----------EXTERIOR / HISTORY------------
As a car mechanic, I get to drive the latest, the prettiest, the ugliest, and sometimes the sportiest. You never
know what I'll be driving into the garage I work at next. So to start off this review, I'm going to be talking about
the "latest", as in what's been going on in the automotive world as of late. It's rather ugly, if you ask me.
cars are supposed to be becoming safer to drive, but to an old-skool guy like me, they're also becoming more and more annoying
to drive as well. Why? Because in more and more cases, the moderns of the automotive world happen to treat the driver more
and more like an idiot. Computers are becoming more and more complex, and I get to "enjoy" the spoils
of this sort of technology daily. I guess many drivers must delight in this sort of technology, as they ponder how smart the
vehicles of the road have become over the years. Here's why this technology annoys me.
as a trend in certain automobiles; Volvo and Lexus led the way in Europe and Japan, and possibly Mercedes, BMW, and a few
others are also somewhat to blame. Cars which are heavily safety and/or gadget-oriented, basically. I get to drive these
nanny-mobiles every day, but for those of you who don't, let me take you on a little tour through virtuality.
car comes up for maintenance, the driver wants an oil change and checkout. In the early days of this new technology boom (2007-ish)
this car may have been one of those gadget-oriented machines mentioned above, but now it's becoming more commonplace
to possibly drive ANY car out there, and find something about it that is totally annoying; any car except maybe those to be
found on the budget scale.
All cars nowadays for instance have TPMS, or a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. I
don't know what's happening in the rest of the world, but in America it is mandatory that all the newer cars come equipped
with TPMS. Why is this annoying? Because at least three times a day (sometimes more like 7 or 8 times a day) I get
a customer whose tire light is on. Which means they often think ALL their tires are going flat, or have already gone
flat. Seriously. Really what is happening is maybe one or two (or all) of their tires have simply lost a little pressure.
Half the time it's due to cold weather, which causes tire pressure to decrease in small increments. These tires are maybe
2 psi (pounds per square inch) below spec, and so the monitor triggers.
Personally, I don't mind if the customer
seems to know what's going on with their car, if the customer is female (sorry, but men should know how to set tire pressure,
unless they're handicapped or challenged in some way), and I also don't mind getting the occasional tip for airing up some
rubber. Problem is, half the time it's a dude who's needing his tires set, he thinks the end of the world is near (because
his light has come on), and he doesn't tip. Yeah. Go ahead and laugh, let's see how you would handle this!
Taking the time to set a man's tire pressure while I have more important things to do, and then not getting paid,
This review is off to a weird, start, I know. What does any of this happen to do with the
ancient first-generation Fiat 500? Just bear with me a sec.
It doesn't end with TPMS. Can't tell you how many
times I've backed up a car *beep beep beepbeepbeepbeepBEEPBEEP* What the hell is THAT? Oh,
the customer has parking assist on. Again, the car is treating ME like an idiot. I've been parking cars successfully
since I was 15, okay stupid car? I know what I'm doing, yet the car (or much more often, the giant SUV or minivan) seems
to think I'm about to back it into the nearest wall. But that's not all. There are also idiot monitors for lane-change assistance
(more beeps, usually), cars that chime or actually speak to let me know I'm not wearing my seatbelt, alarms which go off despite
the fact that I've already unlocked the vehicle, back-up cameras, "auto-climate" controls that run air-conditioning
even if it's freezing outside. Anti-pinch windows that won't go all the way up, because their sensors malfunction and think
a finger is about to get smashed, and so on. I'm not even including TCS or stability controls, here. I'm not really supposed to
drive customer cars fast enough for these sorts of devices to be needed (though I do sometimes, anyways).
Oh...and auto-locking doors. How can I forget? This means that the door locks are electric, we can open
them with a fob or (hopefully) a key. More and more often, the key is becoming unnecessary, which is scary to me, but
that's going off-topic. Anyways, we unlock the car, get in, and start driving. *CLICK* go the doors. They have locked me and
any passengers inside. What if I don't want to be locked in? If the doors can be electronically locked by the driver
via a master switch with just one push, why take this power away? If people don't wanna lock their own doors, this should
be their decision!
