News: Jaguar I-Pace Electric Concept SUV Hits the Streets

News: Jaguar I-Pace Electric Concept SUV Hits the Streets

New EV Will Arrive In 2018

Jaguar recently gave a closer look at its battery-electric I-Pace concept it plans to debut in 2018 by setting it loose on the streets of London.

Introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the I-Pace is Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle and second crossover SUV, following the larger, conventionally powered F-Pace.

Jaguar_I-Pace

The Jaguar I-Pace concept at the LA Auto Show

“Driving the concept on the streets is really important for the design team,” said Jaguar director of design Ian Callum. “It’s very special to put the car outside and in the real world. You can see the true value of the I-Pace’s dramatic silhouette and powerful proportions when you see it on the road, against other cars.”

If the I-Pace production SUV follows the concept, it will have a pair of synchronous permanent magnet electric motors, one integrated into each axle. That will provide four-wheel drive directed by a single-speed epicyclic transmission.

Each motor produces 200 horsepower with a combined 516 pounds-feet of torque that Jaguar estimates can rip off a zero to 60 mph time in just four seconds for those in a hurry.

Power is stored in a liquid cooled 90-kilowatt-hour lithium battery that the automaker expects will have an EPA real world driving range of around 220 miles.

A 50-kilowatt direct current (DC) charging point can replenish the battery to 80 percent in 90 minutes and to 100 percent in just over two hours.

Design Follows LA Auto Show Concept

The London I-Pace SUV is very close in appearance to the concept shown in LA. While it has a passing resemblance to the larger F-Pace, the exterior styling is a dramatic departure from previous Jaguars, giving a hint at what to expect in the future.

It has a compact body and is fairly low to the ground for an SUV, but it still seats five while offering plenty of cargo space.

Jaguar_I-Pace

The concept I-Pace gave a running demonstration on the stand

A cab forward design with short rear overhangs and short hood combine to maximize interior space for occupants, improve visibility and enhance driving dynamics, according to Jaguar.

Sweeping lines along the sides and a tapering waistline give the five-door SUV a coupe-like profile, leading to a sharply angled rear hatch window with a hydrophobic coating–so there’s no need for a rear wiper.

Tail lights feature a “chicane line” signature, a new Jaguar design element that replaces the more traditional E-Type round design.

Inside Luxury

Inside, materials are a mixture of Windsor leather, Alcantara, unvarnished walnut and carbon fiber. The roof is a full-length glass panel with embedded LEDs that illuminate the interior at night.

The I-Pace introduces a new cockpit design direction based around three display screens. A 12-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard with a five-inch screen below it for infotainment and climate controls. Instruments are presented to the driver on a configurable 12-inch virtual cluster augmented by a color head-up display.

Gears are selected by buttons that are integrated into a floating center console that emphasizes the SUV’s flat floor and lack of transmission tunnel.

The I-Pace will take on Tesla’s Model X, the Audi e-tron and a production version of the Mercedes Generation EQ concept shown at the Paris Motor Show last September.

From what’s known about the car so far, it appears that the Jaguar I-Pace has the potential to be a real contender in the luxury electric car space when it arrives in 2018.

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Top 10 Safe Green Cars

Top 10 Safe Green Cars

Combining Two Critical Aspects To Pick the Right Car

We know that Clean Fleet Report readers are laser-focused on fuel economy. They may have a variety of different types of vehicles that they’re after, but mpg is always one of the must-haves on the wish list. But no one’s list has only one key attribute. Next on our list, jostling for the top spot, is safety. While new cars have gotten smarter and safer every year, some models still rise to the top of the list. So, here we present the Top 10 cars that can claim to not only be safe, but environmentally friendly. We’ve provided links to our recent road tests or news stories as well.

IIHS crash test

It’s not pretty, but it’s helping make cars safer

Our source for the safety ratings is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which has made its reputation by crashing cars in tests more stringent than those of the government. Because it publicizes the results—often with grisly videos—the industry pays attention and has begun to design its vehicles to not only ace the government standard, but IIHS’ tests as well. IIHS ranks its Top Safety Picks based on five crashworthiness tests—small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. The organization also looks at headlight quality superior front crash prevention.

