Events: A Day at the Track

Events: A Day at the Track

27 Brands and 52 Cars at MPG Track Day

Motor Press Guild (MPG) is the Southern California trade association for automotive journalists. MPG’s goal of bringing together writers with automotive industry representatives is best demonstrated by its annual Track Day at Willow Springs Raceway. For those of you that have never been to Willow Springs, it is guaranteed you are familiar with this track as it has appeared in hundreds of commercials. Recognizable by its twisting track with extreme elevation changes and barren landscape, Willow Springs offers a challenging test for journalists and racers alike.

MPG Track Day

Motor Press Guild hits the track at Willow Springs

In early November, journalists headed 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles to strap on a helmet and get behind the wheel of some pretty cool cars. After a safety talk, warnings and driving rules, off we went in a very orderly and polite manner to get in as many cars as we could in a seven-hour timeframe.

My first drive was the 2017 Subaru BRZ Series Yellow. This limited-edition version is designed for track use with improved performance and handling and includes a Track Mode setting. In other words, it’s ideal for a few laps on a racetrack. A quick summary is the car was an absolute blast to drive and continues the good reputation Subaru has for designing fun sports cars.

I then got into these 2017 cars that all begged to be driven fast around the track.

  • Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
  • BMW X3 M40i
  • Dodge Durango SRT
  • Fiat 124 Abarth
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
  • VW Jetta GLI

On To the Off-Road

The auto manufacturers also brought a few SUVs and trucks for off-road driving. The off-road course is intense, with a near-sheer drop off the mountain surrounding Willow Springs Raceway. There were several to choose from, and I opted for the Land Rover Discovery turbocharged V6 diesel. You want rock climbing in luxury? Look no further!

MPG Track Day

The off-road course offers some challenges

The permanent 4WD utilizes Land Rover’s All-Terrain Progress Control technology. When engaged, the air suspension lifts for an additional 2.95-inches of ground clearance, and the speed can be set for as slow as 1.2 mph for a safe and confident feeling using the Hill Descent Control. I say safe and confident because the rutted, scree we were descending, in a near straight down pitch, required this fantastic technology to get to the bottom of the hill without scratching the roof.

Hot Laps

Next up was a visit to Willow Springs second and smaller track, the Streets Of Willow, where three cars were staged with factory, professional drivers that would provide white-knuckle hot laps.

MPG Track Day

Did someone say fast cars? And faster drivers

I had the opportunity to ride (maybe hang on is a better description!) with Patrick Long in the Porsche Panamera Executive AWD, Joel Miller in the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring and Adam Seaman thrashing a BMW M3. If you ever get the opportunity to have a professional driver, especially one from a factory race team, take you around a track in a high-performance car, don’t make the mistake of saying “no.” It is a blast!

The AWD Porsche Panamera Executive and the RWD BMW M3 were far more powerful cars than the RWD Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. So, while the rear end was sliding on the Porsche and BMW, the Mazda was controlled and smooth through the corners, and tracked like a MX-5 Miata is known to track.

It was fascinating to watch how each driver/car approached the corners differently, before all hitting the apex in the same place. As an automotive journalist, experiences with people that really really know how to handle a car are invaluable for my reviews.

The Real Test–Country Roads

To slow things down a bit as the day was coming to a close, I drove a few cars on the country roads surrounding Willow Springs Raceway.

  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti
  • Mini Countryman SE PHEV
  • Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition
  • Volvo V90
  • VW Atlas

After all the excitement of driving on the tracks and off-road, it may seem a let-down to drive on regular roads, but this though could not be further from the truth. Even on a short drive, journalists can get a quick feel for a car they will later request for a longer-term loan.

MPG Track Day

We were glad to get a preview of the plug-in Mini

Clean Fleet Report tests cars from seven to ten days before we write a ‘Road Test’ review. This is the best way we know to give you, our readers, the best evaluation of a car so you can add it to your shopping consideration list. Therefore, full reviews on many of the listed cars will be posted on Clean Fleet Report in the coming months.