Auto-lock doors are a safety feature, and I get why they're a safety feature, but to me, it's just another
annoying bit of nannying. It is also rather creepy. In the old days (literally 10 years ago) we locked
our own doors. What's going to happen with future generations, once the auto-lock function malfunctions somehow in
their vehicles? Will they even know how to lock their own doors????
Then there's the pampering. The
seat that warms (or cools) one's ass as they sit upon it during a winter or summer's day. Or the customer who's got his or
her AC cranked, even though it's rather nice outside. Are you serious? You really are that posh that you
can't take a little bit of the elements in? There's the mirrors that point downwards as I put the vehicle in reverse,
because the vehicle thinks I've never parallel parked before, and therefore I need to see the curb it thinks I'm
about to run over. There are the auto-functioning lights. *shakes head* Auto-functioning lights annoy the crap out of me.
What this means is: I have just turned the car's exterior lights OFF by turning the dial away from the headlight symbol, yet
the headlights, sidemarkers, and taillights they are all still ON. WHY? WHY are they still ON when I just tried
to turn them OFF? What if I don't want them on??? Some engineers out there (for whatever reason) have decided the driver
simply cannot have freedom of choice here, like he or she could in the car they grew up with. Why? WHY????
the check engine lights! Ohhhh yes, here we go...how can we forget. Check engine lights are one of the only
things that I am okay with, since they often direct us mechanics in a direction which would otherwise remain vague. It's not
the CELs I'm complaining about, it's the customer who brings a car with a CEL on into my shop, and then is boggled that we're
not gonna do a diagnosis for free! There's the fact that the connector for the check engine
light is nowhere to be found, and one must go on the shop's computer to learn it is hidden behind an ashtray!
There's the customer who thinks that because his check engine light is on, that his car's engine is ABOUT TO BLOW TO
Had to get that out of the way, and there IS a reason for bringing all of that up. Now, and finally, my point.
Wouldn't it be nice to get away from all of this nonsense? To drive a car so simple, so spartan, so backwards,
that we are allowed to lock our own doors, figure out how to work our own heating & air conditioning, and park our vehicles
without them SHOUTING at us that we're doing it WRONG? A car so devoid of technology, that it's actually considered unsafe
to drive in modern terms? Normally, my answers would be "no", but there are times that I have wished I could trade the latest
idiot-mobile in my bay for something completely simple, with an engine bay that has only the basics: the engine, a carb, an
alternator, a distributor. A car .... like the Fiat 500 that's the focus (finally) of this review.
Fiat 500 first made its appearance long ago in GT2, not GT5 or even 4. This is amazing to me, that Polyphony Digital would
even consider such a slug before drawing up the VW Beetle. Who cares about this Fiat? The earliest 1st-gen Fiat in
GT2 is listed as the '75 Fiat 500 R, but I think this is yet another goof on PD's part; the game car happens to be an earlier
model from the '60s, or so I've heard.
The 500 was skipped for GT3, but was re-introduced in GT4. PD apparently REALLY
liked having the 500 around the first time, so now they have included it again. Why? Why would they re-consider this
one over and over? In GT5, we have not one, not two, but FOUR Fiat 500 models to choose from. Correction: FIVE! I forgot about
the newest '08 model. There's the '65 500 F, the '68 500 F (which is a Premium model), '69 500 L, and '72 500 R. Why include
all these models in GT5? What's the point?
Honestly it boggled me for awhile, even though I recently got the
urge to try this one. Then I did my usual research, and perhaps some light has been shed on PD's odd inclusions. It has
to do (surprise!) with this car's reputation in motorsports. This is what I am assuming, anyways.
The Fiat 500 began
production in 1957, and remained in production until 1975. Not everybody could afford something bigger and faster, so the
500 was created to fit the budget of many struggling Europeans. The number "500" has to do with engine size. All 500-series
cars (the original first generation ones, anyways) have engines that are about 500 ccs. The original engines in the '57
Nueva 500 had power rated at about 13 horsepower, which means even the typical modern lawn mower could possibly
possess more. Over the years, Carlos Abarth tuned the 500 in small steps, increasing compression ratio, using better
carb & exhaust technology (etc.) which finally brought prodution 500s up to about 27 hp towards the end of their
There were many versions of the 500 of course, here's a quick breakdown on the ones we get to play with.
