Fiat 500 Lounge – Winner, Winner, Spaghetti Dinner

 2018 Fiat 500 “Cinquecento” Lounge

– The perfect city runabout with a turbo

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel Video on the Cinquecento

2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo HatchbackFCA offered us a week of Italian car time, sending the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge, or to be proper in Italian, Cinquecento.

72 Fiat 850 Spider in Yellow courtesy of Hemmings Motor News
72 Fiat 850 Spider courtesy of Hemmings Motor News

This brought back lots of memories of a college-era yellow 1972 Fiat850 Spider. While today’s modern 4-seat two-door hatchback was not a drop top like that classic spider, it did have a retractable glass roof. More important it had a lot more of pick up and go and provided similar fuel economy in the upper 30’s miles per gallon on premium fuel. (Editor’s note: the ’72 got 42 mpg on premium fuel, 9-gallon fuel tank, out of a very tiny less than a 1-liter engine, and the convertible top leaked when it rained, but it was a really cute car.)

 

Fiat 500 Lounge Ivory Seat OptionThis 500 was dressed in Oliva Green Pearl paint with an Avorio or ivory white seats and matching interior that stood out quite well in contrast. At first, there were some feelings of reluctance to like the 500, but as the week went by and the more we drove it, the more we came to like its quirkiness, and how spunky it was. Going downtown on a busy Saturday proved its worth, as the smallness of the Fiat meant no problem parking in a spot that other cars could not have slipped into. Win ONE for the Fiat.

 

Floor It Again Tony

Fiat 500 Turbo 1.4 liter engineThe turbo powered 1.4 inline 4-cylinder multiport fuel injected engine connected to the six-speed automatic transmission (a $995 option, yes, a manual is available,) produced plenty of power for this little runabout for city driving. And while it does not sound noisy on the outside when parked, there seems to be plenty of exhaust noise on the inside, this may be to make you think it is a powerful, sporty European car. While we did not take it out on the highway, there is no doubt this engine would work hard to keep up at top highway speeds.

At city speeds from 0 to 40, we found it had plenty of power and then we became used to the sporty exhaust noise. Fuel economy was in the mid to upper 30’s for us buzzing around town. Win TWO for the Fiat.

 

Cuteness Overload

1960's Fiat 500 Cute Little Car
1960’s Fiat 500 photo courtsey of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While the design is hardly flashy it is quite reminiscent of that from the 1960s zipping about European cities with movie stars driving them. You must admit clunky can be cute, and the 500 can be customized to make it even more adorable. When they first came out there was even a Gucci designer edition. We found that mature women swooned over this little car.   Win Two and a half for the Fiat.

 

Interior

Fiat 500 Lounge InteriorWe found the interior to be functional and attractive, using the exterior body color as a splash across the dash in a plastic insert that gives the interior an eye-attracting splash of color. And it does take your eye away from the hard plastics that make up the rest of the interior, which is normal on cars in this price range.  Button placement on the mid and upper center of the dash, are large and easy to engage, as well as know what they are doing.  This is a major WIN for the Fiat.

Fiat 500 Front SeatsSeats are comfortable though not easily adjustable, the front seat back adjustment lever is on the inside, which took some searching for and the front and rear adjustment is in the front and once released is very quick to move, so don’t do it as you accelerate, which we did, finding ourselves at the back of the track very quickly.  Rear seats are not just a covered foam board like in other much higher priced vehicles. Right and left rear seatbacks to fold Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Seat Entrydown individually so you can get someone in the back and carry longer items as well. Don’t expect a lot of leg room, but you would not with a car this small anyway, the good news is there is some leg room, and getting in and out will not turn the rear seat passenger into a pretzel, but if you practice yoga, you will find it easier get in and out of the back of a Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Hatchback with seat folded down

Cargo area is big enough to carry groceries or other items, surprising for such a small car. You actually have a space to put things even if you have four people riding in the car, which is helpful as everyone carries stuff with them.

 

Fiat 500 has USB Power and other outletsFiat 500 Lounge USB Power in glove boxPower plugs are a must these days and the 500 had three if you include what at one time was a cigarette lighter. Two USB ports, one tied to the Uconnect Audio system in the center console, and one in the glove box that only provides power. A simple audio jack is also undercover in the center console. These three all are vertical, so something could fall into them and cause issues, which is why they have cover doors over them. Like most cars today you have to add a $30 smokers’ package, which is an insert into a cup holder for an ashtray and a cigarette lighter to go in the leftmost power outlet, to accommodate smokers. We thought all Italians smoked.

