2013 Fiat 500 T Hatchback (1.4L 4-cyl. Turbo 5-speed Manual)
Driven On 5/21/2013
When all is said and done the Fiat 500 Turbo is a fun car to drive. While it lacks the customization, quality, and fundamentally solid underpinnings of its biggest competitor (therefore lacking that car's refinement, feedback, and desirability), it's still a kick.
ComfortThe 500 T's ride comfort is far better than a Mini Cooper with the Sport package, but seating is lacking for a sporty hatch. Overall, considering its abilities, comfort is good.
Front seat comfort is good, but lateral support and a passenger armrest are lacking. It's off-putting that the steering wheel is off-center. Rear seats are sized only for kids.
One of the best-riding compact cars available; never busy, bouncy, or nervous. Really. This is truly a remarkable achievement considering its stubby proportions and sporty tires.
The 500 T's growly exhaust is evident by design, adding character but not droning annoyingly on the freeway.
InteriorInterior design is challenging at best with questionable ergonomics, cramped quarters, and barely enough cargo capacity for an overnighter.
There's not a single knob on the Fiat's dash, not even audio volume: big mistake. Other problems include unintuitive, crowded, busy instrumentation and strange button locations.
Wide-opening doors are a good thing unless you're in a tight parking stall, especially with a rear passenger. Passenger-side front seat does not return to original position.
Sunroof-equipped cars have compromised headroom. Rear seat space is extremely limited.
One expects good visibility in compact car, yet its chunky middle roof-pillar inhibits over-the-shoulder glances and large rear roof-pillar hides cars, too.
There's room for soft bags behind the rear seats without folding. Carrying anything larger will mean folding the 50/50 split-fold rear seats, but they don't go flat.
PerformanceThe Turbo model is far quicker than the base 500. Engaging to drive quickly and reasonably well behaved. Still, shows why the even sportier Abarth exists.
The 135-hp 1.4L Turbo provides brisk acceleration from low rpm, but also has an entertainingly high redline and vastly improved manual shifter from previous 500s.
Squirms around more than we'd prefer during panic stops, but remains stable. Pedal offers little feedback and quick response, so it takes some practice to brake smoothly.
For an electric-assist system, steering precision and response are good, but not as good as Mini or Mazda. Feel is average and sometimes provides springy feedback.
Despite some body roll and reluctance in quick transitions, there's enough grip and athleticism here to post competitive numbers in our instrumented tests; better than many.
Unlike the Mini Cooper S that can border on busy and frenetic, the 500 Turbo is more a relaxed experience. Sport button makes the acceleration jumpy.
ValueExercising restraint when ordering and while driving a 500 T improves its value, but that's not an easy assignment. Asking price of sporty 500 T lines up with that of base Mini Cooper.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The Fiat 500 (any version/trim) doesn't feel or look like a premium car inside like the Mini Cooper.
Standard features are plentiful on the 500 T, some unexpectedly good ones like Bluetooth and a USB port that are often extras.
The most expensive option is a premium audio system, but that plus the sunroof and automatic climate control brings the total close to $25K.
EPA ratings of 28 city/34 highway are encouraging, yet our 27-mpg combined average in our heavy-footed Los Angeles-based driving feels closer to reality.
The 4 year/50,000 mile warranty is decent, and includes roadside assistance for that time period.
A big unknown. There's no North American track record to work from. On the other hand, oil changes and wear items like brake pads are covered for the first 3 years/36,000 miles
Fun To DriveBeing fun to drive is the 500 T's biggest selling point. It makes good sounds, squirts effortlessly between corners and manhandles traffic. Yes, it's fun.
Plan on driving aggressively or risk being cut-off in traffic. Why? Other driver's expect it to be a slow, base 500 and don't want to get stuck behind.
Sadly, besides the rewarding driving experience itself, there's little evidence of this being a special 500. Cute and cuddly gets old. Abarth is the answer.