Fiat Of A Different Flavor
Our new Fiat 500 Sport is back to the dealer today for the installation of the LoJack anti-theft system and a repair to a small scratch in the roof found at delivery. As a long-term warranty customer entitled to a free loaner car for the day, my loaner turned out to be – a new Fiat 500 Sport!
It seems the dealer has put together a deal with Enterprise Rental Cars to administer their loaner car program, charging the customer or not depending on their warranty and friend of the dealership status. This probably makes good business sense, and they have carried it further by providing at least one of the rental cars to be used. I expected a Fiesta or Focus or something of that ilk, so I was quite surprised when told I would have a 500 Sport – in red.
Trivia for the day – where did the name Enterprise come from for this rental company? The founder was a Naval combat pilot in WW II who flew off the deck of the USS Enterprise. Now you know…
From the dealer point of view the car to be used needs to be one they can easily “turn” as a low mile used car in a few months, and so they picked “our” car in red, but not the $500 extra metallic red, opted against the sunroof, and of course specced an automatic transmission. So it looks a lot like our car – but not.
The automatic version does have the “Sport” button, which tightens up the steering and makes the shifts more abrupt, but it seems to lack the option of a button to turn off the “ESC” button, which makes the steering quicker and lighter on mine when in “sport mode,” but also removes the “nanny state” ability of the car to correct for your own stupidity upon entering a corner at excessive speed.
An advantage of the auto is that it has 6 speeds, whereas the manual has 5. The Abarth edition coming next year will have a 6 speed manual, and a lot more power, and a lot higher price tag, and I imagine the 6 speed will trickle down to the sport as a mid-life production upgrade in three or four years.
The auto seemed peppy enough to me, and certainly does not turn the car into a boring rental slug. After a couple of miles I began to play with the “manual” shift option – the lever looks exactly like the one with the manual, but you merely pull it toward you for a higher gear and flick it away to go back down.
It was fun for awhile, but eventually it seemed to me to be virtually as much effort as shifting the manual, with less control. You do not have the ability to slow the car down with perfectly synced downshifts as you in the manual – a decades old test of driver prowess. All in all, I’m glad I went with the manual.
The sunroof makes a huge difference to the character of the car. This is a fun little car, full of charm and whimsy. It needs the sunroof for all of that, and the black glass makes a more dramatic roof appearance than just red paint without it.
Minus the sunroof and with the automatic, the Fiat 500 Sport is still a very attractive proposition for a commuter car with great mpg and at least a dollop of fun.
But I like mine better…
Copyright 2011 David Preston