The good news is there are more than 10 safe and fuel efficient vehicles, so we’ve sliced the selections a little more. We’ve broken this list into two groups—the first is the vehicles that are dedicated alternative fuel models—four solid choices. The second group is cars that have conventional as well as alt fuel versions. From them we’ve chosen representative models from the 11 categories so a broad range of choices are available.

The Core Group

  1. 2017 Toyota Prius – Just redesigned and build on a new platform, Toyota obviously put safety at the top of the list along with its traditional laser-like fuel efficiency focus
    2016 Toyota Prius Liftback

    The most popular hybrid is safe, too

    that has always characterized the best-selling model. One caveat if you’re looking at used Prius, the IIHS pick only applies to cars manufactured after August 2016.

  2. 2017 Chevrolet Volt – GM’s second generation Volt also leads the list when equipped with the optional front crash prevention package. The Volt can also be proud as it’s the only dedicated plug-in vehicle on the list.
  3. 2017 Lexus CT 200hRounding out the small car picks is Lexus hybrid-only model. The safety pick applies only to the models with the optional front crash prevention.
  4. 2017 Toyota Prius V – Toyota’s hybrid wagon, which the IIHS classifies as a midsize car, rounds out the list of dedicated green and safe cars.

Six More Top Picks

  1. The 2017 Audi A3, which has a plug-in version known as the 3-tron, made the list of safe midsize luxury cars. It offers a nice balance of fuel efficiency, technology and performance.
  2. In large cars, the 2017 Toyota Avalon, which includes a hybrid model, was the only car IIHS awarded its top pick to.
  3. Small SUVs are a fast-growing segment, so it’s heartening that IIHS found three models that have alt fuel models. The 2017 Nissan Rogue and 2017 Toyota RAV4 which have hybrid versions, made the cut, as did the 2017 Hyundai Tucson, which offers a fuel cell model (which we’re sure IIHS did not crash test). IIHS did call out that optional front crash protection and specific headlights were needed to provide the highest level of safety.
  4. Midsize luxury SUVs also had good representation on the IIHS list, including the 2017 Acura MDX, which has a hybrid model, the 2017 Volvo XC90, which has a plug-in hybrid version, and the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE, which also has a plug-in hybrid.
  5. The minivan segment is led by the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which has a plug-in hybrid model. It achieves the trifecta of maximum people and stuff hauling along with safety and fuel economy. IIHS made note they only recommended cars built after 2016.
  6. Finally, we’ll mention the minicar class, which included the 2017 Toyota Yaris. While not a hybrid or plug-in, it is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in that class.
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Lots of choices combine top safety and top fuel economy

Other safety contenders included the 2017 Golf (or e-Golf), the 2017 Ford Fusion (which has a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version), the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu (hybrid), 2017 Honda Accord (hybrid), 2017 Hyundai Sonata (hybrid and plug-in hybrid), 2017 Kia Optima (hybrid and plug-in hybrid), 2017 Toyota Camry (hybrid), 2017 Lincoln MKZ (hybrid) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (plug-in hybrid).

Lots to choose from.

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Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime PHEV

Prime = Toyota’s Fuel Economy King

Toyota has had four Prius models since 2012, and last year (2016) sales of the Prius Liftback, Prius c, Prius V and Plug-in Prius added up to more than 136,000 units. Something new showed up at the end of the year that Toyota hopes will counter several years of declining cumulative Prius sales–the all-new 2017 Prius Prime. So what’s all the hoopla about because, isn’t one Prius the same another? Not so fast lumping the Prius Prime in with its siblings as it goes further, charges faster and looks way different than the others.

 

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

New look, new name, new numbers

Clean Fleet Report spent a fuel-sipping week driving throughout Southern California in the 2017 Prius Prime Premium. With an eye on Toyota’s very appealing fuel economy claims, we wondered if it was possible to get 50+ mpg. Cutting to the answer, we did, and in a big way.

The front-wheel drive 2017 Prius Prime is powered by what Toyota says is its “most efficient hybrid powertrain,” which is where the car’s “Prime” name comes from—as in the best. Toyota considers this to be the most technologically advanced Prius it had ever made, going back more than two decades.

Prime Drivetrain

Toyota has mastered the parallel hybrid drivetrain, or Hybrid Synergy Drive as they brand it. The electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together, usually at the discretion of the car’s efficiency-focused computer. But the Prime offers one more power option—the car can go about 25 miles, and as fast as 84 mph, in pure EV mode.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 1.8-liter double overhead cam (DOHC), four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors producing a net 121 horsepower through the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The EPA rating is 55 city/53 highway/54 combined mpg. But adding together the gasoline and electricity the EPA estimates 133 MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon Equivalent. MPGe is a measurement of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. It illustrates the efficiency of the drivetrain more than any real-world indication of fuel economy.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Designed to be slippery in the wind

So what does this mean? After 317 miles of driving the Prius Prime we averaged 58.1 mpg. A big part of this is that Toyota engineered the Prime to default to electric mode and stay there (unless manually changed to Eco/hybrid) through the first 25 miles. In past Prius models, you would take off from a stop in electric mode, but with even the slightest pressure on the accelerator pedal, the engine would kick-in and gasoline would be pouring through the veins of the 1.8L engine. We like this new system much better. So whether it be the EPA’s or ours, these numbers are outstanding as it seemed we drove forever and the fuel gauge barely dropped.

It is important to note that fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific. They represent the reviewer’s driving experience, in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The Prius Prime uses a lithium-ion (li-ion) battery, which is charged by plugging-in or through the regenerative charging system, which converts energy into the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. The “B” drive mode recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill. The 8.8kWh li-ion batteries deliver 25 miles of pure EV driving. Charging takes:

120V           5.3 hours: discharged to a full charge

240V           2.1 hours: discharged to a full charge

The Prius Prime does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The four-door 2017 Prius Prime weighs in at 3,365 pounds, with the weight well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a smooth and stable ride. Tire and

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

LED lights enable aero in front

wind noise could be hidden a bit better, but the engine in gasoline mode was quiet. Of course when running on electricity only, there is no engine noise because no engine is running. Seems obvious, but it needed to be said.

The 15-inch alloy wheels and 195/65R tires delivers handling that was direct with little body roll. Nothing sporty about the Prius Prime in handling or acceleration, which was about 0–60 in 10 seconds. Being fair to Toyota, the Prius Prime is not marketed as a sporty car, but one that delivers a safe, secure and competent ride with outstanding fuel economy. No alternative facts here…Toyota delivered what they promised.

The previously mentioned regenerative braking system has four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. The stops were straight and true, with no brake fade, nor the sometimes noticeable hybrid braking whine.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the Premium model, which is the middle trim level between Plus and Advanced. This gave us Toyota’s SofTex trimmed seats, which is a synthetic material designed for long wear, which is soft to the touch, resists spills and is easy to clean. And for the vegans out there, there are no animal-based materials used in the SofTex manufacturing process.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

A Tesla-like presence on the dash

The 2017 Prius Prime only seats two in the rear seat. No big deal unless you need the third seat, at which point you will opt for one of the other three Prius models. For four adults though, the Prime’s interior is roomy with good head and leg room, and a center fold down armrest with cup holders.

The eight-way power-adjustable driver seat and the tilt/telescopic steering wheel made finding a comfortable driving position easy. The steering wheel has all the usual control buttons (audio, phone, cruise control, Bluetooth, etc.), and the ability to switch between fuel and battery (hybrid) gauges.

About those gauges. They are in the center of the dash with none, as in zero, being directly in front of the driver. It does not take much effort to look ten degrees to the right at all times, but it is odd. Maybe a heads-up display would be a nice addition.