The auto manufacturers work hard to develop good relationships and communication with journalists. They know that without honest and objective reviews, getting out the word, to you the consumer, would be difficult at best. Clean Fleet Report thanks all the participating auto manufacturers that were part of the Motor Press Guild’s Willow Springs Track Day.

Road Test: 2017 Fiat 500e

Road Test: 2017 Fiat 500e

All-Electric Cool Little Hatchback

“And comin’ off the line when the light turns green
Well she blows ’em outta the water like you never seen
I get pushed out of shape and it’s hard to steer
When I get rubber in all four gears”1

2017 Fiat 500e

An EV hot rod?

In the summer of 1963 the Beach Boys had the hit Little Deuce Coupe about a hot rod 1932 Ford Coupe. Fast forward 54 years and some of the same emotions can be found in a 2017 Fiat 500e. This all-electric version of Fiat’s 500 (or Cinquecento) burns rubber (only one gear though!), the front wheel drive torque steer can be a handful (making it hard to steer) and it easily beats most cars off the line. That though, pretty much ends the similarities. So while the 500e may not outperform a Deuce Coupe, rest assured it is a blast to drive.

The 500e joined its gasoline-powered siblings in 2013. Sold only in California and Oregon, the rest of the country unfortunately is really missing out on a good thing. Even with acceptable limitations versus its competitors (not having the have longest all-electric driving range, the fastest charging or largest interior), the 500e is designed as a city car to be zippy and fun to drive. It does this carrying two adults comfortably (the whole time I had the car the rear seat was in the folded-flat position) and carry a reasonable amount of your stuff as you tool around town running errands.

Smooth, Quiet and Zippy

Turning the key awakens the dash gauges to a series of flashing lights, telling you the car is ready to drive. This array of electronics is no little thing and is not just for show. Without any engine noise or vibration, the dash readouts are your only indication the motor was good-to-go, and you can get on with it. And get on with it you will, probably more aggressively than you would in a gasoline-powered car. There is just something about an EV that begs, no, more like teases you to blast off the line.

The 83 Kilowatt (kW) electric motor puts out 111 horsepower and 147 pounds-feet of torque. The beauty of that torque is its availability at any speed, any time. With the single-speed

2017 Fiat 500e

The only Fiat with a plug

automatic transmission, there are no gear shifts to interrupt the power reaching the front wheels. The acceleration is smooth, quiet and zippy—and quite addictive. Sort of like not being able to eat just one potato chip, the 500e lures you into its seamless power and puts you into a place where needing that acceleration rush can’t be quenched by merely tooling around town driving sensibly slow.

The 500e was fun to drive, and maybe even could be considered a form of automotive entertainment. Around town, as a city car, it is completely in its element. The rack and pinion with electric power steering made handling in-and-out of parking spaces and navigating the tightest of alleys a breeze.

Surprisingly, out on the open road, even with the short 90.6-inch wheelbase, the 500e was smooth and was unaffected by 18-wheelers whizzing by. The 500e felt confident, is well-balanced with responsive steering when taking corners hard or finding a few curves to test the 185/55R Firestone Firehawk GT tires. The end result is that pointing the 500e where you wanted it to go resulted in ending up in that desired spot.

The regenerative braking system, with vented front and solid rear rotors, worked very well under all conditions. Regenerative braking converts energy into the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. Steady pedal pressure delivered a desired brake force through the four-wheel, power-assist, anti-lock brakes.

Charging the lithium-ion battery (Li-Ion for short) packs the power for the 500e. Charging  is accomplished through a single plug-in port offering two charging speeds:

  • 120V (Level 1) 24 hours From discharged to a full charge
  • 240V (Level 2) 4 hours               From discharged to a full charge

Back to the Future Design

The Fiat 500 line-up is all about being retro, having unmistakable Italian design and fun. Based on the iconic Cinquecento (first launched in 1957 and sold in various forms in the United States through 1983), the new 500 was introduced in 2012, followed by the all-electric 500e in 2013. Offered in two trim levels, with the eSport adding exterior color accents and different

2017 Fiat 500e

The old & the new

wheels, the 500e has a fun face with large, round Halogen projector headlights and a mustache trim piece above the mouth-like grill openings. The 500e has an upright design with sides that slope inward towards the roof. A raked front windshield leads over the 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.