 

On-Board Technology

Fiat 500 Lounge Tech Screen BeatsAudio SiriusXM RadioAt this price point, tech is often very low. Though Fiat does give you some trendy pop brand options like TomTom for GPS and Beats audio, and of course Sirius XM Satellite radio. The Uconnect in the Fiat is very basic, we never did connect our Samsung phone to it, as it kept not recognizing the Bluetooth signal. The $595 Fiat 500 TomTom GPS

TomTom GPS is very simple with grainy imagery and clunky operation. The $695 premium Beats audio did not stand out as we thought it might.  This is a loss for the Fiat.

 

What’s not to like

While it is a short list, and the pros are more than the cons, there are some things that we found bothersome about the 500.

Fiat 500 Sunshade and visorThe seating position never quite gives a comfortable driving position for your legs. If you put the seat back to stretch out, the steering wheel was too far away, up close, your legs were uncomfortably bent. So this would not be a good long-distance driving comfort.  The sunroof’s interior sunshade is an open weave screen fabric letting in the bright sunshine even while closed. And the sun visors are tiny, because the front window is small, and do not extend when you move them over to the side covering less than half of the door’s window. And we never did find the door electric lock/unlock button, to unlock the doors you will have to open the door from inside handle. Price is a con, as it is high compared to other automobiles on the market today.  More loss than a win, so be it.

 

What is to love

Fiat 500 Gage ClusterAt first the cuteness of the size of the 500, easily slips into a small parking spot. The rear camera gave a great view of where the bumper was in relation to the car behind and the curb as well. And if you have the wipers on, the rear wiper will activate as well, helping you see.  Visibility was very good for this car, plenty of glass to be able to see out and very little obstructions. Fun to drive in town, we found it zippy and energetic. WIN for the Fiat

 

Fit and Finish

Fiat 500 Fit and FinishFor a small inexpensive car (though the price may not reflect that) that has the carried the Fix It Again Tony line since the brand started, fit and finish is very good both inside and out. And at this price point no one expects premium materials on the inside, nor do you get them, but the design is good for what is in your main line of vision. Exterior parts are well put together and the doors and hatch feel and sound solid.

 

Price

Fiat 500 StickerWhile four models of the 500 are available, Base Pop starting at $16,495, 1957 Retro Edition, $19,745, Lounge (what we drove) $19745, and the awe-inspiring Abarth, $20,495. All of these come in your choice of a hatchback or Cabrio, which is more a canvas sunroof. Our hatchback came with the $795 power glass sunroof.

The Cinquecento that we were loaned by FCA priced out at $24,815 which included the $250 Ivory seats, $995 automatic transmission, $795 power sunroof, $595 Tom Tom Navigation, $695 Premium Beats Audio System and the $445 16-inch bright aluminum wheels, with a $1295 destination charge.

At the time of writing there was a $1250 cash incentive on the Fiat 500. Even with that, it is pricy for this segment of car.  With just about the same amount being a destination charge, larger vehicles have smaller numbers on that line. No doubt you are paying for the brand names of the audio and navigation systems.  Our take on this is to dicker on the price, one and two-year-old models are going for $17K at the big lot used car centers.                                                                      This is a loss for the Fiat

 

Overall

Fiat 500 Turbo Sliding Glass SunroofWhile this would not be a car that we would seek out for ourselves and our lifestyle. It is a fun little city car that is filled with cuteness overload. While it is pricy for the segment, it would be a great car if you needed something for around town driving and short commutes. Fuel economy is not amazing, especially using premium fuel. It does have a four-star government safety rating, though reliability has not been stellar. The 500 does come with a 4-year 50,000-mile warranty. If this is a car you want, and plenty of people do, then get the best price you can, and have some fun.  We recommend the glass sunroof option, and if you like a manual transmission, that is standard.  – Ciao Bambino

 

Word and images (except where noted) by William West Hopper.

FCA, Fiat USA and Motus1 provided us with the use of the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo for a week, no other compensation or payment was given to us to review this vehicle.
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Rental Car Rodeo – 2018 Hyundai Elantra from Budget – DIA January 2019

Hyundai Elantra in the Colorado MountainsBooking a rental car is always a crap shoot. You go for the best price and choose the rental car company that you feel will give you a decent car though often you have no idea what you will get once you show up at the lot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and this time it worked out just right.

