Tag Archives: fiat

Alex Martin-Banzer Takes the Wheel

Just when you think the world is going to hell in a hand basket (carried by men who call the hand basket a “go bag” or some such euphemism), a new woman takes the wheel and gives us smart reviews.

I met Alex Martin-Banzer when I was managing editor at Sports Car Market and she was a kid stopping by the office to see her dad, the magazine’s publisher. Now she’s getting bylines in SCM, and from what I’ve seen so far, her writing is worth the nepotism. She’s been around cars of all vintages and tracks of all stripes her whole life. She is unafraid of downshifting or chirping the tires a bit, but at the same time she knows her demographic. Check out this quick take on the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth to see what I mean. She’s also got a smart review of the 2014 BMW M6 in the September issue of SCM, if you want to check that out (no link yet).

Fast Fight! Fiat 500e vs. Chevy Spark Electric

It has been a zero-emissions whirlwind at Llyfr Da Publishing lately. The number-one lesson I’ve learned after driving a total of nearly two dozen green cars is that manufacturers have heard your concerns and they are rolling out eco-friendlier cars that don’t compromise on comfort, power, or handling. Real back seats, quick acceleration, easy-to-understand information right in front of your eyes are all part of the modern electric car.

Chevy Spark EVs waiting patiently for their journalists.

Chevy Spark EVs waiting patiently for their journalists.

Two in particular seem poised to go head-to-head for the title of funnest little EV on the planet: the Fiat 500e and the Chevy Spark EV. Here’s what they have in common.

  • Both are based on gasoline-powered cars that already exist.
  • Both are all electric powered — no gasoline or diesel at all.
  • Both have a range of 80+ miles on a full charge.
  • Both have an estimated annual fuel cost of $500, according to the EPA.
  • Both are more expensive than their gas-powered sisters.
  • Both are eligible for bunches of tax credits and incentives.

But here’s the thing: the engineers in both cases took great pains to make these cars fun, not fussy or fuddy-duddy. The battery placement in the Fiat 500e evens out the balance between the front and rear so it’s nearly perfect, meaning it handles like a little sports car. And the Chevy Spark EV has a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque, for neck-snapping starts, if you like that kind of thing. I do.

These cars also come with all kinds of bells and whistles so you don’t have to some kind of self-flagellating eco-monk to drive one. For instance, the 500e has all kinds of airbags, rear park assist, power everything, a nav system, a/c, heated front seats, and more. The Spark EV has remote start, a/c, heated seats, and Chevy’s MyLink hands-free smartphone integration.

The Fiat 500e shown nearly full size.

The nearly-full size Fiat 500e.

Now for the differences. The Fiat is the design champ here, with its distinctive Italian flair inside and out. The Chevy Spark is cute, but it lacks panache. The Spark EV does have usable back seats, which the Fiat 500e definitely lacks. The Spark EV also has a confidence gauge that gives you all the range information you need clearly and quickly, a plus as we all adjust to range anxiety and ways to get rid of it. The 2013 Fiat 500e won the NW Automotive Press Association’s first ever “Top Electric Vehicle” award, but the Spark EV wasn’t quite ready for prime time the week that event was held and did not compete. The Spark EV I tested lists at $27,010, while the 500e with special-edition orange paint and white interior was $33,495. And the Spark EV will be available later in 2013 with optional DC fast charging, which gets you from empty to 80% charged in about 20 minutes.

But this is a fight to the fun, not to the fastest charge, and in that case, the Fiat 500e is the winner. The Spark EV has all that zippy torque, but the Fiat looks like it’s having a great time even while sitting still, and it handles far better than its gasoline counterpart. As a matter of fact, if you’re deciding between the gas Fiat and the EV, go electric (as long as you live in California, the only state where it’s available for now). The Fiat 500e is the funnest.

Portland Journalists Pick the Three Top Alt-Fuel Vehicles

The Northwest Automotive Press Association, of which I am a member, got together in Portland, Oregon, last week and tested 17 alternative-fuel cars — hybrids, electric cars, and diesels. There were city commuters and luxury land yachts, and they all competed on the same drives by the same drivers all day long. At the end of the sunny summer afternoon, we had a winner in each category.

  1. Best Electric Car: Fiat 500e Believe it or not, the electric version of this little guy has more power and more torque than the gasoline version, and a better weight balance. All of that means its more fun to drive. The drawback: It’s only available in California so far.
  2. Best Hybrid Car: Chevy Volt This isn’t a new car, but it is an improved car. It helps that the idea of an extended-range plug-in hybrid car (the gas-powered engine generates extra electricity when you need it) isn’t so weird anymore. America is coming around.
  3. Best Clean Diesel: Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel Chevrolet racks up its second category win with this quiet clean diesel car. The bright-red paint of the test car spoke to its sporty feel, thanks to the turbochargers under the hood.

The fact that we had 17 cars to test in three categories show how far we’ve come in the green-car arena. No longer are we relegated to the Prius or the electric car converted in your friend’s garage with a kit you ordered over the internet. We’ve got options!

Reviews of the other cars in the lineup worth noting will be coming soon, so stay tuned, or sign up for the newsletter to get the reviews in your inbox.

Matchmaking Site Wants to Hook You Up with a Fiat 500e

Fiat has a new tongue-in-cheek matchmaking site, EnvironmentallySexy.com, that will help you find the eco-friendly love of your life. Amazingly, it will be a Fiat, and maybe even the new Fiat 500e, the Italian company’s new little electric car.

Despite the silliness of the site (From the press release: “Meet Fabrizio – He’s an Italian eco-fashion model who loves the environment almost as much as he loves seeing his face on the covers of magazines or on the chrome of his espresso machine.”) it does offer information on which Fiat is right for you. An EV is not for everyone — you have to have someplace to plug it in, for example, and an apartment with only on-street parking is not going to cut it.

If you’ve already decided that a Fiat 500 is for you but you can decide which variation is the most adorbs, check EnvironmentallySexy.com on your next coffee break and take a quiz. You might be attracted to the small, dark, and electric type after all.