You can quickly differentiate the 500e from its gasoline-powered siblings by the holes in the front and rear lower fascia where the fog lamps reside. The very subtle 500e badging cleanly lets the world know you are not burning any fossil fuel. Clean Fleet Report’s 500e had the $500 optional two-toned Electric Orange and White, tri-coat pearl exterior paint. This very eye-catching paint scheme was reminiscent of the tasty Creamsicle ice cream treat. Yummy!

All-in-all, it’s a completely unique design from anything else you will see on the road and pure Italian all the way.

Italian Styling

The 2017 Fiat 500e interior comes well-equipped, with gauges and controls conveniently located. The cabin seems small, but in reality, for the driver and passenger, it really isn’t. The

2017 Fiat 500e, interior

Room for two, but not much more

heated seats, with manual adjustments, are comfortable and headroom is ample even for six-footers. There is a tight fit between the doors and seat edges, meaning you should not even attempt to find anything you dropped until getting out of the car.

Be forewarned, the rear seat is not meant for grown humans as it must have been designed for hauling around people no larger than about four-feet tall. The best bet with the 500 is to lay

2017 Fiat 500e,interior

A well-laid-out dash

the 50/50 split rear seats flat and enjoy zipping around with enough storage space for in-town errands.

The 500e dash is clean, basic and everything is well within reach of the driver. Redesigned in 2016, the dash has a unique European look with a push button gear selector and a five–inch color display. Our 500e had the six speaker Fiat Premium Audio System with UConnect and GPS navigation. The AM/FM/CD/MP3, SiriusXM (one-year subscription included), all of which can be managed by the leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted controls, is augmented by 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. Our test 500e came with the $795 optional power sunroof with sliding sunshade.

Safety and Convenience Features

The 2017 Fiat 500e has not been rated by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety features include seven airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, rear park assist, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system, brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 Fiat 500e has a base MSRP of $32,995, excluding the $995 destination charge. Option packages will add to these prices.  A note about pricing: As of June 2017 when this review was written, Fiat was offering substantial discounts and leasing opportunities for the 500e. So don’t look too closely at the MSRP, but check what you will actually pay monthly and your lease residual. Keen negotiation could get you a very sweet deal.

All 2017 Fiat 500e models come with these warranties:

Basic                                            Four years/50,000 miles

2017 Fiat 500e

It’s the low-down

Powertrain                                 Four years/50,000 miles

Battery                                        Eight years

Corrosion                                    Twelve years/unlimited miles

Roadside Assistance                 Four years/unlimited miles

Observations: 2017 Fiat 500e

Mentioned earlier is the acceptable limitation of not having the most all-electric driving range. Acceptable, of course, is a relative term, and has a different importance for shoppers looking to get into an electric vehicle. The acceptable part of the 84-mile driving range is that you know this range going in and will not be surprised, though other EVs may have driving ranges in excess of two hundred miles. What also makes this driving range acceptable is that you can get into a 2017 500e for an amazingly low commitment, as noted above.

2017 Fiat 500e, hatchback, storage

The best use of the back seat

The upside for the Fiat 500e is that it is fun to drive, easy to park and handles great. The design is unique compared to anything else you will see on the road. If you do not need a car that can haul around four adults, then the 500e could be an ideal second car. So, if you spend the majority of your time negotiating the craziness of city and short-haul highway driving, the 500e might be right for you.

Treat yourself to a test drive of this fun car. You just may drive home in something you never thought possible would be in your garage.

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

1Written by Roger Christian, Brian Wilson • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Long Term Road Test: Fiat 500e

Top 10 Electric Cars

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.

