In our world today, bigger usually means better. And while that is true to a certain degree, there is the counter adage of big things coming in small packages. This is Fiat’s approach and being the little guy is sometimes quite swell. The Italian automaker focuses on what they call a modern, yet simple approach that blends functionality, technology, and ownership pride. Fiat wants drivers to feel a sense of self-expression and points their design and engineering efforts toward that end.
Dynamic & Different
I’m a Fiat owner which, considering my affinity for muscle cars and long history of truck ownership, having a 500X is quite the departure. Yet, I enjoy my Fiat very much. It’s different in every regard in terms of its styling and interior layout, but it’s comfortable, reliable, and remarkably efficient. I’ve even turned a few heads when I have my 500X all shined up on a nice day.
Depending on your personality, a Fiat might be ideal for you. I say personalty because Fiat owners are a different bunch, but we’re a merry bunch to be sure. If you’re thinking about something Italian and something a bit out of the ordinary, then this list below is for you. Here is a brief look at the entire Fiat lineup to help you decide which one you like best.
The 2018 Fiat 500 is available in three models: Pop, Lounge, and the higher-performance Abarth. The latter is definitely the most fun, but for the sake of daily driving, the first two are likely to best suit you. The Pop and Lounge have plenty of pep with the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo that delivers 150 lb-ft. of torque and 135 horsepower, an increase of 34 horsepower versus the 2017 model. The engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic, and there’s even a sport-tuned exhaust.
Pop and Lounge models have 16-inch aluminum wheels for curb appeal, a performance-oriented braking system for safety, a sport-tuned suspension for better handling, and a backup camera because busy parking lots are always tricky. Optional equipment is no longer grouped into “collections,” meaning different features can be easily combined and interchanged with one another.
The Fiat 500 Pop starts at $14,995; the Lounge at $18,395, with the Abarth landing at $19,995. All trim levels are available as a Cabrio (convertible) for an additional $1,495. Fuel economy for the 500 is 31/40 mpg city/highway with the Abarth coming in at 28/34 mpg city/highway.
If you need a little more spark, the 500 Abarth may suit your tastes with its lickety-split temperament. Bearing the name of Karl Alberto Abarth, it features a performance suspension, 16-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels, Pirelli tires, and a really cool sounding exhaust system. The 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo here puts out a bit more grunt: 160 horsepower and 183 lb-ft. of torque, with a Sport mode and torque transfer control system to really maximize performance.
The 500 Abarth is a driver’s car through and through. When you get inside, it’s simple. There’s no clutter, nothing fancy (although you can do a sunroof), and it’s not the least bit quiet. But it’s like a little rocket on four wheels and if you want all the joys of driving and none of the frills, the 500 Abarth is among the best choices on the market. The seats hold you tight, the suspension keeps you planted, and the turbo boost gauge is a blast to watch.
Sometimes this little guy gets missed, but it’s a hidden gem as electrified vehicles become increasingly more plausible for consumers. The Fiat 500e offers over 80 miles of driving range, 121 miles per gallon equivalent in the city and 112 MPGe combined. The regenerative braking system can use 100 percent of its regenerative capability all the way down to eight mph. This maximizes efficiency but increases brake life – Fiat refers to this as “blended braking.” Right now, the vehicle is only available in California and Oregon.
So it’s a bit homely and admittedly, it’s the only Fiat I don’t like. At all. Yet, when compared to the 500, the L offers 42 percent more interior space, seating for five, and more than 50 different seating and storage configurations. Further, the L offers more than 40 different standard and available safety features, a bonus for families on the go. There is plenty of tech inside, from a backup camera, USB ports, and a seven-inch display compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The aforementioned 1.4-liter engine provides an ample 160 horsepower and the ride should be plenty comfortable as the chassis is tuned for a touring car feel. Whatever, it’s still weird looking. I’m a Fiat owner and I’m corky but my corky has limits. This is well past the limit.
The 500X is arguably the most practical and stylish member of the Fiat household, and it’s definitely the most sure-footed. Built on the Jeep Renegade platform with an option for all-wheel drive, the 500X feels stable and firm, something not all small crossovers can say. Though the 500X is modest when compared to marque Italian performance cars, the steering and handling aspects – inherent strengths in Italian engineering – do cross over (no pun intended) to the 500X. The result is a crisp, solid, and responsive little vehicle perfect for city driving.
Two engines are on offer: the 1.4-liter, which we have already been chatting about, is standard on Pop models and paired with a six-speed manual. However, the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 enters the picture. It’s standard on Trekking and Lounge with an available nine-speed automatic.
By the numbers, The 1.4-liter with the manual delivers 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque, with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 25/33 mpg city/highway. By comparison, the 2.4-liter generates 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque, with an EPA-estimated rating of 22/30 mpg city/highway for front-wheel drive models; 21/29 mpg for all-wheel drive models.
The 500X has 70 available safety and security features, a generous array of connectivity offerings via the Uconnect system, and the option for a panoramic sunroof and heated steering wheel. The 500X starts around $20,000 and they lease well.
This is definitely the most exciting member of the Fiat family, especially in its Abarth skin. The 124 Spider was introduced 50 years ago, although it’s been about 30 years since it was last in the United States. Similar to the 500 Abarth, the Spider in any one of its trims (Classica, Lusso, Abarth) is a true driver’s car. Styling and performance are among the Fiat 124 Spider’s most defining characteristics, seen in things like the long hood and short rear deck, or the Abarth’s Bilstein sport suspension and mechanical limited-slip differential.
The front engine, rear-drive configuration is balanced at a near 50/50 with a curb weight between 2,400 and 2,500 lbs., depending on the model. The 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo returns and delivers 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque on Classica and Lusso, with a slight bump to 164 horsepower for the Abarth. The roadster is available with either a six-speed manual or Aisin automatic transmission.
Other nice features include heated seats, a Bose premium stereo, and a healthy array of safety tech. Fiat has made the packages a bit more flexible so it’s easier to mix and match what you might want – the 124 Spider starts just shy of $25,000.
Like I mentioned above, a Fiat may not necessarily fit your personality but if it does, hopefully this list helped. If you are looking for something practical, the 500 and 500X are your best options. If you want a little more pep in your step, one of the Abarth models will do nicely. If you want a fun car to take for a joy ride on a summer day, that’s definitely the 124 Spider. And if you are looking for something really odd, but with lots of room, then the L is your knight in shining armor.
Of course, you can always drop us a line if you have additional questions. Just ask for me when you do.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.
Photos & Source: FCA US LLC (2017 & 2018 models shown).