2013 Fiat 500 Turbo: Bling? Maybe; Bing? Definitely!
The car was a techy new 21st-century turbo so, of course, it reminded me of a 1944 Bing Crosby movie.
In “Here Come the Waves,” I’ll bet you’ll recall, Crosby sings “Ac-ent-tchu-ate the Positive,” a song whose lyric advises: “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”
And therein lies the irony. Fiat’s new 500 Turbo seeks to accentuate positives and eliminate negatives by being Mr. In-Between.
Prior to this Turbo, Fiat offered just two models: the base 500 and the hot-rod 500 Abarth.
The former, priced just under $17,000, boasts a naturally aspirated, 101-hp four-banger that makes 98 lb.-ft. of torque, launching the car to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. The latter, starting just under $23,000, trades up to a 160-hp, turbocharged four that grinds out 170 lb.-ft. of twist, helping Abarth greet 60 in 6.9 seconds.
Now comes Turbo, which slots between base and Abarth in both power and price, thereby hoping to eliminate the negative of the base car’s snail-pace acceleration while accentuating the positive of a lower price than Abarth.
It’s Mr. In-Between.
Riding a sport-tuned version of the base car’s suspension, Turbo borrows Abarth’s blown 1.4-liter four but detunes it to 135 hp and 150 lb.-ft. of grunt. That let’s Turbo reach 60 in about 8 seconds (right between base and Abarth) while asking a starting price of 20 large – again, splitting the difference.
To ensure the neighbors know you have more than a base car, Turbo gets Abarth’s beefier nose, brawnier rocker panels, 16-inch wheels (though the wheel design is unique), larger brake rotors and tailgate spoiler. But don’t be too lavish in your praise of Abarth’s generosity. It refuses to give Turbo its high-performance Koni shocks or track-ready suspension.
Turbo’s interior shares its fun and foibles with every 500. Among the latter are a woefully cramped back seat, a blind spot in your over-left-shoulder glances for lane changes and a knob-less radio that’s vexing, although steering-wheel controls help.
Among the former is a fun-to-throw five-speed manual gear box (the only transmission offered in Turbo) and a Sport driving mode that tightens steering and notably enhances throttle response. That mode is so effective, I got into the habit of starting the car and then immediately engaging it without thinking.
True, this fun little subcompact is not the visceral experience of Abarth, but it’s an improvement over the base car. Is it worth the $103 per extra horsepower?
Let’s try to be positive.