2013 Fiat 500 Turbo review

2013 Fiat 500 Turbo
Photo courtesy of the Chrysler Group

Whoever said good things come in small packages must have been talking about the Fiat 500 Turbo. By now, everyone is familiar with the little car that has replaced the old New Beetle as the cutest car ever. Admittedly, at first I was a little self-conscious about puttering around town in the diminutive bright red 500T with its painted red dash and weird saucer-shaped headrests. Those insecurities were laid to rest when the engine turned over and a sporty burble emitted from the exhaust, letting the driver know this is no regular Fiat.

Aesthetics

There isn’t a whole lot of visual difference between the run-of-the-mill 500 and the Turbo. The latter gets a smoked treatment in the front with darkened headlight and foglight housings, a more aggressive bumper and 16-inch alloys. Open the hatch and you’ll notice that Dr. Dre has migrated his Beats audio line from your head to the car complete with a subwoofer. In the cabin, as I mentioned earlier, the dash matches the exterior paint that may appeal to some. Our tester had optional leather –trimmed bucket seats – and while they did look nice, I found it impossible to find a seat position to suit my sensitive back, or create a comfortable driving position while gripping the steering wheel and awkwardly forward-placed shift lever.

It goes without saying that the Fiat leaves a small footprint, but it surprised even me at how much can squeeze into nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down (I used to own a Mk III Volkswagen Golf that once held half of my university rental suite). The rear headrests do not automatically hinge down like some new vehicles on the market, so they will have to be removed and stowed if your startup fails and you have to move back into your parents’ basement.

2013 Fiat 500 Turbo interior
Photo courtesy of the Chrysler Group

Peformance

The way the Fiat moves, I couldn’t believe it only has 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, produced by a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbocharged engine. Coupled with some taut suspension, it’s so much fun to drive briskly in twisty bits of road that you forget about the poor ergonomics. Press the sport button on the dash to feel a quicker response when your foot meets the gas pedal and hear the exhaust note grow from a rumble to a growl. With great restraint, I managed to keep it off of sport mode for much of my time with the car to try and get close to Transport Canada’s fuel estimate of 7.1 L/100km city and 5.7 highway for the Fiat.

As enjoyable as the Turbo model is, I couldn’t get past the rubbery and imprecise feeling when shifting. I may be biased owning a first-gen Miata that snicks effortlessly into gear, but that definitely detracted from the experience some for me. The vehicle I was given also had some transmission problems, although the manufacturer informed me that was due to previous improper operation of the vehicle.

Try as you might, it’s hard to hate the Fiat 500T. Certainly there is room for improvement, but I am glad that this segment of car is at least an option for people who want a quirky, quick hatch for under $25,000. Now, onto the Abarth…

Notable features (as tested)

Price: MSRP $20,995

Engine: 135 hp@5,500 rpm/150 lb-ft@2,500–4,000 rpm

Drivetrain: Front engine, front wheel drive

Fuel economy: 7.1 L/100km(city), 5.7 (highway)

Curb weight: 1,072 kilograms

Safety and security: Multi-stage front airbags, side-curtain front and rear airbags, driver inflatable knee-bolster airbag, engine immobilizer

4 thoughts on “2013 Fiat 500 Turbo review

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