A little history lesson. FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) began in 1899 building small city cars for the masses, including the Cinquecento – or 500. So, nothing exciting…yet. Currently, Fiat’s parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles owns several other brands – Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep in the U.S. as well as Abarth, Lancia, and the very fun Alfa Romeo and the exotic Ferrari and Maserati. Now we are getting somewhere!
Back to the Fiat brand. In the mid-20th Century, post-WWII, saw Fiat retool into a major automotive company with the majority of its sales in Europe, but also including a lengthy run from 1908
Good things in small packages
to 1983 in the USA. When Fiat took over Chrysler and became FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), it reentered the American market in 2009 with the 500. Derivatives soon followed with the sporty 500 Abarth and the recently introduced 500e, four-door 500L and mini-crossover 500X (which had a cousin in the Jeep Renegade). Clean Fleet Report will start here with the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition (more on this name later) and work our way through the Fiat line-up, which will be reviewed separately.
The 2015 Fiat 500 Pop, Sport and Lounge base models come with a 1.4-liter, inline, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection, producing 101 hp and 97 lb-ft of torque through a five-speed manual transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 31 city/40 highway/34 combined. In 426 miles of 70-percent highway /30-percent city driving Clean Fleet Report averaged 35.9 mpg, which means the 10.5 gallon fuel tank would take you about 370 miles before needing a fill-up.
Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California our 70-percent highway /30-percent city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.
The original and the retro
Running on unleaded regular (with mid-grade recommended), the high-revving 84-cubic-inch engine was smooth and responsive, but not very fast, taking about 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. Helping a bit with peppiness and adding a fun factor, was the easy shifting five-speed manual, which provided more of a performance feel. A smart choice would be to get the optional turbocharged engine that kicks-out 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. If you like manual transmissions, go ahead and stay with the five-speed, but the six-speed automatic with Auto Stick is a slick mate for the turbocharged engine. Plus, it offers one big advantage when on the highway: at 70 mph the five-speed manual is turning 3,000 rpm while the six-speed automatic drops the engine down to 2,300 rpm. Why Fiat doesn’t offer a six-speed manual is a big question.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report’s 500 Lounge 1957 Edition with the five-speed manual transmission weighed in at a relatively light 2,366 lbs. If opting for the six-speed automatic the weight goes up a bit to 2,542 lbs. For comparison, a Mini Cooper with the 1.5-liter engine and a six-speed manual transmission, which the Fiat 500 is frequently matched-up to, weighs in at 2,605 lbs.
Does this bumper make me look fat?
The front-wheel drive 500 was fun to drive and handled the open road with confidence. Of all the small compact cars we have driven, even with the short 90.6-inch wheelbase, the 500 had the most stable feel at highway speeds and was unaffected by passing big rigs. Parking, as you can imagine for a car just over 11-feet long, was a breeze. It did not come equipped with a rear view camera, which was just fine, as there was no need for one.
Pointing the 500 where you wanted it to go resulted in ending-up in that desired spot, with the electric power steering being very subtle in its assist. The front and rear MacPherson suspension includes coil springs with twin-tube shock absorbers, producing a firm, but not stiff, ride with acceptable drift or pushing through extremely hard cornering. We also found the highway ride to be comfortable. The 500 comes with either Continental ContiProContact, Firestone Firehawk or Pirelli Cintuarto all-season 185/55R15 tires, mounted on 15-inch painted aluminum wheels.
The response and feel of the 500, even without the turbocharged engine and modified suspension and tires on the Abarth and Sport models, was a thing to enjoy. Wind and road noise was low, which is saying something for a relatively light vehicle with a short wheelbase, probably in part due to the aerodynamic design of the body.
The brakes, vented front with solid rear rotors, worked very well under all conditions, including late, last-second corner braking. Steady pressure delivered a desired brake force through the system, which included four-wheel power assist, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with brake assist, all-speed traction control (TCS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Fiat 500 is all about being retro, and it is done quite well in unmistakable Italian design. Clean Fleet Report was driving the Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition…a long name for a small car. The reference to 1957 (the year of the introduction of the nuova—new—cinguecento) comes from the two-toned paint scheme, retro badging, retro fascia with bright inserts and retro wheels, making this car reminiscent of the one so popular throughout Europe in the late 1950s and seen in many films from that era.