Reviewing rental cars in this column is a great way to see how cars survived in the tough life of rental service, one of the toughest lives any vehicle can endure. Life as a rental car is not easy, and one that is in the wide open high plains of Colorado often explains high mileage in the short lifespan, which was the case in this rental.

Budget Car Rental was the company that we booked with for a recent trip to Colorado. We needed nothing fancy, just a car big enough to carry three people for five days in the mountains. We find that booking through AutoSlash, a Priceline company, gets a great price, often better by about fifty bucks per rental. And using an upgraded American Express Card provides a better per rental price for insurance, which we have used, and swear by, thankfully not on this trip.

Denver International Airport

DIA Denver International Airport in the snowWe arrived at DIA on a Thursday afternoon, just a snowstorm had coated the landscape with a light dusting, making the many young skiers that were heading up to the mountains thrilled. On the very packed rental-a-car bus, those skier dudes were hoping for F150’s and hot muscle cars, which made me think you guys are driving up to where there will be a lot of snow, Oh yes, that is what it is like to be young, remembering one trip out getting a Jeep was my goal in a Colorado rental.  When we arrived at the counter, being a Fastbreak member, they had a very clean 24K mile 2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL in Electric Blue with beige cloth interior ready to go for us. Surprised that it took longer to wait for the bus than it did to stand in line for a car.

Snow Covered Hyundai Elantra
Snow is a constant in Colorado, and the Hyundai had no problems with it.

Budget had the car cleaned off and all we took a walk around and did our best to disable their tolling device so we could use our own Express pass as we did not want to pay for their daily usage charge plus an inflated toll rate.  The car was remarkably clean and dent free, inside there were a few stains on the seats and headliner, and the faint smell of cigarettes, even though there is a sign on the window saying no smoking.

 

Driveability

20190129_085718This Elantra was made in Hyundai’s Alabama plant and went into rental service about 11 months earlier. With 24K miles on it in under a year, this was going to be an excellent subject for a review.

Hyundai Elantra with Nexen TiresOur first leg of the journey was about an hour on the Tollroad and I25, where the car exhibited tire noise from the P205/55R16 Nexen Tires mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels. The Elantra handled quite well and was still very tight and rattle free after a year’s worth of rental use and 24K miles. The SEL’s Blind Spot Detection (BSD) was very handy and quite accurate, and in a car that you are unfamiliar with it comes in handy. The 147-hp 2.0L 4-cylinder engine performed well with three adults in the car, and the 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC® and Active ECO System gave us over 32 average miles per gallon in real-world driving.

Hyundai Elantra SEL Windy conditions as we drove along the open roads did buffet us around as this is a light car, but not so bad that it made the car uncontrollable. The 4-wheel disc brakes provided confident stopping power. And being it was January in Colorado we got to drive in various snow conditions. Not deep snow, but three to four inches of slush. This is where the Nexen PRIZ AH8 tires all season tires did just fine, even with the mileage on them. Occasional the front-wheel-drive did experience some tire spin, but nothing that got us stuck or in trouble.

 

Things that impressed:

 

  • Impressed that at this price point the Elantra has individual tire readings on the dash tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS.)
  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist came in handy
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines gave us a large image when backing up.
  • AM/FM/HD/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/MP3 Audio System with 6 speakers and kudos to Budget for having the SiriusXM Radio activated beyond the Complimentary 3-month trial subscription.
  • Bluetooth®hands-free phone system with voice recognition recognized the phone and set up quickly
  • Smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks were handy for using as a power source. Though I am not a fan of Android Auto, so I did not put that into use.
  • Heated side mirrors in snowy conditions, a great plus.

Hyundai Elantra DashThere were very few things that bothered us, other than having to reach out and grab the wide opening large front doors on this four-door sedan. And the tininess sound of the door closure, and we never really found a way to open the truck without using the interior trunk release or the keyfob trunk release button.

Overall

Hyundai Elantra has a wide swing for the front doorHyundai makes a great car for the price point, well styled, great fuel economy, roomy in both the passenger compartment and the very large trunk.  And seeing how well this Elantra has held up under the tough conditions of being a rental car, we were impressed with that build quality as well as fit and finish.

This is a vehicle we would recommend buying new, and if pre-owned, doing some research, not sure that a used rental version would be a good value, but if the price were right, and you needed solid transportation, then yes indeedy!

