Fiat of Peabody

Visiting stores in Peabody today, we spotted signs being erected for a brand new Fiat dealership – and it was open for a look-around! Owned by Kelly, who also have local Nissan and Infiniti dealers that my colleague Christian has been happy with, they said they would also be carrying Alfa next year (and a third as yet unnamed Italian brand). They also said the current location is temporary and they will be relocating … to EXACTLY OPPOSITE to MINI of Peabody! That’ll make for some interesting comparison shopping next year.

Meanwhile, Margaret and I of course had to check out, and sit in, the little car …

Like MINI, the car has many cute design cues, though it’s certainly less “unusual” inside (traditional speedometer location for example). What was immediately clear though was how cramped this car is!
Initially I sat in the passenger seat, and I was short by about 2″ of headroom … the sales guy said that it was due to a subwoofer under the passenger seat (nice to have a subwoofer) – but he later said that without the sub, the seat is just as high(?)
The car also had a sunroof which perhaps further limited headroom. On the passenger side, there’s no height adjustment either – so I got in the drivers side to see if it was better, and it was. Now, I just about had enough headroom, so long as I reclined the seat more than I like to do; and the seat was again as low as it could go.
I’m not particularly tall (5’10”) so apparently Fiat owners will either have to be short, or laid-back 😉

Apart from limited headroom, the car felt narrower than my MINI (though admittedly I’m driving the Audi so it was a comparison from memory); rear seat room is laughable, making even the MINI convertible seem luxurious.
Pricing, for the lower-powered 1.4 litre model, seemed close to MINI, perhaps a little less ($19K-$20K).

It will be interesting to see if a similar active community forms around the Fiat 500, and I will certainly head back to check out Alfa if/when it turns up next year …

7 thoughts on “Fiat of Peabody

  1. You must have been in a Fiat 500 Lounge, the most expensive of the three models: Pop, Sport, and Lounge. The Pop starts at only $15,500.

    In Orlando, Fields Fiat will be opening around April 1st in the same location Downtown MINI/Orlando MINI started in back in March 2002. Larry from Orlando MINI will be going to Fields Fiat as the General Manager. He had a 500 Sport that I got to sit in last weekend. I liked it and fit inside just fine, but I’m only 5’7″. Looking forward to a test drive soon.

  2. I’m not sure how starting with the 500 will work for them. It compares to the mini with “cuteness” only – it is missing the performance factor that appeals to so many of us (even the Abarth version never seems impressive). Also there will only be a few colors and options available to the US-certainly the opposite of MINI’s millions of combinations. If anything it compares more with Smart.

    I do hope we see Alphas back here soon, as their modern cars really do have a beautiful italian design that is sure to be striking against american sheet metal.

  3. Josh,
    They did seem to have lots of colors on the wall – as many as MINI I’d guess.

    I was shown a list of cars en route which included “Pop” and none were below $18K. Maybe they all had packages …

  4. Awesome. I can’t wait to see this car! Brian and I are headed up that way today. Where was this temporary space if we were to happen to be in the neighborhood?

  5. Sarah,
    If you go from Route 1 North, on to 114, towards the new MINI, it will be on the right after Walmart and before Audi …

  6. I was appalled at the construction quality of the cars exhibited at the LA Auto Show as compared to the Abarth I sat in a year back in Holland. I’m thinking they’d better get smarter if they are to make in the USA.

  7. We spent a bit of time there this afternoon, sitting in (and in my case, crawling under) the little car. It’s really not bad. I thought the build quality was quite good; it felt solid and not at all cheap. It looks like it’ll be a bear to service, as there’s very little room between the wall of the engine bay and the pulleys. It doesn’t appear to have the MINI’s “service mode” bumper. The interior’s not as interesting as the MINI’s, but not dull, either. It felt plenty roomy in the front, but the back seats did look small. At 1,900 pounds, the 101 horsepowers should be pretty lively, and the power:weight ratio is close to my R53’s… No independent rear suspension, however.

    If I had to choose between a Fiat 500 and any current-gen MINI based on looks alone, I’d choose the Fiat, hands down (especially the Abarth version). Throw price into the equation and the Fiat’s even stronger. I don’t expect it to be as much of a go-kart as the MINI, or be as customizable, and those are both pretty important to me (or they would be if I was buying another new car, which I’m not), but out of the gate the Fiat has a lead.

    Now the dealership, on the other hand… The salesman we spoke with was a complete dud. He wasn’t much of a car guy, and didn’t seem to know how Fiat USA was going to try to pitch the car (cheap-but-cute econobox runabout, or an enthusiast’s car; autocrosses at the dealership?), and didn’t seem interested in trying to sell us the car. We did say we weren’t buying right now, but still. He felt a little like he wanted desperately to jump into full sales-pitch mode but wasn’t allowed to. We left with the barest minimum of a brochure, and I really wanted something that detailed the options. So, they’ve still got a ways to go match the showroom environment of the MINI days of yore (like when Hrach was still around).

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