Long Term Road Test: Fidelio Fiat 500e

Long Term Road Test: Fidelio Fiat 500e

The Cutest Electric Car in the World

Most people understand that we are facing a climate crisis. Much of global warming comes from burning carbon–which creates CO2, which accumulates and, thanks to the greenhouse effect, keeps more of the Earth’s heat in, leading to rising temperatures, and all the consequences.

Driving an electric car is a positive response to this crisis. The Fiat 500e is one of the most affordable ones-and it’s a joy to drive.

Fiat 500e interior

An update from the old world 

It’s certainly the cutest electric car out there. The retro design is based on the 1957-1975 500, which served as Italy’s VW Beetle or Mini—an affordable and beloved people’s car. The updated gasoline model arrived in the U.S. in 2011 and, in 2013, the all-electric version debuted.

Fiat graciously sent me the Celeste Blue model with the black and steam (white) interior I ordered for a three-month test. When the car was delivered, I photographed it, and a rainbow came out. That was a good omen.

Driving Is Fun

The driving experience has been wonderful. With 600 extra pounds of batteries over the gas version, the 500e sits firm and stable on the road.

The old-fashioned dash panel brings a smile. Chrome circles surround the gauges and controls, and the white plastic panels emulate the original car’s painted metal surfaces.

But this is no retro ride. It’s got full climate control, loads of airbags, heated seats, a navigation system, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth and much more. The white leather steering wheel gives an upscale look and feel, like something from Coach.

Fiat 500e transmission

Four buttons to choose from

The 83 kW motor puts out 111 horsepower and 147 pounds-feet of torque. It moves the nearly 3,000-pound 500e along like a mini rocket.

The standard gasoline version has more horsepower (135), but much less torque (97), so the 500e is more fun. The one-speed transmission (no shifting needed with electric motors) has a set of four push buttons on the console (Park-Reverse-Neutral-Drive).

The 500e’s 24 kWh lithium-ion battery is rated at 84 miles per charge, although with careful driving, I often charged it up to a reading of as much as 104 miles. The battery comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

For electrics, the EPA uses the MPGe calculation in place of MPG (no gallons). The 500e earns 121 City, 103 Highway, and 112 Combined. I averaged 138.2 MPGe driving just over 2,800 miles. The Smog and Greenhouse Gas numbers are both top-score 10s.

Going Everywhere But Far

I took my little Fiat everywhere, except on longer trips. I didn’t want to risk running out of charge. It easily handled my 18-mile-each-way commute every day and went on a variety of errands around town.

Thanks to the folding rear seats and hatchback, I carried my upright bass to orchestra rehearsals and concerts. I schlepped blues band gear to shows. I hauled loads of groceries.

2016 Fiat 500e, storage

The hatch gives easy access to ample storage

I did most of my charging at work, on a nice set of six ChargePoint units. I plugged in when I arrived, and by late morning, the ChargePoint charger sent me a text that the battery was full. I went down and unplugged, so another EV driver could charge up.

We have an informal community of EV drivers at work, and people are excited about their cars and want to talk about them.

Charging at 240 volts (Level 2) at work takes only a few hours. At home, at 120 volts (Level 1), it takes overnight and then some. If you own an EV, you should look into installing your own Level 2 charger.

Quiet Bliss

Driving is blissfully silent, with minimal road or wind noise, which means great music listening.

The simple instrument panel features a center round gauge that prominently displays digital speed and range. On the left, there’s a graphical and numerical display of battery charge. On the right, you can monitor driving behavior with colors on a curved bar. Eco—green—is normal driving. Power—red—is when you’re accelerating hard for passing or entering the freeway. Charge—blue—indicates regenerative braking, which helps recharge the battery without plugging in.

2016 Fiat 500e

All you need to know–in color

My daily charge at work cost about $2 to $2.50. Electricity would be cheaper at night at home. The window sticker states that the estimated annual fuel cost is $600, a $6,000 savings over the average car. And maintenance costs are very low for EVs, with no oil changes and fewer moving parts to break.

My car retailed at $33,190. However, most of these cars are leased, and some amazing deals are available. Federal and state rebates help make it affordable. Gas-powered 500s start at just $18,490.