The Fiat Nueva (which means new in Italian) started the party off in 1957, but we don't get to drive this early weakling.
Maybe that's a good thing.
F: 1965-1973. I've skipped a few models, in case you're wondering. I'm only
focusing on the cars that show up in our games. Info is confusing, but the F was apparently a base model during certain years.
We get this one as either a Standard or Premium model in GT5.
The Premium model (gotta say) may be slow and almost
useless, but wow look at its handsome color-coordinated interior. We can buy this one in up to 9 different colors,
and the car's interior colors also changes, depending which outside tone is bought. That's amazing. Even in this
cheapie, Fiat wanted to provide the driver with a bit of style. The dash looks sparse and has toggle switches that look as
if they came from Radio Shack, but the style of this one still puts some moderns (with their acres of plastics, and
uselessly annoying gizmos) to shame. PD even included the metal key that starts the car in their attention to little details.
1968-1972. Was a more 'luxurious' model than the F, which featured an improved interior, better dashboard functionality
(maybe it had an actual tach?) and other such niceties. We get to drive the L as a Standard car only in GT5. The L sports
a little extra chrome on its exterior and features a different set of bumpers, but at first it's hard to tell the difference
between an L and an F. Kinda boggels me why the L makes an appearance at all, to be honest.
This was the very last 500 model, and it happened to possess a larger 594 cc engine producing 23 horsepower in real-life,
which means it was also the most powerful of this lineage. Problem is, when I finally hunted down a 500 R in GT5, it only
had 16 hp (18 after oil change). On top of this, the 500 R also happens to be 166 pounds heavier than a 500 F, which
means there is no advantage (not that I know of) when choosing an R over an F. The R has a different front area, with the
word FIAT shown in four chrome blocks. In comparison, the F has Fiat's old-fashioned circular logo on its front.
this still doesn't answer the question: why is the 500 in Gran Turismo? Apparently there were classes for
rally racing way back in the late '50s and into the '60s that included cars with 500 cc engines or smaller, and the Fiat
500's air-cooled flat twin proved to be both durable and able to win, or at least compete. Anyways, that's the best
answer I can come up with. Anybody get a better one, let me know. I expected to find a long list of spectacular wins out there
(something like the Mini Cooper's track record), but the info on the Fiat 500's racing career doesn't seem very extensive.
But this car did win a few events, apparently, which is why PD apparently included this one several times, and with
several different versions.
Another point of contention, the price.
Okay, do these cars really merit a cost of about 20,000 credits in GT5? In their day, the 500 barely
cost over $1,000. Do real-life versions of this car in fair condition nowadays (minimal rust, and maybe a decent
restoration job) really demand such a high cost, some 40+ years later? Think about it. 20K doesn't seem like
that much in the world of GT, plenty of others cost this. But ... these others don't have 16 or 17
horsepower to start! Okay, just had to bring that topic up. Phew.
thing of merit at first is the fact that this one is so light. At roughly 1,150 pounds, there are times it feels too
light. I have found myself actually adding weight more than I've removed it for various races.
You raced your Fiat 500, Parnelli? Yes I have, and let me tell you all about it.
----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------
Lol. Lmao. Rofl. Let's just start this portion of the review with a big ol' laugh. That's
just what I'm doing as I write this! Sometimes, it can actually help to laugh at times; laughing and remaining in good
spirits has been proven to lengthen our life-spans. Or so they say.
Um...16 or 17 horsepower to
start with, are you joking? Apparently not. This power is so meager, Type 1 Volkswagens seem like
Ferraris in comparison. The original '49 Beetle with 24 horsepower makes it to 60 mph in just over half-a-minute.
