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2015 Fiat 500 Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth. by nferre

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Introduction

Being my third Fiat 500 (and fourth in our household) I've tried to touch on the positives as well as the negatives of this car.

Reviewed: 2015 Fiat 500

2dr Hatch turbocharged 160hp 1.4L I4 5-speed manual FWD

Why the 2015 Fiat 500?

Powertrain performance

I am now on my third Fiat 500, the first being a Sport, the second was a T (135 hp Turbo) and now the 160 hp Abarth. I have now driven Fiat 500s for a combined total of 64,000 miles (I have a hefty commute) plus we have another 500 Sport with 15000 miles. Total repairs for all 3? One or two, I can't remember. The repair(s) were nothing serious. All have been very reliable, just needing routine maintenance. To say I love the Abarth would be an understatement. The sound of the free flow exhaust is intoxicating. The power in such a small, light car makes it quite entertaining to drive (0-60 time has been reported as 6.5 seconds. The brakes work well, not as well as a Mini Cooper S I once owned, but I haven't had to do any brake work at all on any of my Fiats. The Mini Cooper needed brake pads at 30,000 miles. Steering is very tight and precise. The steering is far more precise on the Abarth than the lower models. It is a trade off however, as the turning circle is much wider than the lower models in the 500 range: turns often require 3 points in the Abarth that the lower priced models can do in 2. I mentioned the exhaust earlier. It is basically a straight pipe after the down pipe, splitting to a pair of chrome tips at the rear. The Abarth has no muffler. This leads to a wonderful growl when laying into the gas pedal (something that happens often because it is so much fun) and yet is fairly quiet at highway speeds. The suspension is pretty stiff, as can be expected in a performance model, but I don't find it it irritating at all, even on less than perfect city streets.

Fuel economy

Fuel economy on 500s in general is excellent. I have found that the engines are really "tight" when brand new. On my first tank (50/50 city/highway) with the Abarth, I couldn't crack 30 MPG. At 4000 miles, I'm now at 38.8 mpg on the exact same route. The other Fiats I have owned exhibited the exact same behavior. As with the other 500s, I expect a further minor improvement in fuel economy, leveling out at about 5000 miles.

Driving position & visibility

The driving position seems quite odd at first. The seating position is very high and upright. I acclimated easily and find that when in other cars (for example the 2014 Ford Mustang) I felt like I was sitting in a bowl. The seating position does lend itself to very good visibility, although the driver's side has a nasty blind spot. The driver's side mirror has a built in spot mirror to help overcome it.

Warranty, maintenance cost

My Abarth came with "3 year/36,000 mile" scheduled maintenance. This is basically the first 3 oil changes and tire rotations. At 30,000 mile, the car will require additional filter changes, along with spark plugs, which are not included. The factory specifies the oil change intervals at 1 year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first. The car also has an onboard computer which may specify an earlier change depending on driving style. No way would I run a small displacement turbocharged engine that long. the Fiat MultiAir engine is a SOHC design, where the camshaft operates the exhaust valves. The intake valves are operated by solenoids that run on oil pressure. A major online oil forum shows that the oil is basically shot at about 8,000 miles in these engines. They are hard on oil. I've decided to change the oil on my Abarth at 5,000 mile intervals, which for me is 6 times a year. The turbocharged Fiat models require 5W40 synthetic oil. If you are having the dealer do it on your dime, check the prices if there are multiple Fiat dealers in your area. There is a 30 dollar difference ($80 versus $50) between the two dealers in my city. Spark plugs are pricey as are factory Fiat wiper blades. That said the factory wiper blades are awesome and worth the money when it comes time for replacement. Filters (engine air and cabin air) are inexpensive.

Audio & nav systems

I've had both the standard Alpine audio system (in my current Abarth) as well as the optional (and expensive at $1500) Beats Audio system (in my previous 500T as well as our other 500, a 2013 Sport) and I have found the standard system actually sounds better, although serions music lovers will probably be dissatisfied with either. Both systems suffer from noticeably reduced volume compared to the radio. when using the USB input. The 2015 models have bluetooth audio streaming, which also suffers from the same issue. The radio is very sensitive on FM. The Microsoft based "Blue and Me" system works well for hands free cell phone use and paired easily with my iPhone 5S.

Why Not the 2015 Fiat 500?

Towing

Towing is not recommended with any Fiat 500 model.

Rear seat room & comfort

Rear seating is very cramped, and the ease of entry/exit is poor. Think of the rear seats as emergency seating- like a Porsche 911, and you get the idea. No one will want to travel across town in the rear seats. Forget a road trip entirely.

Conclusion

So, given the plusses and the minuses, would I buy another? You have to ask? Absolutely, but I'd only go for the Abarth.

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Response from mdlarson

1:02 am May 2, 2015

Anybody have a problem with dome/map lights going on and off on their own?((2x) Is this a serious electrical sytem problem i.e. car dying on road? Also anyone have to replace intermediate shaft in steering system in first 3,000 miles> I had it done then. I put 2,000 miles a month on my car, no other issues in 16,200 miles. Avg 34 mpg. bought for work commute. Over all good car. Talked with 3 other Fiat owners who love their Fiat.

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