I fell for my baby blue Fiat 500e, and named him Fidelio. I’ll truly miss having him around. He was totally charming, relaxing to commute in, and handled all my normal driving needs. And for longer trips, we just took the family car.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

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Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500 Lounge 1957 Edition

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.

 

 

 

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X AWD

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X AWD

Versatile, On/Off Road Compact Crossover

Clean Fleet Report usually ends a review by encouraging you to go take a test drive at a local dealer. This time though we are changing it up a bit, with marching orders to go drive the 2016 Fiat 500X AWD before reading this or any other review. Seriously? Well, sort of. Our point is that if you get a feel for the 500X AWD with a blank slate, free from opinions or biases (yes, this is a thing with Fiats and many people) that you will be well-served.

But since we are here, let’s get into what makes the 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD a very worthy car for your purchase consideration.

Introduced in 2015, the 2016 Fiat 500X is the fifth model to come from the storied Italian company, joining the 500e, 500, 500C Abarth and 500L. The 500X shares the same platform as the Jeep Renegade, both of which are built in Melfi, Italy. Each has its difference that makes it attractive to different buyers. We earlier reviewed the Jeep Renegade and also took a look at the front-wheel drive version of the 500X; now we’ll take a look at the 500X AWD, which is quite a different animal.

Drivetrain

2016 Fiat 500X AWD

A competent package with great fuel economy

Clean Fleet Report drove a 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD for a week which was equipped with a 2.4L, naturally aspirated single overhead cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine producing 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Running on regular gasoline, the 500X AWD has an EPA rating of 21 city/30 highway/24 combined fuel economy, putting it in our 30 MPG AWD Club. Clean Fleet Report tested the 500X AWD over mostly highways and some mountain roads and achieved a respectable combined average of 27.8 mpg. Helping to reach this number was the nine-speed automatic transmission. When in ninth gear at 70 miles per hour, the engine was only turning at 1,500 rpms.

The 2.4L was smooth both around-town driving and cruising at highway speeds, but offered an unspectacular 0-60 time around 9.6 seconds, which unfortunately is about the same as its competitors in this class of small crossovers. When climbing even the slightest grade, the nine-speed automatic tended to hunt for the right gear to move its 3,278 pounds. The remedy for this was easy. Use the Dynamic Selector system and opting for the transmission’s Sport mode and manually shift into ninth gear. The two other drive modes are Auto and Traction+, with the latter for snow, icy and slushy road conditions.

For comparison, the base power plant for the 500X AWD is a turbocharged 1.4L single overhead cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine that produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through Fiat’s six-speed automatic transmission. That combination delivers an EPA rating of 25 city/34 highway/28 combined.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2016 Fiat 500X AWD

A road warrior that can venture off-road as well

Clean Fleet Report’s all-wheel drive 500X was equipped with Continental ContiPro Contact 215/55R18 all-season tires, mounted on 18-inch aluminum wheels with an attractive spoke-like design. It made for a nice-looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat says the 500X has “engaging driving dynamics synonymous with the Fiat brand.” There are many ways to interpret this statement, but Clean Fleet Report felt the taut suspension and heavy steering response was not at all similar to the other Fiat models we have tested. But it was unique in a good way. The heaviness was odd at first as most cars we test have electrically-assisted power steering set so sensitive that it is sloppy and does not offer a good feel for the road. The 500X AWD also has electric power rack-and-pinion steering, but Fiat did good job of matching it with the suspension. That’s a MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and the rear struts, coil springs and stabilizer bars that make for a very sure-footed driving compact crossover.

The 500X was stable at highway speeds, where all our high-speed cornering and maneuvers performed as desired. The 500X AWD is not a sports car and isn’t marketed as such, but compared to the sibling 500L (and you really should not compare them as they are completely different vehicles), it handles far better whether in town or on the open road.

Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to drive on icy roads with about a two-inch covering of fresh, light snow and even found an open paved area where we could do some good old fashioned donuts. We got it up to about 25 mph with the transmission in the Traction+ setting, and had a blast looping and making some tight and not-so-tight esses to see if we could get the 500X AWD to slip or spin. Between the all-wheel drive, all-speed traction control and electronic stability control, all we were able to accomplish were big smiles as we stayed firmly planted to the ground.