The Fiat 500 F (which let's keep in mind was 16 years newer if we're talking about the '65 model) takes just over
TWICE the amount of time to get to 60 mph! The Fiat is 5 seconds slower to 400 meters, roughly 9 seconds
slower to 1,000, and tops off at 63.2 mph (the '49 Beetle can make 77 mph tops with its stock power).
the question is: is it fair to compare the original Fiat 500 with the original Beetle? Yes it is. Both are city or "economy"
cars, both started production during the same era (post WWII, give or take a few years), and both were created so that everyday
people could get from Point A to Point B. I could maybe tolerate an original Type 1, assuming I only drove it within my town.
The original Fiat 500? I doubt I'd feel safe driving it off my parking pad!
Anyways, the point of this review
is to tell it like it is. At this point, I haven't any driving impressions of a 500 in either GT2 or GT4, but in GT5, this
car does have a chance at some early success, and tweaking it in such a direction can be easier than you might
think. A Premium-level '68 was my first car for a brand-new game recently, despite my feeling that I should maybe start with
a newer Fiat.
For one thing, unlike in earlier games, money is extremely easy to come by in GT5. The Fiat 500
F (unlike many other subcompacts) has absolutely zero chances of winning anything while it's stock, which means engine
tuning becomes mandatory right away. In GT2 the gamer could take on some license tests to earn the money necessary to tweak
and tune a 500 F to success, but this assumed that all golds were attained. GT4 also requires us to take
on multiple license tests and possibly some Missions before one had the cash to get a 500 F rolling.
in GT5, one can do the B licenses. Gold them. Takes less than an hour if you're good. Now you've got THREE prizes to
sell, and the game throws us a kart. Some Special Events (like the Go-Kart races) can also be taken on for even more
early cash. At 19,000+ credits, the Fiat 500 F starts with a rather lofty price tag, but it doesn't take much time to earn
this money AND the clout to tune this car for the Sunday Cup. But we are talkin' a lot of credits here: somewhere over
100,000 of them. I don't mind (it's all virtual) but some others might, so therefore I just included that figure as a bit
of a warning. ;-0
For those who persist, you'll need this money. It'll be worth it, if you don't mind erasing
early profits over and over. Engine stages and turbos bring this car to life, and eventually it can compete. My '65's
power rated as follows:
Full Tuned: 24 @ 5,100 28 @ 2,600
1 NA: 28 @ 5,200 31 @ 2,700
Stage 2 NA: 34 @ 5,300
37 @ 2,800
Stage 3 NA: 37 @ 5,400 39 @ 2,900
without turbos this car is dead, and good thing we can stack 'em upon those NA kits. So now we've got ....
1 Turbo: 53 @ 4,400 83 @ 2,900
Stg 2 Turbo: 71 @ 4,000
86 @ 3,900
Stg 3 Turbo: 76 @ 5,400 74 @ 5,400
500 F (the Premium car) rates a bit more than this: I haven't fully broken in my car yet, but am estimating it can make it
into the low 90s, so far as horsepower goes. Doesn't sound like much, but with this sort of power, we can safely demolish
the Beginner's Series, which in this case happens to include the Sunday Cup, World Compact Car Cup, European Classics, and
World Classics. Ouch ouch ouch ouch. After driving my durable little 500 in all these races (and selling a few prize cars),
it's safe to say that what at first looked to be a money pit actually turned out to be a little cash machine. Granted, I know
most folks will never do anything with a Fiat 500 other than laugh at it, but for those who wish to do more, the possibility
The transmission is a 4-speed manual that feels too tall at first, but as the engine tuning starts it's
obvious we will need some full-custom gears, pronto. Then, show me the green, Fiat, so I can put this one into the red... I
mean the BLACK.
---------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------
Just because this car is slow doesn't mean it's not a challenge to drive. Even with its stock horsepower
and stock transmission, the Fiat 500 F can pose small problems at a track like Autumn Ring, and these problems can get
magnified BIG TIME as more power gets introduced.
