a TomTom GPS unit that sits awkwardly in the driver’s line of vision. Fortunately, pairing a Bluetooth phone is viable using a set of voice commands and making calls, despite the interior noise of the Fiat 500 Turbo, is totes doable.
And speaking of Turbo, there is a button for that. It’s really a throttle response button, with no added horsepower activated, at least far as I can tell. It’s a wonder why Fiat even includes one, though I suppose if you’ve got a heavy foot you could reduce some of the gallons guzzled, albeit over time. With it turned on – it’s off by default when you start the car – the Fiat 500 Turbo accelerates with much greater haste.
Stick, as was my Fiat 500 Turbo, is well suited for this ride as it magnifies the car’s fun factor. Just note that you’ll experience some grinding when moving into reverse (i.e. no syncro), though with some care it can be avoided.
Needless to say, it’s an excellent city vehicle since it can cram into spots that would otherwise be too small for even the average compact. The backseat is beyond tiny, and will largely serve as added storage when the trunk – which can play host to up to 5 grocery bags – is maxed out.
Fit and finish aside, and the lack of infotainment system, the Fiat 500 Turbo is undoubtedly a blast to drive. It’s more spirited than smooth, which for some will be a turn off, especially when hurdling down a pot hole filled street. But the trade off is clearly an experience that is sure to put a touch of youth back into any driver.