We had the privilege last week of driving "up north" in a summery yellow Fiat 500C, the reinvented Italian people's car. We traveled straight north to the Mackinac Bridge, the point between Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas (think 150-year-old fudge shops, parasailing, sugar-sand beaches, and breathtaking sunsets over birch and pine forests). It was the perfect car for the perfect summer trip: the little Fiat packs a lot of style into its 95% recyclable and economically-sized body, with a soft top that retracts all the way to the rear, Euro style looks, an adorable tiny trunk, and an interior with heated leather seats and many of the comforts of a much more expensive vehicle.
The most amusing thing about the Fiat would have to be the attention it garners in an out-of-the-way place like northern Michigan. Older men shook their heads as the little yellow rocket passed them on the street, while the younger set smiled and seemed intrigued. Women of every age seemed to fall in love with it on first sight. Suffice it to say we were the only Fiat for several hundred miles in this land of General Motors and Ford allegiance, which made for many amusing conversations. We only shook our heads when we discovered that Sport mode, which gives you a little boost of power, got the same 40-mpg gas mileage as Eco-Drive over long distances, and that the car wanted to stay in second gear all the way up to 50 miles per hour for no apparent reason. The second problem is fixed with the manumatic shifting function, which allows you to change gears when you want by flicking the automatic gear lever back and forth. It’s a lifesaver for anyone who wants to make this car move.
“Should I buy one?” That was the question on everyone’s lips – even at a wedding we attended at the end of the week. The answer is, that depends on what you expect. If you want a reasonably efficient, small car with tons of style, the Fiat 500 is your ride, no question. If you’re looking for something sportier, you could opt for next year’s 175-horsepower Abarth model, or for more interior room, go for a MINI instead. All we know is there’s nothing like northern Michigan in the summer, and there’s nothing like the Fiat 500. They’re both one of a kind.