I've driven both Standard and Premiums in GT5. A recently-found
'65 500 F cost just over 13,000 cr., and earned me a Maximum Mileage trophy. Driving this one around Madrid Mini with about
57 hp without any additional tuning (no LSD, stock suspension, and no chassis rebuild) was like pushing a shopping cart
around. You know how you can push shopping carts not just back and forth, but you can also drift them, by pushing
them sideways? This is exactly the feeling I had while pushing my Maximum Mileage version around. But mileage
is not the true mitigating factor here: minimum mileage cars also feel quite flimsy, especially out of those turns, once some
power is involved.
As mentioned earlier, it's the rear-engine/rear-drive layout that's mostly
to blame. RRs were popular back in this Fiat's day, as we've witnessed with several Volkswagens (not to mention the Subaru
360) by now. It was eaiser to get a pint-sized engine behind that rear axle, and then put the car together during production.
It was also easier for somebody to possibly work with the engine, if it was behind the rear axle, since this car
is a sedan and not a coupe with a longer trunkline. A mid-engine would have put the powerplant under the rear seat instead
of under a panel accessible by opening the trunk hatch.
It was also easier and cheaper back in those
days to create a RR than a front-drive. To make a front-drive car work reliably, one must keep in mind that the
engine is going to be moving those front wheels while the car also steers with them. During the early 50s and into
the 60s, only Mini had managed to pull this off. FR (front engine/rear-drive) might have also been a possible option for the
Fiat 500, but to make this work, a driveshaft would have to be installed. This would cut back on this car's already miniscule
cabin area, and add costs.
Hence, this is my theory on why RRs were so popular. I imagine that in Europe, the 500
must have been dangerous to drive, even if one limited these vechicles to the city, especially on a rainy day. And we're about
to take this one to do some racing. But, hey, I've done it. I've raced this car in the Sunday Cup that
is, and on cheapie soft radial tires. Let's see what happened.
At Autumn Ring, it's quickly obvious that the rear
of the car is in charge during those tight switchbacks, and at this track's sole hairpin. As I drove my '68 500 F around
this track, steering starts with the actual front-end, but it always ends with the rear, which often wants to pull the
car outwards or do something just as goofy. It can be fun, granted, for a driver like me (and maybe you) to get this
car into the line that's needed and try to keep it there. Overall, this car feels most at home at this track.
Speed never gathers up to boiling point levels, so as the 500 leaned and swayed in and out of turns, I did nothing but enjoy
all of this.
Took me two tries, but Autumn Ring was eventually mine. I should make a quick mention that the car had
a Stage 1 NA kit, Stage 2 Turbo, and an assortment of other parts, making a final 57 horsepower here. I also had the 500's
stock transmission still in place, and managed to win while driving around the entire track in 4th gear,
never downshifting into 3rd or 2nd even once. I also assumed I might need a limited-slip differential to keep the 500 from
becoming a GT version of a twirling ballerina. Not so: my car's differential happened to be the stock unit here.
the Fiat 500 F just gets trickier and trickier to drive, of course, at tracks that have higher-speed turns. Next stop: Grand
Tuning became a bit more extensive, of course, and I wound up losing race after race, making
2nd or 3rd over and over. Now, a limited-slip differential became mandatory, along with the most expensive gearbox option.
The 500 F stops being as fun, and (instead) now feels a bit frightening to drive. In desperation, I installed some hard sport
tires, and finally got a very close win.
But even with sports, the 500 handles GV's curves like a
wet sponge in a soapy shower, and despite the LSD's curing measure (less chance of oversteer & spins) the car still
needed occasional moments of countersteer and scraped fenders to survive. There was now a bit of understeer
when exiting certain curves as well, but nothing that couldn't be dealt with once I knew when and how much of it would show
up. The understeer in this case was actually desireable, matter of fact. I found I could ride the 500 F on the very edge of
understeer at times, providing very safe and predictable orbits in and out of turns, with occasional options to get tighter
or looser if the situation called for such.
What was a bit more dangerous was the oversteer. Though
the rear was no longer dominating the car with its misdirective steps as it had at Autumn Ring Mini, it still had a habit
of lazily getting slightly off-kilter, and I eventually did a race in which I did crash my car as it spun out of control!