A little storage–until you fold down the back seats
To start with, the 500 is small, but not in an obvious or curious way compared to a Smart Fourtwo.
Up front, there is a fun face with large, round Halogen projector headlights and a mustache trim piece, above the mouth-like grill openings, and fog lamps. The 500 has an upright design with sides that slope inward towards the roof. A raked front windshield leads over the fixed glass roof to the rear glass on the hatch, which has a sharp angle sloping forward. Chrome pieces are at a minimum and used properly as accents.
As part of the Lounge 1957 Edition package, the four-slot, 15-inch wheels are painted the body color (in our case, Celeste Blu) and have chrome flat dish hubcaps along with a chrome wheel ring.
All-in-all, it’s a completely unique design from anything else you will see on the road—and pure Italian all the way.
Driving Experience: Interior
The first thing you notice when getting into a Fiat 500 is how small it seems. But the smallness does not translate into being cramped, because at 5’ 9”, I fit just fine, as did my six-foot-tall friend, including ample headspace. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and tilt column along with the heated leather seats made finding a comfortable seating position easy. But, and there is always a but, the tight fit between the doors and seat edges mean you should not even attempt to find anything you dropped until getting out of the car. And, the contortionist moves needed to reach the shoulder belts once seated upfront are the result of the smallness of the interior. If you are thinking of hauling around people larger than about four-feet-tall, be forewarned that the rear seat is not meant for grown humans. The best bet with the 500 is to lay the 50/50 split rear seats flat and enjoy zipping around with enough luggage space for two to have a great weekend trip.
All the Italian curves you would expect
The 500 dash is clean, basic and everything is well within reach of the driver. But, and there is that dastardly but again, the Tom Tom navigation screen appears to be an afterthought, as it is
An intrusion into my space
inserted right at eye-level mid-dash and is a distraction when driving. This device also acts to sync Bluetooth through the Blue&me system for mobile phone hands-free, voice-activated communication, so it is necessary to install it into the dash when starting the car. Thankfully, once synced, you can remove the Tom Tom device, put it in the glovebox, and the Bluetooth continues to work. Of course this means you no longer have navigation, but, heck, how can you get upset when getting lost in a fun driving car?
Our 500 Lounge 1957 Edition had the six-speaker, Fiat Premium Audio System with AM/FM/CD/MP3, SiriusXM (One-year subscription included), all of which can be managed by the steering wheel mounted controls and a media hub with USB, AUX and audio input jacks.
Convenience features include power windows with one-touch down, power door locks, power and heated foldaway exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control, floor mats, remote start, keyless entry, 12V and USB power outlets, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear window wiper/washer, security alarm, and a tire service kit in lieu of a spare tire.
The 2015 Fiat 500 has an Overall 4-Star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating, with a 5-Star Side Crash, and a 4-Star rating for Rollover and Frontal protection. Safety features include seven airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, rear park assist, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2015 Fiat 500 has a base price of $17,965 with the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition Clean Fleet Report was driving had a MSRP of $22,650. All prices include the $850 Destination Charge. Option packages will add to these prices.
All 2015 Fiat 500 models come with these warranties:
Basic Limited Four-year/50,000-mile
Brakes, Wiper Blades, Clutch, Windshield and Rear Window, Wheel Alignment and Balancing One-year/12,000-mile
Roadside Assistance Five-year/100,000-mile
Observations: 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition
I live near a high school and usually, when driving by the students, I don’t draw any attention. But, when driving the 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition, all of a sudden I was getting stares,
The looks for the beach
double-takes and pointing from…teenage girls. Guaranteed they were not looking at me, but were reacting to the cool, retro 500 cruising by as they trudged to class. This was no surprise because watching Fiat’s television commercials you will see pretty quickly to whom they have targeted this car: females, 21 – 30, single, hip and fun-loving.
The Fiat 500 is fun to drive, easy to park and handle. The base engine we drove in the 500 Lounge 1957 Edition is underpowered, but it gets good fuel economy. The design is unto itself.
So what’s not to like about this cool looking small car? If you absolutely do not need a car that can haul around adults or your family and their gear, then the 500 could be a good car. Otherwise, it’s a second or third car. The Fiat 500 is a statement car that will draw attention and says something about your lifestyle and outlook on life.
