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Every automotive writer has a wish list of absurd ideas they would like to do. I have been very lucky to cross one of those items off my list - driving a $130,000+ vehicle for a week. A couple weeks back I was able to cross another item off that list: Driving a open-top vehicle in the winter. What vehicle afforded me the chance to accomplish this wish? It happens to be one of the smallest and sportiest open-top vehicles on sale today; the 2015 Fiat 500C Abarth.

The Fiat 500 is one of the most iconic designs in the automotive world with its short and rounded shape that offered enough space for a small family, while having a price tag that everyone could afford. When it came to designing the new 500, designers took the basic shape and gave it a bit of a modern twist. The new 500 is slightly large, but retains the short front end and rounded cabin area. Abarth models give the 500 some attitude with a 0.7-inch suspension drop, Abarth badging on the front and rear; stripes running along the bottom edge of the doors, new wheels with a red scorpion cap, and a rear diffuser.

Now this being the 500C, Fiat did something clever with the transition to a convertible. Instead of hacking off all of the roof, Fiat left the roof rails in place and installed a canvas top. By leaving the roof rails, it allows the 500C to retain a fair bit of structural integrity without fully resorting to adding rigidity towards to the bottom of the vehicle. Now the canvas top allows the driver to have it open in various positions such as a panoramic sunroof to fully open. The downside is when the top is fully open, it scrunches up at the bottom and causes a major blind spot to appear. I wish Fiat could figure out a way to stow away the top or at least offer a backup camera and blind spot monitoring. During my testing, the Detroit area had some of coldest temperatures with lows dipping into -20F. I was worried that the canvas top would make the week unbearable, but the top was able to retain the heat and make it a pleasant place to be in.

The Abarth’s interior is very much full of sporting intentions paired with a bit of retro styling. The dash boasts a large piece of grey plastic with the 500C name on the passenger side to evoke the 500’s past when the dashboard was metal. This is paired with such details as sport seats wrapped in black cloth and a new steering wheel with stitching. Seats are mostly comfortable and provide excellent support in enthusiastic driving. Oddly, the seating position has you feeling like you’re sitting on a stool. I thought the seating position worked, while others complain about it. Your opinion may vary on this. Even though the 500 has seating for four, it's best to think to think of it as a two-seater as there is no legroom.

2015 Fiat 500C Abarth 12

My test Abarth came with equipped the Beats audio system. The optional system includes six-speakers, an eight-inch subwoofer, and a new amplifier. The optional system is impressive with providing excellent sound no matter what I played through it. I wished Fiat could have done a little bit more sound deadening so I didn’t have the volume up as much to try and drown out wind and road noise. The Abarth also included an optional TomTom navigation system. While it might look a little out of place, I have to give Fiat credit for hiding the power cable and other bits inside the dash.

See the next page for thoughts on powertrain and driving experience.


Powering the Abarth is a turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder with 157 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque (or 170 pound-feet when equipped with the manual). My tester was fitted with the optional six-speed automatic, while a five-speed manual is standard. Start the 500C Abarth up and you’ll be inundated with one of the sweetest engine sounds on sale. With cracking and popping, this engine is a joy to work. Aside from the sweet noises, the engine is quite spunky. Power comes on fast and gets the Abarth moving at a decent clip. The six-speed automatic provides crisp shifts, though I found the shift logic a bit wonky as it tended to hold gears slightly longer than I was expecting. Fuel economy is rated at 24 City/32 Highway/27 combined. My week saw an average of 26 MPG.

Out on the curvy bits, the Abarth shows off what it can do. The stiff suspension provides excellent body control and doesn’t make your passengers feel sick. Now the Abarth is a little bit twitchy due to the suspension and small tires, but it is easily controllable thanks to the engine and steering which possesses good weight. I did wish the steering had a little bit more feel. You might think the stiff suspension would make the ride unbearable, but the Abarth isn’t that unpleasant. The ride is bouncy, but you don’t feel like your spine is being shaken out. This may get old if you decide to take a long trip, along with loud exhaust that provides those sweet engine notes. I wonder if Fiat could look into a dual-mode exhaust into cutting back the noise for those times when need it.