There was simply nothing I could do about this new sense of danger, not without buying a full-custom suspension. But this
seemed a bit overkillish to me, considering I'm entering this silly car in the Sunday Cup. So the leftover oversteer? It
is something that one must get used to, if they're not wanting to spend every last credit they can possibly spend for this
sardine tin on wheels.
But like other small cars out there, one of the 500's
assets is the fact that it can often squeeze through traffic where others would get caught. I thought this car's non-ABS drum
brakes (which felt kinda watery at Autumn Ring) would become a serious problem at Grand Valley. But again, the occasional
slide into various turns could easily be anticipated, and damage control employed. A bit of forethought is all that's needed,
but certain drivers might want to simply avoid this car. It can be more trouble than it's worth, for those who are looking
for an easy drive and easier wins.
At Tsukuba, I put the radial tires back on, yet I started to notice
how late this Fiat can be braked into turns, despite lack of ABS, and despite the cheaper rubber. Having dialed-in
that limited-slip helped the 500 avoid too much grabbing on entry, yet there's something else going on here, something I noticed
earlier this week while driving the Renaul 5 Turbo (a mid-engine car also without ABS). PD definitely seems to have changed
their formula. So let's add the ability to out-brake the competition to the 500's small list of pluses.
line? Technology is not always needed. Thank goodness in Gran Turismo, I have the choice to avoid it if I desire. You can
1). Yes, there are
some. First one happens to be the challenge these City Cars offer: the challenge to make them successful in the long run.
It is possible, and rewarding to some of us. Getting past that stubborn FTO at Tsukuba, and then later schooling a Lotus Europa
at Madrid in a car that wasn't made to defeat or school anyone... that's what it's all about!
for those of us who can appreciate the lesser cars of the '60s and '70s.
3). NA and turbo upgrades available
in GT5, not sure what happens in earlier games. The 500 series winds up becoming useful in the long run, for a variety of
races in the Beginner's and Amateur Series.
4). Fun to drive, challenging to drive. Sliding this one around
and playing with its cornering lines never gets old. Here's a car that's not so stable, yet it's always looking to surprise
us despite the fact that it possesses less than 100 horses.
5). Maneuvering devil. Eventually this one will
be able to some truely fantastic things while cornering, once you learn its tricks. Lack of understeer and an amazingly
tight turning circle help.
6). The Premium '68 in GT5. Love the interior.
7). The exterior of the
Standard cars in GT5 is also a few steps ahead of the typical Standard. I doubt PD sat there and fixed these cars to look
better than average, but it looks as they did just this.
8). Tiny dimensions mean we can often squeeze this one through
some otherwise demanding traffic at times.
1). We've got a list here folks. First one: WHY? It's not the fact that the 500 appears in GT5, but why so many
2). As if the topic even needs to be brought up, lack of power. This car starts off weaker than some tractors
3). Upgrades, parts, and power don't help much, especially for those who don't know how to drive
4). Some really wicked turbo lag exists below 2,000 rpms, especially if we're using full-custom gears. This
lag shows up even if the car's got a Stage 1 turbo.
5). Expensive. 20 grand doesn't seem like much,
but considering we're paying for just 16 horsepower or slightly more...yikes.
6). Short career syndrome.
Short tranny syndrome, too. Full-custom gearing becomes needed early on.
8). Tuner's nightmare for the majority of
gamers out there, most of whom won't ever buy a Fiat 500 anyways, of course.
9). And after the tuning is done, typical
RR handling malaises still dominate: oversteer of all kinds, poor steering response at times.
10). A very light car,
but very unstable because of this. Its lack of pounds doesn't even rate as a Pro, in my opinion.
Noisy air-cooled 2 cylinder engine.
13). No outside mirrors, for those who thrive on using the Premium in-car
view. Oddly, the Standard cars ('65 500F and '72 500R) do get outside mirrors, on both sides. This seems
incorrect. Most cars of this time period would only have a driver's side mirror, if they had any mirrors at all.
For those who (for whatever reason) wish to find a Standard version of this car in GT5, good luck. I've been looking in the
used car lot, the Fiat 500 can be a tough one to find.
Published: December 24, 2012
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