2015 Fiat 500 Turbo Review

European Extroverts Need Only Apply

Few cars can get away with being patriotic enough to go from being gaudy to cheeky, but they exist.

A Mustang wrapped in an American flag vinyl, a Union Jack painted on the roof of a MINI or the Germany flag’s colors painted on the grille of a BMW all somehow seem appropriate. Fiat is joining them.

Available on the Fiat 500 is a stripe and badge package that puts a little Italian flair on this little Italian runabout. Called the Mopar Italian Stripe Package, a name in which it’s self is a bit of a paradox, the 500 receives red and green stripes on its white body as well as some Italian flag badges.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo Review

The overall look may not be for everyone, but the 500 has always been a fun, youthful vehicle so the package does fit the character of the car. I like the look, but not when I’m driving the car. Being a tall, blonde man who’s whiter than bleached teeth, I don’t quite fit the persona of the car. My wife on the other hand, half Italian and looking like a full-blooded member, is better suited.

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Turbo and Automatic

For the first time in a modern 500, a turbocharged engine can be had with an automatic. Although it may not be the Abarth’s fire breathing power plant, the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine in the 500 Turbo still makes a hearty 135 HP, 150 lb-ft. of torque. Even if that doesn’t sound like much on the surface, remember the Fiat 500 is tiny and only weighs 2,576 lbs. as equipped.

The automatic is FCA’s six-speed conventional unit and not the dual-clutch transmission found in other applications paired to the little turbo engine. The drivetrain combination provides good acceleration off the line, especially in sport mode, which increases throttle response. The engine even makes a mild, hearty grunt under hard acceleration, as if to remind you it is, indeed, related the maniacal 500 Abarth.

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The 500 is a small car, but it doesn’t drive like one despite its 144.4-inch length. It lacks the hollow, unplanted driving sensation that a lot of other city cars suffer from. But small it is, and parking the 500 Turbo in almost any type of scenario is a breeze.

The 500’s diminutive stature does lead to some unusual traits though. Handling is entertaining, not because the 500 is a corner carver, but more so because it feels like the body is about to tip over. With a short wheelbase and tall body, the 500 feels like a go-kart on stilts. The 195/45R16 tires do their best to hang on and the heavier steering lets you know what the car is doing at all times in sport mode even if it’s not always good news.

Funky Car, Funky Interior

An ordinary interior just won’t do for a small, motorized Italian flag like this. Inside my 500 Turbo, the Rosso red leather seats have been installed. They provided great support for me and my wife who was seven-months pregnant at the time. With 37.6 inches of headroom, only one of us enjoyed adequate cranium capacity as my six-foot frame kept brushing up against the roof liner.

The dashboard isn’t the most alluring design, but Fiat did a good job with painted surfaces and button placement to give the 500 some style. There is only a one stage seat heater, but we did find it warmed up quickly, much like the entire interior of the 500.

SEE ALSO: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

The 500 isn’t devoid of a few idiosyncrasies though. The car beeps incessantly when you first put the key in the ignition. As a side note, at almost $28,000 a smart key would be nice, but Fiat doesn’t offer one. Worst of all tough, the B-pillar blind spot over the driver’s left shoulder is huge. Although the mirrors can be arranged to counteract this, it’s still unnerving to have such a visual obstruction in such a small car.

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Cargo Comes at a Price

As always, the 500’s rear seat space is intimate. With just 31.7 inches of legroom, adults won’t fit easily in the rear. Cargo is also on the small side with a mere 9.5 cubic feet of storage space. My advice is, if you don’t have kids, keep the rear seats folded and turn the 500 into a two-seater with an ample storage area.

The 500 Turbo starts at a very reasonable $20,500 after destination charges. But then it becomes a matter of restraint. Lack self-discipline and it’s easy to ramp up the car’s price tag to $27,895 as is the case with my test car.

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The Verdict: 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo Review

The Fiat 500 has always been an acquired taste and with the Mopar Italian Stripe Package, that’s more true than ever before. Thankfully the stripes are optional and so is an automatic transmission with the turbocharged engine. If you are interested in this car and can live with its quirks and price point, there isn’t much at this end of the market that offers as much flare and style as the 500 Turbo.