2015 Fiat 500C Abarth 10

Despite the cold weather, the Fiat 500C Abarth proved to be amazing vehicle. Its has the looks and engine note to get noticed. Plus the handling and performance that can give you a big grin. Some may wish the 500 Abarth was a little bit more button down like the MINI Cooper in corners, but I think it would take away something from the model - its character. Few can match the 500C Abarth for driving fun and noise - even when its 20 below outside.

Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500C Abarth, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2015

Make: Fiat

Model: 500C

Trim: Abarth

Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged, MultiAir SOHC Four-Cylinder

Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive

Horsepower @ RPM: 157 @ 5,500

Torque @ RPM: 183 @ 2,400 - 4,000

Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/32/27

Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs

Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico

Base Price: $26,395

As Tested Price: $32,045 (Includes $850.00 Destination Charge)

Options:

Heavy-Duty Six-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,350.00

Comfort/Convenience Group - $900.00

Beats Audio Package - $700.00

TomTom Navigation with BLUE&ME - $600.00

16-Inch Aluminum Wheels - $550.00

Black Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe - $450.00

Black Trimmed Lights - $250.00


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It would seem on initial go over that Abarth put quality into the auto that Fiat clearly is lacking. Now to see just how long these last. A coworker has one of these at work and at 27K miles it is shooting blue smoke. He as an appointment to go into the dealership about the blue smoke.

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50 degrees is about my lower limit to put the top down.... but that's with the windows up, gloves and 180s on, and the heat on.

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Changed the pic:

 

1950NashRamblerConvertible-a3.jpg

 

In retrospect, ^ this move is generally seen as 'cheaping out' vs. a true convertible. :shrug:
Note that somehow Rambler figured out how to do a properly stowed top 65 years ago. Good luck, fiat, open a book once in a while.

 

- - - - -

Curious as to the definition of "small family" because the fiat lends new dimension to the descriptor "tight" WRT interior room. Packaging is good, but who cares about exterior relative size when you are eating your kneecaps in the back seat.

Edited by balthazar

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Around here in Seattle plenty of Horror stories about the 500. Mostly a lemon from the first day of purchase. Around Seattle you can find plenty of used Fiat 500 all with milage below 10K for around 10K in price and if you go to the 500L you can find them below 10K around the 12-15K price.

 

You have to ask when you see so many low mileage cars priced so low. What is the common denominator.  

 

Clicked on a few that had free carfax reports and the one thing I noticed is they all spent considerable time in the shop being repaired. Not good for reliability.

 

Balthazar the pic loads for me but is a black pick with faint white outline of the auto.

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Wow that fiat actually looks relatively sporty and pretty nice! I haven't thought of Fiat as very sporty cars compared to the past, but I guess they have kind of held under their own now! I kind of like the styling of the 500c Arbarth, it reminds me of a volkswagen beetle, but without the overall uncormfortable aspect of it. Nice review and keep them comming!

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Changed the pic:

 

1950NashRamblerConvertible-a3.jpg

 

In retrospect, ^ this move is generally seen as 'cheaping out' vs. a true convertible. :shrug:

Note that somehow Rambler figured out how to do a properly stowed top 65 years ago. Good luck, fiat, open a book once in a while.

 

- - - - -

Curious as to the definition of "small family" because the fiat lends new dimension to the descriptor "tight" WRT interior room. Packaging is good, but who cares about exterior relative size when you are eating your kneecaps in the back seat.

 

The Fiat 500 doesn't have a trunk, it is basically a 1-box design. 