The car has good front sightlines with a large windshield. Glancing in the mirror reveals the spoiler cutting horizontally midway through the rear window, a rear window that has a curved surface. A note to Toyota that we were not fans of a loud beeper going off inside the cabin when shifting into reverse. It seemed redundant and unnecessary because, as the driver, you know when the car is in reverse as the Rearview Camera pops-up on the screen and there is an obvious “R” on the dash. Plus, the beeping is not heard outside the car where it would be the most useful.

The Prius Prime came with Toyota’s Entune Premium Audio system with navigation and an 11.6-inch high-resolution touch-screen color display. This large vertical display is also found as on Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell vehicle. The six speaker system included an AM/FM cache radio with MP3/WMA playback capability, SiriusXM (which includes 90-day trial subscription) and HD AM Radio with iTunes. Also included are an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone, advanced voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free and music streaming via Bluetooth. The sound system does not have knobs for volume and channel selection, an annoying omission that must be designed to make the dash seem smooth and modern.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

The view that may not hit your comfort zone

Redesigned and renamed for 2017, the Prius Prime is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. Most agree the front end design is fine, but opinions differ—strongly—about the rear end. The overall wedge-shape of the five-door hatchback has not changed much since introduced in 2003. (The first Prius models were introduced in 1997 as four-door sedans.) The shape is driven completely to reduce wind resistance and drag to increase fuel economy. Toyota says it “looks like the future” with the design “purely intentional.”

The front end is dominated by two large air scoops on each corner of the lower fascia, topped by attractive rectangular quad-LED projector headlamps. The deeply sloped hood leads to a raked windshield and roof that peaks at the B pillar, and then drastically slopes all the way to the integrated spoiler on the rear hatch. The glass on the hatch has a dual wave design, which makes it unique. The hatch is made of carbon fiber, so it feels light at first touch but is solid when closing.

Now to the rear end. It is best to let you absorb and take it in to find your comfort zone.

Pricing

2017_Toyota_Prius_Prime

The only Prius with a plug

The 2017 Prius Prime comes in three trim levels—Plus, Premium and Advanced. Clean Fleet Report drove the Premium version, which will probably be the most popular considering its deep list of standard features.

The Prius Prime qualifies for Federal and State tax credits that could reduce your final cost. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Prius Prime purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the Prius Prime qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, with no passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State. Make sure to check with your DMV to see if this benefit is available in your state.

These MSRPs do not include the $865 delivery, processing and handling fee.

Prime Plus                       $27,100

Prime Premium                $28,800

Prime Advanced              $33,100

Safety and Warranties

The 2017 Prius Prime is well-equipped for safety with remote keyless entry, push button start/stop, power door locks, heated and power outside mirrors, tire pressure monitoring system, seven airbags, vehicle stability and traction control, brake assist, engine immobilizer and full stop technology.  Advanced driver pre-collision technology includes lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control and pedestrian detection.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Easy-to-fit luxury

The 2017 Prius comes with these warranties:

  • Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Rust-through – Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid-related components (CA, MA, NY, NJ, VT, CT, ME, NM and RI) – 15 years/150,000 miles
  • Battery (same states) – 10 years/150,000 miles
  • Battery (remaining states) – Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Toyota Care – Complimentary maintenance plan for two years/25,000 miles (for every new Toyota purchase or lease)

Observations: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

The 133 MPGe EPA rating takes Toyota into a new competitive space of high-mileage alternative fuel vehicles. The smooth operation and seamless transition between gasoline and electric modes, the excellent interior fit and finish, and the drive/ride attributes of the Prius Prime make it a serious contender for anyone looking at a midsize car—regardless of its power source.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

The halo for the Prius brand

You will pay more for a hybrid versus a gasoline-powered car and more for a Prius Prime over a non-plug-in Prius. Is it worth it? If you drive most of your miles in town or in rush hour traffic, then you will benefit greatly from the pure electric mode of the Prime.

