This week, we drive the 2014 Fiat 500c, delivered with turbocharged Abarth mechanicals and finished in a unique GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) magazine designer trim. The “c” denotes Cabrio as a power actuated soft top lets in all or just some of the sunshine thanks to three “stop” positions.
Although Fiat’s little sub-compact never crossed my mind as an “upper-crust” type car, the company continues its 500 branding with special “GQ” type editions, including a Gucci model and soon to released “1957” retro edition. As for names and models, all Fiat 500s are pretty much the same, the big difference being turbo and non-turbo models.
Starting at a very affordable $16,445 for the entry model, one thing is certain when you test drive or own a Fiat 500: you will be noticed. As for our tester, just double up on everything thanks to the performance exhaust system and Abarth GQ embellishments.
With roots that date back to 1957, when Fiat Abarth’s won many a small bore sports car races, today’s 500c is indeed one tremendous attention getter. Be it young or old, everyone wanted to know more about the car.
Most didn’t know about the Fiat Abarth history, and how it relates to present day with its main competitor, the Mini Cooper. I explained that as a lifelong subscriber to Road & Track and Car & Driver magazines, I remember the competition between Abarth and Cooper for small bore, lightweight racing supremacy. These individuals, namely John Cooper and Karl “Carlo” Abarth, both raced their personal vehicles and then morphed them into full fledged production and/or race vehicles available throughout the world.
Cooper, from Great Britain, and Abarth, an Austrian who later moved to Italy, both gained prominence as racing drivers and car builders, the latter more so with his rear engine Formula cars and Abarth with his souped up little Fiat 500s and motorcycles. Today, the Mini Cooper and Fiat Abarth re-unite again, with Mini Cooper roots coming from corporate head BMW while Fiat is involved with everything from Chrysler to Ferrari, the latter of which it owns 90-percent.
Overall, Fiat deserves the kudos it receives for the Fiat 500. Its marketing abilities are impressive by integrating its historic past with the successful retro-look you see in today’s 500. For 2014 and 2015, Fiats come in numerous styles from the base model to even an electric Fiat 500E, which delivers 122 MPG but currently is only available in Oregon and California.
As for our GQ, the Abarth 1.4-lier four-cylinder puts out 160-horses and 170 lb. ft. of torque, more than enough to powers this “ultra lite” sub-compact to 60 mph in less than eight seconds. This acceleration is also complimented by 28 city and 34 MPG highway numbers, achieved via a heavy duty five speed manual transmission. As for the Abarth tuned exhaust note, I can almost hear a bit of “Ferrari tone” if I listen real close, much to my liking. (Automatic transmissions are available, even on turbo Fiat 500s. Your dealer will explain all offerings.)
With a long list of standard features, including 16-inch tires on aluminum wheels, Fiat 500s deliver good handling and a surprisingly comfortable ride. Granted, you’ll feel the bumps on uneven roads, but overall Fiat 500 delivers in all areas of handling.
As for options, our 500 came with the GQ preferred package, which includes 16 specific items for $700; Beats Premium audio for $700; Tom Tom navigation with “BLUE&ME” for $600; and a $900 comfort and Convenience package for $900.
Fiat 500s earn four star government crash ratings, although as mentioned in other sub-compact reviews some inherent negatives come “built in” as very small cars are subject to losing the “weight versus weight” impact issues.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 90.6 inches, 9.5 cu. ft. of trunk space, 2,411 pound curb weight, and a 10.5 gallon fuel tank.
If you like your cars small and full of history, try a Fiat 500 on for size.
2014 Fiat 500C GQ Edition
Base Price: $16,445
Price as Tested: $29,945
Great history and modern looks to match
Fun and easy to drive
No rear safety camera
Tom Tom location hinders view of road
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who writes weekly for BestRide.com and other GateHouse Media publications).