Stopping was very good, confident, solid and straight through the single piston, front vented and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The 500X AWD comes with an anti-lock brake system, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Driving Experience: Interior

2016 Fiat 500X AWD,interior

A roomy little car

Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seat positions. The black, premium cloth front seats have six-way manual adjustments. With the manual tilt and

telescoping steering column, a fairly good driver seating position was not hard to find (a lumbar adjustment would have been a nice addition) and long trips did not cause noticeable leg or back fatigue. The front passenger seat folds flat, there are two glove boxes and a front center sliding armrest with storage.

The rear seat can accommodate five adults (four is more conducive to their comfort, though) with ample leg room. However, if the driver or front passenger are tall, then leg room could be compromised. There is adequate storage with the 60/40 folding rear seat in its upright position. When folded, the extra storage easily allows for larger items and for two on an extended road trip would be ideal. Sight lines are generally very good, with a caveat that at times the beefy A pillar could block some of the front view. This is a matter of getting used to the design and learning where to look, which became easier as we spent more time in the driver’s seat.

2016 Fiat 500X AWD,interior

A dash with logic and style

The Fiat 500X dash has a clean, straight-forward, distinctive design with everything laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. 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 optional Trekking Collection 5 that included a six-speaker sound system and a 6.5-inch color touch screen for the Uconnect operating system, with navigation (included is a five-year SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic subscription) and SiriusXM satellite radio (one-year subscription included), AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio and voice command with Bluetooth for hands-free phone, text-to-speech and streaming audio. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, phone and cruise control that are easy to use on a system with a quick operational learning curve.

The 500X had convenience features such as power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, manual heat and A/C, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, 12V power outlet, USB and AUX ports, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear view mirror and remote start. The Fiat remote start system operates by depressing a button on the key fob twice to start the engine. Once in the driver’s seat, it cannot be shifted out of Park until it is first turned off and then restarted using the start button on the dash. Therefore, no one can steal the 500X that was started remotely, but it will be warmed-up and ready to go when you get in.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2016 Fiat 500X AWD,styling,design

A hint of Porsche?

The 500X Trekking AWD has a fresh, European-distinct design and a stance that says aggressive while also being slick, with cues from a Porsche Macan (or does the Macan take cues from the 500X?), especially when looking at the side panels. The front has the familiar Fiat mustache and logo badge above dual horizontal air slots and bi-function Halogen projector headlamps set wide on the rounded, sculpted fender corners, with fog and cornering lamps. A nice feature of the cornering lamps is that they come on when the steering wheel is turned, not when the turn signal is engaged. Plus, they were bright—doing exactly what they were designed to do. Overall, the 500X has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work, with tasteful black insets below the rear hatch—which has an integrated spoiler—and finished off with a bright chrome exhaust tip.

The 500X is offered in 12 different exterior colors, including our test car’s Arancio (Orange). Other color options include Blu Venezia, Verde Toscana, Rosa Passione and Bronzo Magnetico, plus several other exotics in the color palette.

Safety and Convenience

The 2016 Fiat 500X has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but has earned the Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Our 500X was equipped with seven airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection, an engine immobilizer and security alarm, tire pressure monitoring system, tire service kit (no spare tire), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD has a base price of $25,235. Clean Fleet Report was driving a 500X Trekking AWD with the Trekking Collection 5 Package with a MSRP of $26,935. All prices exclude the $995 destination charge.

All 2016 Fiat 500X models come with these warranties:

  • Basic – 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – 48 months/50.000 miles
  • Rust-through – 60 months/Unlimited miles
  • Roadside Assistance – 48 months/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking AWD

2016 Fiat 500X AWD

It can go in the snow

There are similarities between the front wheel drive and all-wheel drive Fiat 500X models, but also enough differences to consider them separately. For anyone looking for an AWD vehicle that isn’t being used to blaze snow-drift trails, then the 500X AWD should be high on your consideration list. The 500X AWD will satisfy your driving needs on paved surfaces that have been covered with ice and a few inches of snow, while transporting your family or friends around town or to the mountain cabin or ski resort.