The proven reliability of the Prius line-up gives confidence that this car will be in your garage for many, many years.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: More Details of Cadillac CT6 PHEV Revealed

News: More Details of Cadillac CT6 PHEV Revealed

Luxury Sedan Promises Fuel Economy & Affordability

General Motors  is shipping its latest plug-in car to dealers in the United States now (April 2017) with the aim of having a hit in two key markets–California and China. The company revealed more details about the 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV recently, including pricing and more fuel economy details.

2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Cadillac plugs in its big sedan

The 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV will retail for $75,095 (plus a $995 destination charge) and have an EPA-rated electric-only range of 31 miles. It’s total range (combining the electric motor and gas engine) is 440 miles. The EPA also tagged the large sedan as having a fuel economy rating of 62 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent, which factors in battery-only miles). It can run up to 78 mph in electric-only mode.

Power for the car comes from GM’s 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engines, which, with two electric motors, drives the rear wheels through an Electric Variable Transmission (EVT). Three driving modes are available–Tour, Sport or Eco. The total package puts out 335 total horsepower and 432 pounds-feet of torque to propel the car from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. Of course, that kind of hot-rodding won’t deliver maximum fuel economy. The 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack can be recharged in 4.5 hours on a 240-volt (Level 2) charger.

Tech Too

2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV tech

Pre-loaded with technology

The 2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is loaded with technology, although it may not include the company’s new semi-autonomous Super Cruise mode (that will be left to the standard sedan according to reports). Tech includes Cadillac’s Night Vision system, front pedestrian braking and Surround Vision, which gives a 360-degree view around the car to assist in maneuvering and parking. Special hybrid features include Regen on Demand, where you can choose to charge your batteries as you drive, a reconfigurable head up display and wireless phone charging while the car is running. Driver awareness and assistance packages include forward collision alert, a following distance indicator, lane keep assist, side blind zone alert, adaptive cruise control and forward and reverse automatic braking.

2017 Cadillac CT6 PHEV-Rear Seat Luxury

In back, another world to play in

Inside the car are all of the luxury items expected in Cali and China–leather, wood grain and carbon fiber accepts. Heated and cooled seats in front are paired with heated rear seats, with the latter enhanced with built-in entertainment systems complete twin headphones and remote controls. Also boosting the rear seat’s appeal are side and rear sunshades, a large center console with cupholders and ashtrays (the latter for China rather than California no doubt).

Cadillac posits that the 2017 CT6 PHEV retails for $20-$40,000 less than its European competitors. The BMW 740e retails for $90,700, but it is all-wheel drive. The Mercedes S550e clocks in at $96,600 and has a more powerful V6 engine, but its 0-60 performance is comparable to the Cadillac. I guess we’ll just have to drive them all and compare.

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Road Test: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Road Test: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Italian Take on a Classic Roadster

Have you seen a Fiat 124 Spider on the road? Did you even know Fiat made a two-seat, convertible sports car? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, as this car is pretty invisible—but certainly not for any bad reason.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Fiat’s back in the sports car business–with an assist from Mazda

Fiat knew they needed a convertible sports car in their line-up to go along with the 500—or Cinquecento—and the small 500L and 500X crossovers. (Clean Fleet Report has driven all the Fiat models, reviews are found at the end of this story.) Fiat has a history with a 124 Spider as it was one of the most fun and affordable sports cars you could own from 1966-1982. So the challenge was how to quickly add a sports car to the current Fiat line-up that would be recognized immediately for its serious fun factor.

If the 124 Spider looks familiar, it should. Fiat called on Mazda with the idea of the new Fiat 124 Spider based on the MX-5 Miata, but with a few Italian tweaks, of course. What Fiat came up with is a stylish sports car, available in three trim levels of Classica, Lusso and Abarth, that uses the Miata’s underpinnings, but offers two different engines, suspension modifications and unique styling.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The rear-wheel drive 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica is powered by the same engine found in the Jeep Renegade and all Fiat models except the electric 500e, a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder DOHC, 16-valve engine producing 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s 124 Spider had the stock six-speed manual transmission, while there is an optional automatic with paddle shifters.

