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The Fiat 500 Test Drive.

So my girlfriend and I got invites to a research study about "small cars" a couple weeks ago since we both have a "qualifying" car (both MINIs). At first we just figured it was a US car market ploy to get us to not call their cars crap, but after we arrived at the study we found out there were 5 cars total, and one of them was a car that isn't even sold here in the US.. the Fiat 500. I was intrigued to say the least.The 5 car line up was as follows:1. Toyota Yaris (ehh, ok outside. Boring inside. Very underpowered.)2. Honda Fit (Overall Blah.)3. Smart Car (COMPLETE AND TOTAL PIECE OF SHIT, WORST CAR EVER!)4. Fiat 500 (The only one in the bunch I would consider buying)6. Nissan Versa (boring as all hell)

The idea of the study was to do some driving in the cars and simulate some normal driving conditions you might come up against in day to day life. So we went and drove all the cars around a course and had some interview questions that followed. Typical questions like, "what did you like and what didn't you like". But then the questions began to get very heavily waited toward the Fiat; all questions somehow relating to the Fiat. Long story short it was very apparent this was most likely put on by Fiat to gauge interest in bringing the Fiat stateside to compete in the small car market.

Im not even going to bother talking about the other 4 cars in this post because frankly, they were a non-event. Although I really should do a post about how much of a piece of shit the Smart car is. The Fiat 500 was a pretty good little car. The trouble was that there IS a MINI, so every part of it was compared to a MINI. The car felt very MINI like, with some of the styling interior and exterior. To be completely honest if there was no MINI, I would definitely think about getting one. Trouble is, there IS a MINI.

I thought the transmission was kind of weird because it didn't have the creep like most cars, it just completely disengaged when you let of the gas, which was supremely annoying and jerky when doing little stop and go type driving, but solid when driving normal (fast). One of the guys that worked on designing the transmission was there and after hearing me talk about it, took me out again on the course to drive it fast with no supervision. After that I was a little more pleased with the car's overall performance. (him being there also hinted that this was put on by Fiat). I felt the car was underpowered too, coming from driving a modified R53 for so long, but he assured me there would be a "JCW like" kit for the Fiat 500 soon, so thats a plus for the little Fiat.

Overall it was a pretty solid car, but as I said before, I would still choose my MINI over the Fiat any day of the week.

I snapped a pic of the Fiat on my iPhone before getting yelled at for taking pics and posted it on twitter.

Fiat 500 Site

UPDATE 10/16/08:
Just got a follow up email that states the following:
"During the drive study, we asked how likely you would be to consider purchasing the green Fiat Cinco Cento for a future car, at a price of $13,500 (MSRP) at 40 miles per gallon on the highway. A picture of the car is provided below for your reference". After yelling at me for taking a pic, they send me a high res pic directly to my email.

"What if you found out that the car was actually manufactured by a different company?  Would that change your purchase consideration?  Please indicate how likely you would be to purchase the same car if it was manufactured by each of the manufacturers below."
The listed manufacturers were Chrysler / Honda / Ford / Hyundai. With a scale of 1 - 10.

Quite interesting, guess we will have to wait and find out what they do.