Pop, Pep and Smiles: The Fiat 500

Don’t drive a Fiat 500 if you’re not a people person. This adorable little car, which I tooled around in for a week, induces smiles, thumbs up and instant kinship wherever you go.

The Fiat 500 pops at the beach

Where We Were Going: the Beach

Specifically, we were headed to Atlantic City, for a surprise birthday party. Since our kids and dog weren’t invited, we decided to drive something super fun. Technically, the Fiat 500 fits adults, but those adults need to be on the height challenged spectrum to be comfortable.

Karat had a short ride in the back seat of the Fiat 500

A Gamble: Sleep in the Car?

Atlantic City, the Las Vegas of New Jersey, has casinos, a long boardwalk, miles of beach and fine dining. We were eating at Buddakkan, which also has outposts in Manhattan and Philadelphia.

My sister-in-law suggested we gamble and use Hotel Tonight to find a cheap room the night of the party. All week, we anxiously looked at the robust inventory but steadily rising prices. This was Memorial Day weekend, and as we feared, prices rose sharply the day of our trip. Perhaps we could have waited till late afternoon, but I was seriously concerned that we’d be sleeping in the Fiat. We gambled – and lost – but did secure a very nice room at La Sammana in Brigantine, just a few miles from Atlantic City. The hotel had a rooftop pool and a free shuttle to Atlantic City.

Rooftop at La Sammana

Driving a Classic

The Museum of Modern Art recently added a 1965 Fiat 500 to an exhibit, “The Value of Good Design.” What is surprising about the 2019 Fiat is that you can buy it new for well under $20,000.

Actual Cost

Plenty of room in the trunk

The 2019 Fiat Pop Hatchback that Fiat Chrysler loaned me is listed at $16,245, but a steep destination fee ($1,495) and a few extras pushed the final price to $22,110. The car has some nifty standard features, like a sporty leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, one touch down power windows and fog lamps.

Beach party: birthday ‘boy’ in back with red Solo cup

Extras on the model I drove included a power sunroof, Beats premium audio and a heavy duty 6 speed auto transmission. Of course, driving a stick is more fun, but the engine sounds make you feel ike you’re piloting a manual.

Adventure in Driving

I’m a fan of the ‘soft’ adventure: cycling 50 miles on flat roads, not hurtling down mountains on a trail bike. So the excitement in the Fiat was convincing my dog to jump into the back seat (her first experience with a two door car). Or watching my husband freak out when he couldn’t find the window buttons. They are mounted on the center console.

The window controls on the center console, right and left

Small size, outsize fun

We spent the next day at the beach in Margate City. This low-key beach area, also just a couple of miles from Atlantic City, has very limited street parking, with driveways eating up much of the space on side streets. But with the tiny Fiat, we were able to easily find a spot right near the beach for another surprise party. This short footprint makes the Fiat 500 a great city car, slipping into spots where brawnier cars and SUVs can’t squeeze in.

The trunk also had ample room for our suitcases, though if we’d wanted to , we could have used the back seat. The back seat folds down if you want to transport something large.

Another trunk: Lucy, the symbol of Margate City

I was also pleased that the Fiat got 32 miles per gallon on the highway.

Note: Fiat Chrysler loaned me the Fiat 500 . Opinions are smiles are all my own.

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