The Fiat 500X AWD Trekking is arguably the best looking of the three Fiat 500 models with a flow of sculptured lines that looks more natural and comfortable than the 500L, and is better proportioned than the very compact 500, or Cinquecento.

The 500X has some steep competition in the small Crossover category including the sister car Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Buick Encore and Mini Cooper Paceman.

So does the 500X rise above any of these? Clean Fleet Report will let you cross-shop these and other crossovers to decide for yourself. But if you are looking for Italian automotive design with a lineage of Ferrari, Lancia and Alfa Romeo—or maybe calling-up the great Italian fashion icons Armani, Gucci and Versace—then the 500X is for you.

With a base price of around $20,000 and fully optioned for around $30,000, the 2016 Fiat 500X should be on your shopping list.

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

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Road Test: 2016 Honda HR-V or A Second Report Opinion

Road Test: 2015 Chevrolet Trax

Road Test: 2015 Buick Encore

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500C Abarth

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500L

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.

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking

Roomy Family Small Wagon with 30+ MPG

Clean Fleet Report first visited the 2015 Fiat 500L Trekking in May of 2015, curious to see what the bigger sibling to the sporty, fun Fiat 500 or Fiat 500 Abarth two-door hatchback had to offer. What we found was a roomy interior and unique styling that was worth your consideration if you have a small family and their gear to haul around. Taking a look at the 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking, we found a few refinements to an already capable small family wagon version of the Cinquecento.

Drivetrain

2016 Fiat 500L,mpg, fuel economy

Design–an Italian flair

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking with the turbocharged 16-valve 1.4L Inline Four with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection. It produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through Fiat’s Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA gives a rating of 22 city/30 highway/25 combined, but in 544 miles of 70/30 highway/city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 30.1 mpg, which means our predominantly highway cruising helped us substantially exceed the EPA estimate. Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California the 70/30 highway/city driving pattern we experienced is far more real world and is why we report it to you. If you were to get similar highway efficiency, you could have gone around 424 miles before stopping to refill the 13.2-gallon fuel tank.

Running on unleaded regular, the 1.4L engine was smooth cruising at highway speeds when keeping the six-speed automatic in the Eco mode for maximum efficiency. On first starting the car there is a slight “diesel” sound, which is not noticeable when up-to-speed. However, it took patience getting the 3,254-pound 500L Trekking up to highway speed, as even with the turbocharged engine it felt underpowered. Placing the center console mounted shift lever in the M+/- position will manually take the transmission through a sequential pattern, back for a higher and forward for lower gear selections, giving a bit more straight-line performance.

Driving Experience: On the Road

Clean Fleet Report’s front-wheel drive 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking was equipped with 225/45R17 all-season tires, mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels with a five-hole design—a nice-looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat touts the “touring-tuned chassis” and “exceptional rigidity” that deliver improved road-holding and handling characteristics coming from the McPherson front suspension, with Koni selective damping front strut and rear shocks. My take was the 500L Trekking handled well to its limits, was generally smooth, but a bit stiff at highway speeds and had a tendency to float or drift. 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.

2016 Fiat 500L

Comfortable among the vineyards

Steering was through a power rack-and-pinion with variable-speed assisted electric power steering, which made cornering around town just fine and parking was easy. On the highway there is a lack of direct feedback when I really wanted to feel connected to the road. As mentioned earlier, there was a tendency for the 500L to float at high speeds.

Stopping was from 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, brake assist, all-speed traction control system, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

The first things you notice when sliding behind the wheel of the 2016 Fiat 500L is the easy access through a wide door leading to a high driver seat position. Then you see a large and accommodating interior that includes a wide rear seat for three with good leg room. That’s followed by 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. It was 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, two-tone gray leather-trimmed driver and passenger seats had manual height adjusters and good lumbar (four-way power adjustment for the driver) and thigh bolstering support, I felt the seats up front were too firm, which led to driver fatigue after an hour or so on the road. The placement of the driver and front passenger seat heat controls are curious (and unique) as they are located on the lower side of the seats.

