Last year I started a job as a consultant. Of course, this means traveling a bit. I rent cars from Enterprise a lot, and am a member of their “Enterprise Plus” club. I’ve racked up a lot of points, but haven’t actually tried to redeem them yet; as of yet the only advantage to being a Plus member is getting to go to the head of the line at the rental counter. Which I always feel guilty about.
I almost always get a compact or “econobox” and occasionally get upgraded. The conversation usually goes like this: they ask if I have a preference of vehicles 1, and I say “I don’t really care, just as long as it’s not a Nissan Versa”2, and then we pick something out. This week the sales associate said “Well, what about this Fiat?” and stopped next to this cute little red thing. Uh sure, twist my arm!
Car: Fiat 500, fire-engine red.
Fuel economy: Meh. Manufacturer claims 34-40 highway, I got on the low end of that3.
Handling: The tight turning radius is a big plus; I could flip a U on a two-lane road. It got a bit squirrelly at high speeds, though.
Conversation starter: A+. People wanted to chat at stoplights, or while they were turning through an intersection (!!!), and one time, I came out of the grocery store to find someone waiting by the car because he wanted to ask me about it.
Appearance: Cute, but not as cute as a Mini Countryman. The red is a really nice deep red, though.
Comfort: Very! 3 hours straight and no back pain or tingly feet. The back seat is probably limited to children or very small people, though I imagine it’s motion-sicknessville back there. Bonus: I could drive with one window down without that annoying air thumping, up to about 75mph.
Trunk space: What?
Annoyances, allow me to list them:
1. The dashboard layout. Seriously: who designed this?! The automatic windows are controlled by two separate switches, and you have to reach over the gearshift to work the passenger side window. May as well have manual cranks if you’re going to do that. (In this car, the distance isn’t that much farther.)
2. No auto-up on the windows. See “reacharound” above.
3. Despite the additional fisheye mirror, you could hide a minivan in the driver’s side blind spot.
4. Can’t pop the hatchback from in the car. Or maybe you can, but I never found the lever (see comment about dashboard layout above.). You have to hit the button on the key, then manually open the door. Then, the door doesn’t have a handle or anything to grab to pull it down, just a little teeny strap.
Moment of hilarity: Driving along Illinois 288 and hitting the perfect frequency on the concrete seams to make the car bounce so much I thought it might take off. I laughed so hard I almost had to pull over.
If I bought this car, the first thing I would do is replace the stock tires with something that grips a bit better; it was kinda scary in some of the turns.
1 – So far my favorite car is the Toyota Yaris. (I know, I’m surprised too!)
2 – The less said about that travesty of a vehicle, the better. Bleah.
3 – For reference, my personal car is a TDI Beetle. I get 50-60mpg on the highway, if I don’t have bikes on the top; then I get 40-45. So compared to that, everything else is going to be “meh” or worse.