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      If I was to judge the ProMaster like I would with a normal passenger car or SUV, it would be towards the bottom. There is a long list of problems such as the odd driving position, the number of comfort features that are optional, slow steering, and harsh ride. But I need to look at the ProMaster in a different light since it isn’t built for people like me. It is built for people who need a vehicle that can handle holding a lot of cargo or tools, along with being on some sort of worksite for periods at a time. Then the ProMaster begins to show some bright spots. The massive cargo area with the low step-in and tie-down point make it great for deliveries or moving. Using a front-wheel drive setup doesn’t hurt the ProMaster’s capability in terms of payload, and will help the van when the weather becomes terrible like a snowstorm. Finally, the V6 engine is plenty powerful for any situation the ProMaster is in.
      While I found the ProMaster to be a bit much to be used a daily driver for me, I can very much see the appeal for those in the commercial market. Just be sure to try the seating position as that will be the item that will influence your decision the most.
      Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster 2500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Ram Trucks
      Model: ProMaster Cargo
      Trim: 2500 159" Wheelbase - High Roof
      Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
      Curb Weight: 4.483 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $35,095
      As Tested Price: $43,460 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Sliding Driver-Side Door without Glass - $595.00
      Trailer Tow Group - $585.00
      UConnect 3 Navigation with 5-inch Display - $495.00
      16-inch x 6.0-inch Aluminum Wheels - $445.00
      Wood Composite Floor - $445.00
      Premium Appearance Group - $395.00
      Interior Convenience Group - $345.00
      ParkSense Rear Park-Assist System - $295.00
      Rear Hinged Doors with Deep Tinted Glass - $295.00
      Speed Control - $295.00
      Upper and Lower Side Wall Paneling Group - $295.00
      LED Cargo Areas Light Bars - $285.00
      225/75R16C BSW All-Season Tires - $250.00
      Driver/Passenger 6-Way Adjustable Lumbar Seats - $245.00
      Power Folding/Heated Mirrors - $245.00
      Security Alarm - $245.00
      DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit - $195.00
      Heated Driver Seat - $195.00
      Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel - $195.00
      SiriusXM Sat Radio w/1-Year Subscription - $195.00
      Rear Assist Handles - $150.00
      Heated Passenger Seat - $145.00
      Instrument Panel Bright Bezels - $95.00
      12-Volt Rear Auxiliary Power Outlet - $45.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      (Author's Note: As was pointed out to me on Facebook, the diesel engine is nowhere to be seen on the consumer site or the configurator. Yet, it appears in FCA's media materials. In an email sent this afternoon, Ram Trucks spokesman Nick Cappa said the option has been dropped for 2018. This review has been updated with this new information. -WM)
      I’ll admit that I was a bit crazy requesting a 2018 Ram ProMaster van for review. Ever since it was introduced, I have been interested in this rebadged version of the Fiat Ducato van sold elsewhere. Unlike most vans that use a rear-wheel drive layout, the ProMaster uses a front-wheel drive one. I wanted to know if this works for a vehicle designed for work. But I also have an odd curiosity to cargo vans in general as I wondered what it would be like to drive one for a week as my daily driver. This is what I found out.
      Function over form best describes the design brief for the Ram ProMaster. The overall profile reminds us of an oversized dustbuster with a steeply raked and short front end and tall sides. Awkward is the kindest word to use on the ProMaster’s front end with the grille placed very low, acres of gray plastic, headlights positioned near the windshield, and a large glass area. The rest of the ProMaster’s design fits in line with other cargo vans with clean sides, split-opening rear doors, and a set of optional wheels. 
      The ProMaster offers a wide variety of configurations. With three weight classes, three body styles, and various roof height and length options, you’ll be able to find a van that fit your needs. Our particular tester is one of the popular configurations; a 2500 with the 159-inch wheelbase and high roof option.
      Getting inside the ProMaster isn’t tough thanks to wide opening front doors and steps to help you climb up. Once in, you’ll notice one of the key benefits to the ProMaster’s exterior. The large glass area not only makes the interior feel airy, it provides excellent outward visibility. This helps make maneuvering in tight spaces easier.
      The design is very utilitarian with a plain look and controls within easy reach of the driver and passenger. There are some clever touches such as the integrated clipboard latch on the top of the dash to hold paperwork and numerous storage spaces. Many surfaces are covered in hard plastics which will hold up to the various work demands being put upon by owners.
      One area that will be a major issue for drivers is the seating position. Instead of you sitting in front of the steering wheel, Ram has the wheel set up similar to a school bus or semi-truck where you sit over it. Not helping is the placement of the pedals where you step down instead of push forward. The end result is a driver being in a hunched over position. This could be somewhat alleviated if there was a tilt adjustment for the steering wheel. But Ram only offers a telescoping adjustment. The only way to get a sudo-tilt adjustment is to adjust the angle of the seat.
