Checking Out the eco:Drive - 2012 FIAT 500 Long-Term Road Test

2012 FIAT 500 Long Term Road Test

2012 Fiat 500 Sport: Checking Out the eco:Drive

December 02, 2011

Gear Shift problem.jpg

I've spent the last five days driving around with the eco:Drive program, which is monitoring my driving habits with an eye towards fuel efficiency. To answer the question Mike posed when he introduced this device, I think the information it's reporting is more cool than gimmicky.

To recap a bit: The eco:Drive program records data from the car for each trip, including the behavior of the engine and the gearbox. It wants a five-day baseline for starters. When you remove the data-loaded USB stick and download it onto a computer outfitted with the eco:Drive app, the information from the car goes to Fiat servers. They process it and make it all cool and Italian, like a cross between "La Dolce Vita" and a Paolo Conte record. Sorry. No. I made that last part up.

Actually, Fiat does some analysis and fairly quickly, "the eco:Index calculated is then displayed on your computer screen," Fiat says. The company takes pains to explain that your data "is not tagged with your details in any way. We do not know who the data belongs to, and are unable to pass it on to any third parties. In short, your data is entirely secure."

Good. I'd hate the EPA to learn the following: With a score of 48, I'm a sub-par eco-conscious driver. If this was straight-up academic grading, I think I'd have earned an F.

The higher your eco:Drive score, "the less impact your driving habits are having on the environment and the more money you're saving," Fiat says. Suffice to say, I have room for improvement when it comes to rescuing the planet.

On the plus side, the eco:Drive says I'm averaging 36.7 mpg. I kind of doubt that, given that our own long-term fuel report puts the car closer to an average of 31 mpg. I'll report back with my single-driver results after I fill up this weekend.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the eco:Drive score components: I'm a two-star accelerator. I think that means I'm accelerating too fast. I'm a good decelerator. I'm not sure if that refers to how I brake or how I downshift. Maybe both.

I'm five stars when it comes to speed. That means I don't drive too fast. Where I'm really failing, however, is in gearshifts, where I earned a mere 1.5 stars.

"Ah," the eco:Drive said to me in a little text box. "You're wasting a whole load of fuel here. Flick through the tutorial and find out where you can improve."

And this is where it's pretty darned cool.

Shift pattern 1.jpg

The tutorial then showed me an animation of the average revs at which I shifted gears on my drive this morning. According to the tutorial, I'm revving way too high for maximum engine efficiency. The tips remind me to "move up a gear at the earliest opportunity, without the car losing momentum." And they tell me not to rest my foot on the clutch (which I don't think I do).

A look at the Fiat's manual presents my issue with shifting in more detail. When accelerating, the shift from first to second should be at 14 mph; second to third at 23 mph; third to fourth at 29 mph and fourth to fifth at 38. I'm shifting at much higher speeds than recommended. As you can see in this step, I was shifting from second to third at 30 mph. It's a pretty accurate rendition of my driving. I know that I don't shift into fifth until I'm at 60 mph or more, for example. Bad girl.

The eco:Drive app also lets you set challenges for yourself to see if you can improve your score. It challenged me to raise my score to 58 by Dec.16. Alas, I won't be in the car all that time, so I won't be able to play. If the Fiat was my personal car, however, I would definitely use this tool. It's cool to have this kind of driving-efficiency feedback.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @10,208 miles

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