The EPA rates the 124 Spider fuel economy at 26 city/36 highway/30 combined. In 480 miles driving throughout Southern California we averaged 28 mpg. Our fuel economy was lower than the EPA estimate mostly because we found every bit of stop-and-go highway traffic possible, which has a couple of downsides other than the serious frustration level. With a manual transmission, being in traffic is a never-ending combination of clutch-in, clutch-out, which makes the turbo kick in between the clutch-in, clutch-out. This results in a worn-out left leg and a drop in fuel efficiency. So, if this kind of traffic is an unfortunate part of your driving life, go with the automatic and the paddle shifters.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

The view of the 124 spider many will see

With this said, it is important to remember that one of the thrills of owning a convertible sports car is shifting through the gears. In this area, the 124 Spider does not disappoint. The six-speed manual transmission, driving the rear wheels, is buttery smooth with notchy gears and a near-seamless clutch in its operation and feel.

The engine likes, let me restate this…LOVES, to be pushed high in the rev band. Low-end torque is missing, but don’t worry as once above 1,500 rpm, the 1.4L turbo wants to be taken to redline. For some fun, enjoy the strong pull in third gear to 75 mph. There is some turbo lag to deal with, but compensating with the clutch and shift points makes the 124 Spider driving experience one that I recommend everyone try at least once.

The low center of gravity, a curb weight of 2,436 pounds and a 53/47 percent front-to-rear weight distribution deliver confident, consistent and nimble handling. The Touring Suspension pieces include double wishbone front, multi-link rear, electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering and stabilizer bars at both ends. The 195/50VR16 Yokohama Advan Sport V105 tires on 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, were grippy and didn’t fall off after repeated hard cornering. The 124 Spider dares you to find an open stretch of long drawn-out sweepers or tight corners to fling it from side-to-side.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The all-new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider was designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, home to the famous Pininfarina design house. Iconic Italian styling was the key to not only

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

A brand-new classic?

differentiate the 124 from the MX-5 Miata, but also harken back to the original, classic Spider. While both cars share the same general shape, there is no mistaking the 124 Spider from its MX-5 soulmate. Fiat stretched the front by three inches and the rear by two inches, resulting in a longer visual look that is accentuated by its low-slung 4.9-inch ground clearance.

Clean Fleet Report’s Classica model’s front end starts with almond-shaped projector headlights set under what look like eyelids. The honeycomb grille is smaller than the grille on the MX-5 and leads to a hood characterized by two domes. The sides are smooth, ending at the short trunk deck, dual exhaust tips, and downward/inward slanting taillights. Badging on the car is kept to the absolute minimum. The soft convertible roof, with an acoustic headliner, is manually operated and could not be easier to lower and raise.

The 124 Spider comes in seven exterior paint colors including Rosso Passione (Red), Bianco Gelato (White), Nero Cinema (Jet Black Metallic), Grigio Moda (Dark Gray Metallic), Bronzo Magnetico (Bronze Metallic) and tri-coat Bianco Perla (Crystal White Pearl). Grigio Argento (Gray Metallic) was on our test car.

Driving Experience: Interior

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider and MX-5 interiors are nearly identical. Fiat added soft touch surfaces and additional sound insulation to reduce NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness), resulting in a more refined and quite ride.

Depending on the person, the interior can be snug—and maybe even a deal breaker. The space needed for elbow, head and legroom, storage space, an infotainment system and multiple cup holders become the design challenge in a two-seater with a droptop. At 5’9”, I fit easily in the Spider, but it was a bit tight for a six-foot friend, so this is definitely a car that needs to be driven to find your comfort level.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider, interior

Fun, but tight spaces

The 124 Spider Classica comes with cloth seats that nicely keep the driver and passenger planted when cornering hard.  The seats are a long way down, so sliding into them isn’t as simple as launching into a SUV or truck. There is some travel in the seat adjustment and it reclines a bit, but once you find the closest position to being comfortable you can stop messing with the manual adjustments. I would have liked more bottom cushion padding and there was no lumbar adjustment. These are not as important if you are driving short distances. However, if thinking of taking a long road trip on open freeways, then investing in aftermarket seat cushions might not be a bad idea.

