2018 Fiat 500 Driving Impressions

Increased base-engine power is a welcome change, even if it doesn’t make the Pop or Lounge edition seriously sporty. Turbo power gives the less-potent models a degree of confidence that was previously absent. Even so, the base engine still demands a rather heavy foot on the gas pedal to keep it at optimum strength.

Only the Abarth edition feels truly energetic, even though its horsepower rating isn’t dramatically higher than the base engine delivers. Especially when cold, starting up in the morning, the crackling Abarth exhaust can be as enticing as a siren’s song to an enthusiast’s ear.

In manual-shift models, the shift lever has to move quite a long way when changing gears. Clutch behavior doesn’t feel right, either, engaging at a pedal-travel position that seems too high. For daily driving and commuter duty, the automatic transmission might be a wiser choice.

Expect a relatively bouncy ride, which is a typical characteristic with small cars. On long hauls, in particular, the Fiat 500 can start to feel a bit jittery, due at least in part to the sport-tuned suspension (performance-tuned on Abarth versions).

Fuel economy isn’t as appealing as expected, compared to other small cars. With automatic, all three trim levels are EPA-rated at the same 24/32 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined. Manual shift raises the estimates to 28/33 mpg City/Highway, or 30 mpg Combined. Premium gasoline is recommended.

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