I use the “car club” theory to define if a car is really special or not. Corvettes have a huge cult following and “the wave”. The Golf GTi has owner gatherings and even if you look back in time a bit, the Datsun 240Z had the headlight flash. The Fiat 500 – specifically the Abarth versions – have this following. They are fantastic little cars because folks with too big of an ego can’t understand them. The size of the car has no direct relation to the size of anything else. I’m of course talking about fun factor.
This one is the “Easy” trim level, which means you get 15 inch alloys, a pretty impressive Beats audio system, and gray paint. Literally gray. Fiat calls it Rhino clear coat. You also get an engine. It’s not really as lively as the one you’ll find in the Abarth though. You get all of 1.4 litres of 4 cylinder power to buzz you up to speed in a bit of a noisy way, so when you finally get up to the speed limit, there’s some incentive to stay there.
One of the things that the Easy shares with the Abarth is the eager, willing and encouraging chassis. Since acceleration is on par with a glacier, keeping momentum is critical. And thankfully this little car can scamper around corners in such a way that will have you drawing cliche – but mostly valid – comparisons to a go-kart. You simply point the car in the direction you want to go and off you go.
That’s one of the things I often find missing from small cars. Small cars showcase an opportunity to have things go back to basics. They aren’t burdened by the weight of 17 computers that need to run the suspension system, and they are liberated by an engine of modest horsepower, with which you you can mash the gas as often as you’d like without getting attention from the fuzz and still get some decent mileage. The 500 does this. The Fiesta as well. And as far as a small car goes, you sure get a lot of personality with this one.
The bright red headrests and red piping in the seats is a splash of color in good contrast with the monochrome exterior of gray, and inside you get a dash that’s painted in that same exterior color. There’s not a whole lot of room, but if you fold down the seats, you can throw a few travel bags in the back. A fair bit of room is taken up by the Beats subwoofer, but that’s OK because it crams all your luggage in place so none of it moves around when you fling it around a corner.
All of these things make you proud of the 500. And you don’t want to give it up. You don’t want to return it. You want to simply drive it around some more, on twisty roads, feeling the suspension work under you, and hearing little protest from the narrow tires. At $21,290 it might seem a bit steep for a car the size of a Lego brick, but this one was fitted with the automatic, which adds $1,350 and isn’t really something you need anyway. That means if you wanted a truly fun small hatch, you’d be in the 500 Easy for just a tick under $20,000, and that makes this club membership very inexpensive to sign up for.
2016 Fiat 500 Easy
Exterior: Rhino Clear Coat
Interior: Nero Black
Engine: 1.4 inline-4 16 valve
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
HP & Tq – 101 hp & 98 lb/ft
MPG city/highway/combined: 27/34/30
Base MSRP: $17,745
As tested: $21,290