      The seats themselves are perfect for a long workday with excellent support and firm cushioning. It needs to be noted that the ProMaster only offers the bare minimum when it comes to seat adjustments such as angle and position. If you want lumbar adjustments, you need to tick that box on the option list.
      All ProMasters come with a 5.3-inch touchscreen with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system. Our test van came with the optional TomTom navigation system. The small screen makes it slightly difficult to look at quickly or use while on the move. We would skip the TomTom navigation system as the graphics are quite dated and it takes some time to process before providing directions. At least the base UConnect system has many of the qualities we like on the larger systems such as a simple user interface and snappy performance.
      Step behind the cockpit to enter the massive cargo space. Our particular ProMaster configuration boasted 420 cubic feet of space and max payload of 4,020 pounds. One of the reasons I had requested the van was to get a number of items at my parent’s house to be donated. The van was up to the task by swallowing up everything including a dining room set. The low step-in height, rear-doors that open up 260-degrees, and numerous tie-down points to keep cargo in its place were appreciated.
      There are two engines on offer for the ProMaster. We had the base 3.6L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. There is an optional a 3.0L turbodiesel inline-four with a six-speed automated manual. (No more diesel for 2018 according to FCA). The V6 engine moves the van with no issue even with a large amount of cargo. As for the automatic, it delivers smooth shifts. However, the transmission showed some slowness to change gears. We’re assuming this is due to van only having 350 miles when we took delivery. For those who need a specific setup in the cargo area such as plumbers or painters, Ram offers various uplift packages that include such items as shelving, integrated tool boxes, and dividers.
      The low mileage might also explain the fuel economy figure of 15.7 mpg in mostly city driving. No EPA numbers are available due to the van’s gross vehicle weight being above 8,500 pounds.
      It is evident that Ram’s prime consideration for the suspension was tuned to deal with heavy loads and not comfort. With the van empty, the ride quality is quite harsh with many bumps making their way inside. Fill up the van and the ride begins to smooth out somewhat. Steering takes a lot of effort as it's very slow and requires a driver to make a number of rotations to do simple turns. There is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside the passenger compartment.
      If I was to judge the ProMaster like I would with a normal passenger car or SUV, it would be towards the bottom. There is a long list of problems such as the odd driving position, the number of comfort features that are optional, slow steering, and harsh ride. But I need to look at the ProMaster in a different light since it isn’t built for people like me. It is built for people who need a vehicle that can handle holding a lot of cargo or tools, along with being on some sort of worksite for periods at a time. Then the ProMaster begins to show some bright spots. The massive cargo area with the low step-in and tie-down point make it great for deliveries or moving. Using a front-wheel drive setup doesn’t hurt the ProMaster’s capability in terms of payload, and will help the van when the weather becomes terrible like a snowstorm. Finally, the V6 engine is plenty powerful for any situation the ProMaster is in.
      While I found the ProMaster to be a bit much to be used a daily driver for me, I can very much see the appeal for those in the commercial market. Just be sure to try the seating position as that will be the item that will influence your decision the most.
      Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster 2500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Ram Trucks
      Model: ProMaster Cargo
      Trim: 2500 159" Wheelbase - High Roof
      Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
      Curb Weight: 4.483 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $35,095
      As Tested Price: $43,460 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Sliding Driver-Side Door without Glass - $595.00
      Trailer Tow Group - $585.00
      UConnect 3 Navigation with 5-inch Display - $495.00
      16-inch x 6.0-inch Aluminum Wheels - $445.00
      Wood Composite Floor - $445.00
      Premium Appearance Group - $395.00
      Interior Convenience Group - $345.00
      ParkSense Rear Park-Assist System - $295.00
      Rear Hinged Doors with Deep Tinted Glass - $295.00
      Speed Control - $295.00
      Upper and Lower Side Wall Paneling Group - $295.00
      LED Cargo Areas Light Bars - $285.00
      225/75R16C BSW All-Season Tires - $250.00
      Driver/Passenger 6-Way Adjustable Lumbar Seats - $245.00
      Power Folding/Heated Mirrors - $245.00
      Security Alarm - $245.00
      DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit - $195.00
      Heated Driver Seat - $195.00
      Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel - $195.00
      SiriusXM Sat Radio w/1-Year Subscription - $195.00
      Rear Assist Handles - $150.00
      Heated Passenger Seat - $145.00
      Instrument Panel Bright Bezels - $95.00
      12-Volt Rear Auxiliary Power Outlet - $45.00
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