Treat yourself to a test drive of this fun car. You just may drive home in something you never thought would be in your garage.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2013 Fiat 500e
Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking
First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade
Spacious Interior But Little Relationship To The Cute 500
“Italian automotive design” congers up the great cars of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo. Italian fashion icons such as Armani, Gucci and Versace come to mind. Some of the most beautiful vehicles ever built come from Italy and makes car buffs ooh and aah at concours d’elegance worldwide. So what design connection does the 500L have with these brands and the legacy of Italian design?
A style of its own
The 500L is unique in its design and has what Fiat says “…offers customers the Italian style of the Fiat 500 with more space and functionality to suit their lifestyle.” While the 500L comes from the same people that bring us the cute 500, it does not mean it shares its design DNA. Cover the Fiat logo on the steering wheel in the 500L and you would not readily guess you were in an Italian designed car. From the outside, the 500L does have a flair and style that set it apart from anything else on the road, but the connection with the very Italian 500 is minimal.
Fiat re-entered the United States car market in 2009, after a 25-year hiatus, with the introduction of the sporty, fun Fiat 500 two-door hatchback, known to enthusiasts as the Cinquencento. This small, highly maneuverable car comes in four variants and was Fiat’s only model until the 2014 introduction of the 500L, with the L standing for Large. So what is the 500L and what did it add to the Fiat line-up?
The 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking Clean Fleet Report drove for a week came with the turbocharged, liquid-cooled 16-valve 1.4-liter Inline Four MultiAir, SOHC engine with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection. This 83-cubic-inch cast iron block engine with aluminum cylinder head produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through Fiat’s Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 22 city/30 highway/25 combined. This is the same engine in the Fiat 500 Abarth.
In 412 miles of 65-percent/35-percent highway/city driving Clean Fleet Report averaged 26.3 mpg, which means we were a bit better than the EPA numbers and, with the 13.2 gallon fuel tank,
Better than the EPA on the highway
could have gone around 345 miles before stopping to refill.
Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California the 65-percent/35-percent highway/city driving pattern we experienced is far more real world and is why we report it to you.
Running on unleaded regular, the 1.4L engine was smooth cruising at highway speeds, but when first starting the car had slight a “diesel” sound and we sensed a bit of a rough idle. We would have liked more oomph to get the 3,254 pound 500L Trekking up-to-speed; as even with the turbocharged engine, it felt underpowered. The six-speed automatic, with ECO mode, handled highway tasks competently, but hard shifts were felt during acceleration when launching from a full stop or rising through slower speeds, such as in-town traffic or stop-and-go on the highway. Placing the center console mounted shift lever in the M+/- position, you can manually take the transmission through gear selections and avoid the rough shifts.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report’s front wheel drive 500L Trekking was equipped with 225/45R17 all-season tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels with a seven hole design for a nice looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat touts the “touring-tuned chassis” and “exceptional rigidity” that deliver “improved road-holding,” which comes from the McPherson front suspension with Koni selective damping front strut and rear shocks.
Drive it first
My take was the 500L Trekking handled well to its limits, including being stable and generally smooth, but a bit stiff, at highway speeds. There was noticeable body roll, whether it was on a sweeping highway corner at 70+ mph or slower, tight twisties. When taking your test drive, make sure the dealer lets you get on the highway for a few miles to judge the ride comfort yourself. Wind noise was low except when the optional sunroof was open at more than 30 mph.
Turning came via a power rack-and-pinion with variable-speed assisted sensitivity Electric Power Steering (EPS). I found the steering to be vague, as in a lack of direct feedback when I really wanted to feel connected to the road.
Stopping was through the single piston, front vented and solid rear rotors. It took me a while to get a handle on the brake consistency and feel before I had confidence the brakes were doing a good job. The 500L Trekking comes with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Brake Assist, all-speed Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
Driving Experience: Interior
The first things you notice when sliding behind the wheel of the 2015 Fiat 500L is the easy access through a wide door leading to a high driver seat position. You’re
A warm & inviting space
inside a large and accommodating interior that includes a spacious rear seat for five with excellent leg room and very good storage behind that rear seat even when it is in the upright position. So far, so good; but when buckling-in, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a comfortable driving position, partially due to the upright steering column (which can both tilt and telescope) and steering wheel position that is more akin to a bus. While the heated, leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats had manual height adjusters and good lumbar (4-way power adjustment for the driver) and thigh bolstering support, I felt the seats up front were too firm.
There were also a few oddities to the interior design, which I’ll enumerate:
- The distance between the driver and front passenger seats was too far from the armrests for their comfortable use;
- The driver and front passenger seat heat controls are awkwardly located on the lower front side of the seats;
- The center console cup holders are too low and far forward for the driver to conveniently – and safely – reach when using a standard size cup;
- The floor-mounted parking brake handle was flimsy and felt like it would come off in your hand if yanked too hard;
- The center armrest needed to be lifted from the down position to attach the front seat belts;
- The rear headroom is good up-to a six-footer, where it starts getting tight;
- There are no rear HVAC vents or power ports;
- There is only one cup holder in the rear seat center armrest;
- There is an overly large air vent on the top of the dash; and
- The screen for the sunroof can be closed when the roof panel is open – a feature that is not unique to the 500L – and debris can collect on the screen and would need to be brushed off before the power sliding glass roof could be closed.
You will appreciate the excellent sightlines in what Fiat calls their “Loft – a trendsetting environment with segment-exclusive glass…for panoramic views.” No argument, the visuals were the best
Flying – interfering – buttresses
for any car we have tested, with one exception: a 500L design quirk of spit A-pillars. Maybe it is an engineering thing, but I could not figure out why Fiat needs to have two pillars running from the roof to the front fenders since they added a visual distraction to what should have been a very clean view out the windshield.
The rear seats easily accommodate three on a 60/40 bench seat that was a bit too firm. When that rear seat needs to be folded for more storage space, the 500L has the Tilt, Tumble and Slide system that worked easily by rotating the seatback down and then flipping the seatback and bottom against the driver and front passenger seatbacks. It worked well and the resulting open space was a nice feature.
The Fiat 500L Trekking dash is non-flashy with a straight-forward, conveniently laid-out design. The combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls are exactly where you want and need them. Our car was equipped with the Trekking Collection 5, which included the ParkView rear backup camera
Your basic functional dash
and ParkSense rear parking assist features. The Beats Audio system with Digital Sound Processing (DSP) and an eight-channel amplifier kicks-out good sound with six speakers and a trunk-mounted subwoofer. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio controls that are easy to use for the SiriusXM satellite radio (One-year subscription included) and the AM/FM/CD/MP3/HD Radio and voice command with Bluetooth for your mobile phone. Completing the infotainment system is a 6.5-inch touchscreen, with Uconnect, navigation, audio input jacks with iPod control and USB port. All in all, it was an easy system to operate with a quick learning curve.
The 500L had convenience features such as power windows with one-touch up and down, power door locks, power exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, 12V power outlet, tilt and telescoping steering column, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear view camera and cruise control.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The 500L Trekking is offered in 11 different exterior colors, including our test car’s Giallo (Yellow) and the optional Bianco (White) roof, which is also available on the Trekking in Nero (Black) or the body color. The 500L has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work and adds tasteful black insets below the rear hatch and on the front fascia. The front-end lighting is composed of Bi-halogen projector-type High Intensity Displacement headlights (HID) and Halogen projector fog lights integrated into the lower fascia.
I like the look of the 500L Trekking and give Fiat credit for bringing their “small-wide vehicle architecture” to the United States.
Safety and Convenience
The 2015 Fiat 500L has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration but is equipped with seven airbags, rearview camera and in-dash monitor, engine immobilizer and
Ready to take on your loads
security alarm, Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), brake assist, hill start assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2015 Fiat 500L has a base price of $19,345 with the 500L Trekking model Clean Fleet Report was driving having a MSRP of $29,795, including the $900 Destination Charge.
All 2015 Fiat 500L models come with these warranties:
- Basic Four-year/50,000-mile
- Powertrain Four-year/50,000-mile
- Rust-Through Five-year/Unlimited mile
- Roadside Assistance Four-year/Unlimited mile
Observations: 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking
So the 2015 Fiat 500L is supposed to be about “Italian automotive design.”
Unique, but no cinquecento
It is unique in its design and I do think it’s a good design, but I’m not convinced it’s ready to join even the cute 500 on the lower rungs of the Ital design world.
