2013 Fiat 500 Turbo Sport Hatchback

Fiat 500T in SnowWhen my brothers and I were growing up (there were four Wright brothers), we had a suite of little plastic cars of all makes to play with.  They were quite small, perhaps 1.5 inches long, and had the names imprinted on the roof, just above the back window.  We referred to one of the cars as the FLAT, because the name was quite small, and perhaps even mistakenly embossed.  Little boys in rural Nebraska would never have heard of a Fiat, to be sure, and it was years later when I, and perhaps they, became aware of the venerable Italian brand of cars.

The little model car was a 500, nicknamed Topolino (Italian for little mouse), and was produced from 1936 until 1955.  The Fiat 500, in fact, has been produced and sold in America for most of the last 77 years, and this last week I received one for testing.  It was provided by Chrysler Corporation, the company that Fiat and the U.S. government saved from bankruptcy in 2009.

In this column I have in the past mentioned that I once owned a Fiat, a 1968 850 roadster.  At that time the brand had a reputation for unreliability, but as I understand it, the Fiat line of cars hold together pretty well today.  Long term testing of the 500, available since 2007, has produced good results for the car.  My 850 was for the purpose of running up and down the Space Coast of Florida when I was assigned to the Apollo program.

The 500T that I tested had the 135 horsepower (150 lb. ft. of torque), turbocharged, 1.4 liter four cylinder engine and five speed manual transmission.  It was painted Rame (copper) metallic and the interior was Nero (black) cloth.  I’m pretty sure these are Italian words.  Base price of the turbo model was $19,500, and options included the Beats audio package ($1,500), comfort/convenience group ($650), and $700 for destination charges.  Total M.S.R.P., therefore, was $22,350.  Beats Audio is the stereo company started by Dr. Dre, and in the car it featured 6 speakers, including a trunk mounted subwoofer.  Satellite radio, Bluetooth phone, USB connection, cruise, tilt, power windows (2), power remote locks, and leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob were all on hand in the 500T.

According to the Fiat brochure, “Zippy happens” with the turbocharged 500, and I will attest to that.  It also rides well on the Interstate, despite the 90.6” wheelbase.  Weight of the 500T is 2,333 lbs., and the fuel tank holds 10.5 gallons –   EPA mileage ratings are 28/34 city-highway.  Overall, driving the Fiat 500T is a lot of fun.

Styling is a hallmark of the Fiat, and the Sport has some extra fascia trim as well as a chrome exhaust finisher, chrome door handles, spoiler, and polished 16” alloy wheels.  The car is fitted with 195/45R-16 radials.

I like this Fiat more than the one I owned 42 years ago – in fact at that point in time I would have been surprised to hear of the future existence of such a nice Fiat.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD Turbo

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

  Hyundai is a giant South Korean automobile manufacturer based in Seoul and it is the fourth largest such firm in the world.  The company owns almost half of KIA Motor Company, as well, and has been in business for 45 years.  In North America, Hyundai has designs on becoming the number three automaker in 2013.

This last week I had the pleasure of testing a new, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T, courtesy of Crossroads Hyundai in Loveland.  Sales Manager Ryan Sackschewsky lined me up with a dealer plate and the keys and we were off!  The Santa Fe is a midsize crossover that has been around since 2001, and was on the forefront of the crossover boom that started at that time.  Styling of the 3rd generation Santa Fe is a hallmark of this latest model, introduced in September.  Chrome abounds on the car, including a big grill, door handles, and dual exhaust finishers, and it was painted Moonstone silver metallic.  The Santa Fe rides on attractive, 19”, ten-spoke Hyper Silver alloy wheels.

Speaking of abundance, inside the Santa Fe were both the Technology package and Premium Equipment package along with a panoramic sunroof.  The packages allow the occupants to enjoy dual-zone climate control, rearview camera, 8” touch screen navigation, satellite radio, proximity keyless entry, premium 12 speaker Infinity 550-watt surround sound, heated seats (everywhere) and heated steering wheel.  Of course the car is equipped with power locks/windows, tilt/telescope, USB/Ipod connections, and Bluetooth capability.  This is an extremely luxurious vehicle, and lists for less than $36,000.

A nice feature also found inside the Santa Fe is a mammoth rear cargo area with 35.4 cubic feet.  That expands to 71.5 with the 3-piece split rear seat folded down.  That’s right; the rear, sliding bench seat is a 40/20/40 so that two skiers can ride along with their equipment in the middle.

Power for the Santa Fe is supplied by a turbocharged 2.0 liter, 200 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine with 264 horsepower, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.  The EPA mileage ratings are 19/city and 24/highway, and acceleration is reportedly zero to sixty in 9.1 seconds.  The ride of the Hyundai is compliant and the handling is SUV-superb.

Interestingly, the Santa Fe Sport features both Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, items I would have loved to have on my rental car the last time I visited San Francisco.  Such amenities are indicative of the value associated with this Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T, a car I would be willing to recommend to a prospective car shopper.