Subcompact cars often sacrifice personality in the name of affordability, but the 2019 Fiat 500 throws that notion out the window. The modern version of the original Cinquecento is one of the most whimsical cars you can buy, but it isn’t without some notable drawbacks.
We’ve given it 4.6 out of 10 overall, proving sometimes charm alone just isn’t enough. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
For 2019, the 500 receives minimal changes, keeping the 1.4-liter turbo-4 as standard on all models. Upsized 16-inch wheels, performance brakes and suspension, body-color front and rear fascias, fog lamps, and a “Turbo” badge are now included. Also, the extra retro 1957 Edition returns for the first time since 2016.
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The smile-inducing design has had a few visual tweaks since its 2012 introduction and the Abarth model adds fender flares and increased drama to go along with its peppy performance. Inside, the body-color dashboard is a welcome pop of pizazz, while a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a 5.0-inch infotainment screen serve to make things a bit more modern.
The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine remains standard across the lineup and is mated to a 6-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission with front-wheel drive standard. Though showing its age, the turbo-4 gives the base 500 good grunt at 135 horsepower, while the Abarth represents the enthusiast’s choice with 160 hp and a raucous exhaust note.
Make no mistake, the 500 is a tiny car, and best kept to two adults as the rear seat is almost torturous to spend extended amounts of time in.
Though a touchscreen helps, the standard infotainment lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility even as an option, a noticeable oversight for a car aimed at younger buyers.
Safety scores haven’t been updated since 2017 and yielded a worrisome “Poor” small overlap score from the IIHS, and fuel economy drops behind more frugal competitors around 30 mpg combined with a manual transmission.
A cabriolet model offers a fold-back canvas roof. An electric version of the 500 called 500e is available in select west coast markets. With an 84-mile EPA-rated range, it’s more a fashion statement than a practical electric vehicle, however.
General Motors on Friday said on a conference call for investors that its Cruise Automation self-driving car subsidiary is now using more advanced test vehicles that retain steering wheels and gas and brake pedals.
The latest Cruise test cars have more advanced and less obtrusive sensors.
The automaker said that the next generation of its autonomous test cars forgo the conventional controls needed for a human backup driver, but it’s waiting on government approval before it can test a car without a steering wheel on public roads.
MORE: California DMV: Many hurdles ahead for self-driving cars
Cruise Automation Chief Executive Officer Dan Amman said that the company’s long-term goal as a ride-share provider is to reduce its operating costs to $1 per mile, at which point he said Cruise vehicles reach business viability.
Amman did not say if Cruise will stick to its previously stated goal of deploying a commercial self-driving car program by the end of 2019. He also didn’t detail a timeline for GM’s purpose-built autonomous vehicle.
“Why are we working on this stuff so early? Because we think there’s going to be a really steep and really long learning curve, and we will be better off getting started on it,” Amman said.
Cruise, which GM acquired in May 2016, has grown considerably. GM said Friday that its self-driving car division has grown from 40 to 1,100 employees and has attracted outside investors such as Honda.
Separately, GM said that it plans to make its Super Cruise system, which allows for limited hands-free driving, available on its entire lineup of Cadillac vehicles by the end of 2020 in the U.S. Super Cruise is unique in that it uses an in-car monitoring system to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road but allows for hands-free driving in certain highway situations. GM also said it will use the next generation of the Super Cruise system, but the company didn’t go into detail about what that will entail.
Currently, the advanced Level 2 self-driving system is similar in concept to Tesla’s AutoPilot system. It first became available last year in the 2018 CT6 sedan. It uses various sensors and cameras that read the road ahead and control the car’s braking, acceleration, and steering.
Starting at around $32,000, the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is a lot of metal and a lot of features for the money. That value equation starts to deteriorate on high-spec trims, however.
We rate the 2019 Atlas at 7 out of 10, granting it points above average for a stellar warranty and a high level of standard equipment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base VW Atlas S includes power features, three rows of seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, active safety tech, and a roof rack. With all-wheel drive and the V-6 engine, the Atlas’ price climbs to about $35,000.
VW dealers don’t stock most versions of the Atlas with the base turbo-4 engine, but they can be special-ordered. The turbo-4 is not available in trims other than the base S.
We like the Atlas SE trim level, which swaps in easy-clean synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, more USB charging ports, keyless ignition, and a few more features for about $3,000 more. Captain’s chairs add about $650 to most trims.
Opt for a package that includes a power liftgate and three-zone automatic climate control and a well-outfitted Atlas SE with the V-6 and all-wheel drive costs about $40,000.
We’d skip the R-Design appearance package, which costs about $2,000 and adds little of substance.
The range-topping Atlas SEL can be outfitted with leather seats, a power panoramic moonroof, cooled front seats, Fender-branded audio, built-in navigation, a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, and a few other features that sound nice but add up to a crossover SUV that can top $50,000.
Notably, the Atlas includes an extensive 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
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