The rear seats can accommodate three on a 60/40 folding bench seat that was also a bit too firm. The roofline dips down above the rear passenger area so for taller guests headroom can be tight.

2016 Fiat 500L,interior, rear seat

In back–a little too firm and not well-equipped

Also of note is that there are no rear HVAC vents or power ports and there is only one cup holder in the rear seat center armrest. For more than two not-so-tall passengers, it would be okay, but then one would be holding their drink between their legs.

When that rear seat needs to be folded for more storage space, the 500L has a tilt, tumble and slide system that worked easily. Simply rotate the seat back down and then flip the seat back and bottom against the driver and front passenger seat backs. It worked well and the resulting open space is a nice feature and strong selling point of the 500L.

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, the best for any car we have tested, were very good…with one exception: the 500L design quirk of spit A-pillars. Maybe it is an engineering thing, but I could not figure out the need of having 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.

2016 Fiat 500L, interior, dash

Everything where you would expect

The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking dash lay-out is non-flashy with a straight-forward, convenient design. It features probably the largest air vent you will find, located on the top of the dash. The combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls are exactly where you want and need them. Overhead was a power dual-pane sunroof that offered good visuals. Note that the screen for the sunroof can be closed when the glass roof panel is open—a feature that is not unique to the 500L. Debris can collect on the screen, which needs to be brushed off before the power sliding glass roof can be closed.

Our car was equipped with the Trekking Collection 5, which included the ParkView rear backup camera and ParkSense rear parking assist features. The Beats Audio system, with digital sound processing 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 and 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, front 12V power outlet, tilt and telescoping steering column, rear window wiper/washer, multiple cup holders and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking is offered in 10 exotic sounding exterior colors, including Tornado (blue)—our test car’s color—plus Giallo (yellow), Verde Bosco Perla (forest green pearl), Rossa

2016 Fiat 500L

A versatile and spacious rear

Perla (red pearl), Mocha Latte (brown), Grigio Scuro (gray metallic) and of course Nero (black) and Bianco (white.) Options include Bianco or Nero contrasting roofs. The 500L has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work, with tasteful black insets below the rear hatch and on the front fascia. The flared wheel arches are a nice touch, with front-end lighting composed of Bi-halogen projector-type High Intensity Displacement (HID) headlights and lower fascia-integrated halogen projector fog lights.

I like the look of the 500L Trekking and give Fiat credit for bringing its “small-wide vehicle architecture” to the United States in what is a uniquely European looking car.

Safety and Convenience

The 2016 Fiat 500L has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but is equipped with seven airbags, rearview camera and in-dash monitor, engine immobilizer and security alarm, tire pressure monitoring system, brake assist, hill start assist and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking has a base price of $21,880 with the 500L Trekking model Clean Fleet Report was driving having a MSRP of $30,525, which included the optional automatic transmission and Trekking Collection 5 package. All prices do not include the $995 destination charge.

All 2016 Fiat 500L models come with these warranties:

  • Basic – 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Rust-Through – 60 months/Unlimited miles
  • Roadside Assistance – 48 months/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2016 Fiat 500L Trekking FWD

2016 Fiat 500L, fuel economy, mpg

At home on the road with all your family’s stuff

The 2016 Fiat 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—in a good way—but the connection with the very Italian 500 is minimal.

Therefore, if you like the 500L design as I do, 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, starting at under $20,000, it should be on your consideration list. Also while on your shopping trip you would be looking at the Kia Soul, Yaris 5 Door, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa 5 Door, MINI Countryman and even the sister AWD model to the 500L, the Fiat 500X.

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

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500L

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500

Road Test: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500e

Road Test: 2016 Kia Soul

Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris

Road Test: 2016 Honda Fit

Road Test: 2014 Nissan Versa

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.