The Hyundai Elantra has a base price of $19735 with $885 freight – plenty of offers   For 2019 The price has increased to $19400 plus $920 shipping – $20,320

Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

We reviewed the Elantra back in the summer of 2016 

Mechanical

  • Inline 4-cylinder with a 2-liter displacement 147 horsepower @ 6200 RPM with 132 lb-ft of torque at 4500 RPM DOHC 16-valve with D-CVVT with a Multi-Point fuel Injection (MPI) using regular fuel.
  • Front Wheel Drive (FWD) with a 6-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Eco & Sport Drive Mode Select and a SHIFTRONIC®and Active ECO System
  • Unibody Body construction
  • MacPherson Strut with coil springs Front suspension with front stabilizer bar and  Coupled torsion beam axle Rear suspension:
  • Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS)
  • 78 Ft curb-to-curb turning diameter
  • 4-wheel disc brakes
  • 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires

 

Safety Features

  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Brake Assist (BA)
  • Advanced dual front airbags (SRS) with Occupant Classification System (OCS)
  • Driver and front passenger side-impact airbags (SRS)
  • Side-curtain airbags (SRS)
    (front and rear passengers)
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Energy-absorbing steering column
  • Front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters
  • Rear LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
  • Power window lock-out button
  • Front and rear crumple zones

 

Motorcycle Riding in the middle of the DC Winter – Perceptions Altered

Allstate Booth had bikes and prizes as well as rootbeer floatsThis past weekend the Progressive International Motorcycle Show held at Washington DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  As a non-rider or even much of a two-wheeled enthusiast, what I experienced changed my mind so much that I even, as they say, “I threw a leg over” and rode a bike at their Discover the Ride experience, where you suit up and with a little practice and a quick lesson and get you on an electric powered bike and cycle.

The perceived demographic of the motorcyclist is that of being older and male. What I expected to see was a grisly and bearded group, what was there was hardly a bunch of grey haired old dudes. While yes indeed there were plenty of men of a certain age, there were also teens, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, women in their 40’s younger and older. Kids, yes toddlers to tweens, and products from all the major brands on display for all age. Allstate Insurance presented a Kids Zone featuring a closed course of battery-assisted balance bikes for children to experience riding for the first time. And the kids were slaying it. Yes, some took a tumble, but they got right back on and rode.

Products

Parents showing their kids that bikes are AOKMotorcycles from all the major manufacturers, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, four-wheelers for going out on trails and larger small truck-like utility vehicles that would be great for farms, hunting or just getting out into the wilderness. There was a sign for the Segway products and plenty of accessories and helmets. We found the Confederate Motorcycles an interesting contrast, here are high end, American made limited production objects of desire, that were works of art and with prices that reflected that.

 

Technology

Harley Davidson had a ride experience that anyone could do.Bikers in my mind are thought to be rough as the open road and not looking for the creature comforts. Though it seems they too want heated seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their ride, and those items are offered as options on some of the upper bikes. Engine technology is advancing, not unlike what is happening in the automotive world. More fuel-efficient engines being controlled by computers were quite common.

 

Walk-In – Ride Out

Discover The Ride Gives new riders a chance to try out riding motorcyclesWe took advantage of the New Rider Course in the Discover the Ride Program, where we first rode electric assisted bicycles and then took out Zero electric motorcycles around a carpeted track at the far end of the show floor. While this was for riders 16 years of age and older, the Kids Zone puts the tykes on small electric bicycles. Seeing these youngsters who may have just learned to walk, all helmeted up and riding around in packs, reminded me of how dedicated and fearless they can be, not unlike kids learning to downhill ski, or pretty much anything, as they have not learned fear, as we do as we age.

 

Yes you could get a tattoo at the show.Or maybe you are just tired of walking around, there are plenty of places to sit down, be it at the Progressive Café where you can get your beard braided or a henna tattoo and have a cold brew. Or at the Allstate booth where after answering an online survey, you get a root beer float or one of the several “parks” set up throughout the event with benches.  One place has massage chairs and there is even a 360-degree Virtual reality opportunity providing the visual experience of riding in Colorado, Arizona, and California.

 

Riding the Zero Motorcycle Electrics was easy on the indoor track.While we may not be ready to go out and buy a bike, there is no question it is now more attractive to do and we may look into taking some riding lessons. And the Motorcycle Industry Council provides courses throughout the year around the country.  Who knows it may make us younger.

 

Words and Images by William West Hopper