Friday, July 7, 2017

Fiat 124 Spider

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
  • ENGINE: 1.4-liter I-4 
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual  
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 164 hp @ 5,500 rpm/184 lb.-ft. @ 3,200 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 90.9 in 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 159.6 x 68.5 x 48.5 in. 
  • TIRES: P205/45VR17 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 4.9 cu. ft. 
  • ECONOMY: 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway/23.9 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 11.9 gal.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 2,477 lbs.     LBS/HP: 15.1
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
  • STICKER: $33,184 (includes $995 delivery, $3,995 options)
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Fiat 124 Spider is true to the definition of a sports car; fun for two people with exhilarating performance. It is hampered by too much ambient noise with the top down, but why have a Spider if you don’t drive it with the top down?

          The first sports car I ever drove was a Fiat Abarth 500 with a Zagato double bubble top. It was during a car show at the old Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island and I was smitten that a car of that size could produce so much fun without going ridiculously fast. Constant readers will note that the first sports car I owned was an MGA roadster that engendered much of the same response as the Fiat, even though its was bigger and had a bigger engine. 
          Well, Fiat stopped selling cars in the US for a while, and MG is no longer a viable marque. 
          But Fiat is back, and their latest venture into sports cars is the 124 Spider. Now, I remember a Fiat 124 from “back in the day.” It was a 2+2 open-top sporty car and it was the first car I ever earned a perfect score in during a rally. Sadly, my navigator never actually registered us, so we missed out on a great prize, as I remember.
          This latest version of the 124 harks back to the old days of sports cars. It is a two-seater, slightly cramped, fun to drive and noisy. The Abarth exhaust system definitely has some influence on the exhaust note, which isn’t bad. 
          When I first saw the 124, I was reminded of the BMW X4. There’s also a strong hint of Mazda Miata in it, and there should be. The 124 is built by Mazda in Japan, with an Italian engine and just about everything else from Japan. I found the styling of the 124 more dramatic than the Miata, but Miata styling has become almost old hat by now. There are some significant differences between the two cars that gives the 124 its own character.
          The 124 uses a double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear. Handling is very good, and I enjoyed testing my nerve seeing how quickly I could go around corners without hitting the brakes. 
          Like true sports cars, it isn’t the power - 164 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque - but how you use it. The fun is in the handling. The suspension is firm, but the memories of sports cars past made it seem normal. The engine does get up to 6,000 rpm quickly. With the large center-mounted tachometer it is easy to see what you’re doing. The analog speedometer is a smaller dial off to the right. With its size and with the top down, it’s hard to read the speedo in sunlight, so behave.
          The transmission offers crisp shifts among well-chosen gears. The 124 can be driven “normally,” or as a true sports car with brisk acceleration.  
          As a Spider (or convertible), it’s critical that the top lower and raise easily. It can be accomplished with one hand and even from outside the car. With the top up, there is minimal wind noise. With it down, however, it is difficult to hold a normal conversation thanks to the combination of wind and exhaust noise. Consequently, we usually drove without talking or listening to the radio.
          The audio system is good and with a clear infotainment screen. However, in audio it’s easy to push the central controller and/or the volume with your arm if you’re holding on to the gear lever.
          Front seats are comfortable deep buckets that could be a challenge to a larger person. They are heated and in our tester had red inserts. There’s no glove box, but there is a small center console/arm rest between the seats. In the rear, again between the seats, is the “glove box.” This compartment holds the owner’s manual and an ersatz cupholder that fits in a slot on the transmission hump. The transmission hump has an extension of sorts on the right side that compromises passenger foot room somewhat. 
          Based on our sports car experiences of the past, my wife was happy to note that there was no hair messing during top-down drives. The seat backs are taller than we remembered and that provided a buffer. In addition, there is a wind diffuser panel between the seats.
          I welcome the Fiat 124 Spider back to America. True, it isn’t a true Italian sports car any more, but this Japanese-Italian hybrid still does the job well.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate up

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Kia Cadenza, a classy ride to enjoy.

The latest version of the Cadenza demonstrates what a premium car can offer. Bumper2Bumpertv finds that means a lot for the price tag.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0 Limited
  • ENGINE: 2.0-liter H-4 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm/145 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 105.1 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 175.6 x 70 x 57 in 
  • TIRES: P205/50R17 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 20.8/55.3 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)  
  • ECONOMY: 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/25.5 mpg test  
  • FUEL TANK: 13.2 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,015lbs./19.8 lbs/hp 
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended  
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, VW Golf 
  • STICKER: $29,260 (includes $820 delivery, $3,845 options)
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Subaru Impreza is a surprisingly smooth-riding compact with decent power and economy.

            In fairness, one expects a compact car to force you to make compromises - in comfort, ride quality and performance. After all, compacts usually aren’t your first choice (Ferrari, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz might be), but economics can dictate where you go. However, the redesigned Subaru Impreza is, well, Imprezzive. Sorry.
            First, front seat comfort is there, with heated leather-faced seats, a good audio system with all the usual choices, and a simple three-knob HVAC system that does the job well in oppressive heat.
            Power is okay, but not great, with the 2.0-liter boxer four producing 152 ponies driving all four wheels through a CVT transmission that has a 7-speed manual mode and paddle shifters. The engine is essentially quiet, but it does complain a bit under hard acceleration.
            Where the Impreza does feel like a compact is in ride quality. While the car is good over decent roads, it tends to feel firm over less-than-perfect surfaces. It is livable, though.
            Handling is good. The Subaru boxer flat four helps lower the center of gravity and therefore aid handling. The four-wheel independent suspension uses McPherson-type struts up front with lower L-arms, coil springs and a stabilizer bar. The rear uses double wishbones and coil springs. 
            The instrument panel is fairly standard, with a round tachometer and speedometer, and an information panel between them. We set the info panel to a digital speedometer.
            Impreza is equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite of safety features. These include Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Lane Departure and Sway Warning and Lane Keeping Assist. Also included are Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Reverse Automatic Braking (the capitals are all courtesy of Subaru). These are vital safety assist features. Frankly, there are many luxury and near-luxury vehicles that are not as well equipped. 
            In use, we lit up the lights once when we triggered pre-collision braking. And, we discovered the switch to turn off the lane departure warning. Blind spot detection uses bright lights on the exterior mirror housing. Rear cross traffic alert is very handy in a small car when you’re backing out of parking spaces. 
            Cargo capacity is very good at 20.8 cubic feet normally and 55.3 cubic feet with the rear seat backs lowered. Those seat backs fold easily to create a flat floor that can hold golf bags. Additional interior storage consists of a cubby at the base of the center stack and a small center console/arm rest. 
            Rear seat leg room is good, excellent for a compact car, thanks to the 1.0-inch increase in wheelbase in the redesigned Impreza.. Also, the rear seats are comfortable. While the rear floor is flat, center seat foot room is compromised by an extension to the center console. Subaru is all about a lot of glass, so rear seat visibility is very good. Quite often, rear seat passengers can get claustrophobic, but a good amount of glass can ease those fears. 
            All in all, though, the Subaru Impreza is a very good compact car in a crowded market segment.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate