I can’t quite decide what my position on the Fiat 500 is. I sort of like the car and I admit that it’s cute. It drives OK with a balanced chassis, decent steering and brakes. With the 101 hp engine you will avoid eye contact with Kia Rio drivers at intersections. I certainly enjoyed their TV ads, with Jennifer Lopez looking as good as ever. You only had to remember to hit the mute button on your remote.
Then I saw the new Fiat 500 Abarth Super Bowl ad and I was very disappointed. Not only was Jennifer Lopez missing, but the tall Italian speaking girl teasing and slapping the geeky guy was not a pretty sight, no matter how attractive she was. The car looked good though. And with a 160 hp motor, you shouldn’t fear any compact car at the next stop light race.
The Abarth name also brought some long-gone memories back. Carlo Abarth started building race cars in 1949 and began working closely with Fiat in 1952. Abarth built some serious Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Simca based machinery and they enjoyed success with their 124 and 131 rally cars. You can still catch some of the original 500’s around in Europe, and they had one at the Auto Show last year (the red one in the picture).
So what’s the verdict on the 500? It’s cute and the Abarth version is worth looking at, if you must have a subcompact performance car. The sales in North America have been disappointing so far. Fiat dealers sold about half of the forecasted 50,000 units. Well short of Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne's expectations. Canadian Quebec sales are a different story. The car is doing very well there, accounting for 43% of total Canadian sales.
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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