2013 Fiat 500 Turbo Review

Fiat finds the middle ground.

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February 21, 2013

2013 Fiat 500 Turbo Review

Need to squeeze into a rapidly closing hole in traffic? Downshift and hit the gas, and the Fiat will get you there just in the nick of time.

Introduction
Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, Fiat buyers, especially those who are driving enthusiasts, need something that offers performance without sacrifice. Fiat is hoping its new 500 Turbo will fit that bill.

At least that's the case when talking about performance. The standard 500 and 500C are perfectly capable around-town runabouts, but they don't offer the hopped-up performance of the 500 Abarth. That's both bad--the standard 500 could use a little more oomph--and good, since the Abarth is so high-strung in traffic.

Enter the Turbo. It brings more gusto (thanks to its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder) to the little subcompact hatch without sacrificing comfort. After a week with the car, we got a sense of just how well Fiat was able to blend performance and ease of use.

2013 Fiat 500C On the Road No 500--not even the Abarth--is a rocket ship, but we were nonetheless impressed by the acceleration of the Turbo. Need to squeeze into a rapidly closing hole in traffic? Downshift and hit the gas, and the Fiat will get you there just in the nick of time.

Speaking of downshifting, sometimes engines are matched well to their transmission, and that's the case here. The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder was nicely complimented by the five-speed manual. The shifter's throws weren't too long, and it was easy to find each shift gate without too much trouble. The clutch pedal struck a nice balance between firmness and comfort as well.

Like the Sport-trimmed 500, the Turbo has a sport suspension, meaning that the Turbo handled much like the Sport. It was fun to fling around, nice and nimble, but not as planted and firm as the Abarth. This is bad news on a curvy road or an autocross course, but for drivers who just want a little bit of sportiness when confronted with a winding road during their normal commute, the Turbo provides.

The brakes provided, too, giving us enough stopping power for our needs, even during aggressive driving. Overall, the Turbo doesn't have the Abarth's performance chops, but it was more fun and more capable when pushed than the other trims (Pop and Lounge are the other non-Abarth/non-Sport trims).
2013 Fiat 500C Exterior Save for some minor changes (mostly regarding paint-color choices) the Turbo doesn't look all that different from the Sport. It blended into traffic much better than the boy-racer Abarth, but at the end of the day, it's still a tall subcompact hatch that gets noticed.
2013 Fiat 500C Interior Special stitching and a leather shift knob, along with what Fiat calls 'sport-styled' seats, are the main differences between the Turbo's interior and the interior of the rest of the line. That means you get the standard 500 cabin experience, in which form is decidedly placed ahead of function. Fashionistas might like the styling of the switchgear, but occasionally the functionality was compromised by Fiat's desire to by high fashion.

Otherwise, as one might expect in a car so small, the cockpit is tight. Headroom and legroom up front is OK for taller drivers and passengers, but adults won't care to ride in the backseat.
2013 Fiat 500C Final Thoughts Fiat set out to split the difference between the Abarth and the other trims of the 500, and from a performance perspective, they did, although at a cost (our tester clocked in at over $22K). Non-enthusiasts might be OK with the other trims, but enthusiasts who wished for more performance and who also didn't want to live with the high-strung Abarth on a day-to-day basis now have a ride that they can live with.

Goldilocks would approve.
2013 Fiat 500C Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission

Drive Wheels: Front-wheel drive

Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway

Base Price: $19,500

As-tested Price: $22,350

Available Features: Bluetooth, satellite radio, heated front seats, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, vehicle information system, premium audio speakers.

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