The dash layout is simple and clean. Three round gauges were deep set under a hood to help reduce glare because, as you soon find out with the top down, everything is pretty bright. Because performance is key, the tachometer is in the center of the three gauges and the largest of the three. The HVAC round knobs were center-placed just above the gearshift lever, making for easy use.

The Mazda-designed infotainment center continues to be among the most challenging to operate, so the 124 Spider suffers as a result. Our car had the optional Technology Collection that included the top/center dash-mounted seven-inch, color touch-screen display. Without volume and channel knobs on the dash, we found it cumbersome to make band and channel changes. It required multiple steps to control a single function, and the need to use the center console-mounted selector knob resulted in diverting the driver’s eyes from the road. The controls mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel helped some, but were limited in their range of functionality. Maybe in time it becomes an easy operation that can all be done by touch, but after a week and hundreds of miles we did not get the hang of the system.

This is not to take away from the four-speaker (including one in each of the seat headrests) sound system for the AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX radio with a USB input. An optional eight-speaker Bose system is available on the Lusso and Abarth trim levels.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider,interior

A top-down conversation piece

Fiat has obviously worked hard to keep wind and noise from inside the cabin. With the cloth top lowered, which is a very simple one-person, three-latch process, and the windows up, there is minimal wind hitting or swirling around the driver and passenger. I received an incoming call, which I took using the Bluetooth hands-free feature accessed by the steering wheel mounted controls. To my surprise the call was crystal clear with no wind noise; the caller’s voice came through the speakers in the seat headrests.

Convenience comes your way with cruise control, remote keyless door locks, power windows with one-touch down, power side mirrors, push button ignition, tilt steering column, A/C, carpeted floor mats, small but appreciated storage areas and two inconveniently placed cup holders. The trunk is adequate for two people on a weekend road trip, but bringing golf clubs, visiting wineries and lugging home cases of wine or antiquing should be left to the Fiat 500L or 500X.

Safety

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features including four airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system, rearview back-up camera, electronic stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and an anti-theft alarm/engine immobilizer.

The 2017 124 has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica, with optional equipment, had a MSRP of $26,290 excluding the $995 destination charge. Base MSRP for the 2017 124 Spider models, excluding the $995 destination charge are:

Classica: Manual Transmission                     $24,995

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Three trim levels, two transmissions, one engine

Classica: Automatic Transmission                 $26,345

Lusso: Manual Transmission                        $27,495

Lusso: Automatic Transmission                    $28,845

Abarth: Manual Transmission                       $28,195

Abarth: Automatic Transmission                            $29,545

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider comes with these warranties:

  • Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Four years/50,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Clean Fleet Report is a fan of sports cars, cars without tops and cars with manual transmissions. Give us the keys to one with all three and unbridled euphoria with unbounded glee sets in. We also value history, recognizing automobile companies that have designed and built iconic cars. Fiat is one of those companies and the 124 Spider is one of those cars.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Rarer than a Miata

Recognizing that the 124 Spider is largely based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata does not discount Fiat’s contribution to adding another fun sporty car to the world of the same-old, same-old offerings of sedans and SUVs. Yes, a family hauler is a necessity at times, but would you really own one if you didn’t have to? I know, rhetorical.

Fiat added Italian flair with a redesigned exterior, upped the luxury level with changes to the interior and noise reduction insulation. They then offered-up a different engine option: the turbocharged MultiAir engine. Its performance numbers and feel is comparable to the Mazda engine, especially when the added weight to the Fiat is considered against any horsepower or torque gains over the Mazda.

So with these distinctions, how to compare the two cars?

It comes down to styling, uniqueness and image of buying the 124 Spider over the MX-5. There are not many 124 Spiders on the road, so if you buy one, expect to get the same reactions we did—“What is that?” and “I didn’t know Fiat made a sports car.”

To a person, after a quick conversation, they all thought the 124 Spider was a pretty cool car.

We think you will too.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.