Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jacob Black and really good photos by Andrew Leslie
The mission was simple. Fiat-Chrysler’s Jeep division had a car we needed for a massive compact-crossover comparison test – the Jeep Cherokee. It was the only non-Trailhawk version in the fleet, and the only one that fit within our $35,000 price bracket. One catch: It was in Montreal. We are in Toronto.
Never fear! I had a plan. I was already booked in the Fiat 500 Turbo – the gorgeous little white buggy with the green and red stripes, red interior and the 1.4L MultiAir turbo. As soon as I’d seen it on fleet I knew I wanted to test it. I wasn’t able to participate in the comparo itself as I was on another launch event, but I could contribute.
And so I resolved to drive my little Fiat up the 401 to retrieve the Cherokee and return – all in one day. I’d leave the Fiat there, and do the same trip in reverse the following week. Too easy right?
I learned some things on that trip. For example – trying to get clean photos of your Fiat after five hours on the 401 is an exercise in pure futility. Also, snowy weather is hilarious fun when your car is small and nimble, even when FWD.
In the days on either side of the trip I learned some things too.
“Is that the Abarth?” – was the question of the week in the turbo. “No, this is not as hard-core as that one, and lacks the orgasmic exhaust note.”
The turbo is the same 1.4L “Multiair” turbo four as the Abarth, but not worked as hard. In this version it’s good for 135 hp and 150 lb-ft torque, but the whole kit and caboodle weighs just 1,124 kg. The result? A genuinely quick little hatch. Heck, it even has a g-force meter to measure its performance.
Well, sort of. I mean the g-force meter is real, but at around eight seconds 0-100 km/h the Fiat 500 isn’t blistering. It’s entertaining though, and will leave you feeling well satisfied shunting about town.
The standard tranny is a five-speed manual but this tester was saddled with the six speed automatic which is also now available on the Abarth! Sacrilege! I felt like the car’s character and sporty pretensions – especially with the glowing red instrument cluster upon a press of the “sport mode” button – really need the manual to bring out the enjoyment, but I also understand that many, many buyers feel differently.