But, if, like me, you like the 500L design, then by all means you should take it for a test drive. If you have a family that hauls around lots of stuff, then take a look at the 500L, because for a nicely equipped and versatile car for under $20,000, it should be on your consideration list. Also, while on your shopping trip you would be looking at the Kia Soul, Mini Countryman, Scion xB, Yaris 5 Door, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa 5-Door. None of these vehicles offer the interior space of the 500L, but they offer similar features and capabilities.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
First Drive: 2015 Kia Soul EV
Road Test: 2015 Yaris 5-Door
Road Test: 2014 Nissan Note
Fiat 500e Combines Style & Performance
Ed. note: Up-front, we’ll apologize Meredith Willson and anyone who’s ever performed in The Music Man.
It’s all about fun with a capital “F” and that stands for Fiat. And that rhymes with nothing that relates to electric cars. But more importantly it does not stand for any of that bad old stuff that Fiat used to stand for. The Fiat 500e is flat-out the most fun of the pack of electric cars that I have driven over the past two decades. It’s got the sportiness of the original EV1 with a hip Italian package.
Yes, it’s a limited vehicle, as is its gasoline-powered cousin. Ostensibly a four-passenger vehicle, the two-door Fiat 500 with either an electric or gas powertrain is really a two-passenger vehicle with some space for small people or children in the rear, particularly with average-size American males in front. Also, it really is a city car. The combination of the Fiat’s short wheelbase and American freeways full of big rigs and expansion joints is not something to be enjoyed long-term. Of course, the 500e solves that by offering an approximate 100-mile range (less at highway speeds, of course) to keep you from having to test your endurance in that environment.
The 500e’s natural habitat is the city. That is where the fun begins. The zippy and aerodynamic car gets low center of gravity created by its 24 kWh liquid-cooled/heated lithium-ion battery pack, which is located in the middle of the car to enhance its handling. As was disclosed recently, the 500e was largely engineered by Fiat’s supplier, Robert Bosch. The company tailored a suspension with increased spring rates and unique front-strut and rear-shock tuning. The 16.3:1 electronic power steering is responsive, delivering a feeling more akin to the Abarth performance version of the 500 than its tamer standard trim. Some of that performance has to be attributed to the torquey 111 hp (83 kW) electric motor that drives the front wheels.
Fiat doesn’t shy away from quirkiness and there’s plenty here, not all of it as charming as the hard-charging performance. the push-bottom transmission is one. It doesn’t hamper the operation of the car, but it is definitely not a typical set up.
Fiat 500e’s plug is in back
Fiat (and Chrysler) CEO Sergio Marchionne is famous for repeatedly complaining that his company would lose about $10,000 on each 500e sold. With that kind of attitude, the presumption among the automotive media was that the car would end up a weak representative designed to cut corners on cost rather than on the track. How wrong they were, as evidenced by the report above. But some evidence of cost-saving is evident. The connection for charging was placed in a location that allowed Fiat to keep the same basic body configuration as the gas version–behind the fuel filler door. The problem with that is most chargers are located and vehicles are designed for a charging port in the front of the vehicle. That’s leads to situations where you have to back the 500e into a charging spot. Not a problem, given its short wheelbase and tight steering, but a complication that shouldn’t have been necessary. Then there’s the key start. This was the first electric car I’ve been in that required a key inserted to start operation. With many gas-only and hybrids going keyless, it seemed like another shortcut.
The flipside of all of the complaints about the cost of making the vehicle is Fiat is retailing the vehicle for $32,500 (delivered price including destination charge) and offering discounted leases at $199/month. The lease puts it in line with competition from Nissan, Ford and Chevy.
Around town, as I’ve noted, the 500e is a blast. The range is long enough that most short runs won’t cause any stress. Or it may be that because the drive is so much fun, you forget to focus on range issues. Of course, being such a fun drive also means there’s a temptation is to use it hard and extend its use whenever possible. So looking for charging spots becomes part of the daily drive. On a typical day I left with 42 miles of range and decided to see what an hour of charging would do. After an hour it showed a 60-mile range, but that dropped quickly to 53 miles after a block or two. Just another bump on the road of getting used to living with an electric car. The good news with the 500e is however far you go or whatever direction you point it, you’re heading for a fun ride.
2013 Fiat 500e
Related articles you might enjoy:
The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy
Toyota’s RAV4 EV – First Drive
Battle of the Esses – Tesla Model S vs. Mercedes S-Class