In this post on Car Reviews for Women, find out how Laurie put these two through their paces.
It was a driving course to beat LeMans. A hard right out of Quail Lake Road East, then troubleshooting that crazy “T” intersection at Lost Tree Road. Testing the car’s brakes at the slow-down before the train tracks and then, that other crazy “T” intersection at McKenzie where you have to gauge the traffic before determining whether you take a right or a left. If you go left, you’ve got options galore—Donald Ross Drive for that big semi-circular switchback, or a cut across Frye onto McDonald to Beulah Hill Road and the home stretch. Take a right, and be prepared for that dead stop at the lights. If you’re bold, you can take the roundabout on two screeching tires; then the second offshoot, past the Village Chapel on Azalea, then Palmetto alongside Pinehurst No. 2, to that crazy left fork on Page. In the distance you see those awful four-way lights. You’re gonna wait a long time unless Lady Luck steps in and throws you a green light. Now you’re on 211 and the finish line’s just in sight.
For three weeks, that’s the test course I’ve driven four, sometimes six times a day. That first week, I drove the fabulous Chevy Silverado 1500 2WD LS DBL—and I’ll tell you all about that next time. But the last two weeks, it was the Buick Encore and the new Fiat 500X. Both are all-wheel-drive crossovers. Both are fabulous. Let’s compare.
The Buick Encore has been declared the best compact SUV/crossover by Kelley Blue Book, J.D. Power & Associates, and scads of others. Its fourteen gallon tank gets 28 miles per gallon combined city/highway, and if you’re taking a road trip, count on 33 highway. Its Ecotec 1.4 liter turbo DOHC VVT 1-4 engine (don’t ask) and on-demand four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive drive line does, in a nutshell, mean you’ve got powerful pick-up when you’re passing that old woman who’s taking her car for a walk to the grocery store at 23 miles in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. Add the little luxuries that increasingly appeal to me with age, such as driver and front passenger heated seats, dual climate control so Johnny can adjust the temperature to what he, not I, wants; Buick’s voice-activated IntelliLink and GM’s fabled OnStar system with full-color display, back-up camera, Bose premium sound system, 10-bag air safety system, and oh so much more. What I didn’t care for, though, is the manual recline seat adjustment when power seat adjustment is otherwise offered. It’s always difficult to determine the angle you want to adjust your back and to do it manually is, for me at least, a pain. Also, and surprisingly, the navigation system was not the most user-friendly. Finally, Buick, a hallowed American brand, makes the Encore in Bupyeong, South Korea. I can’t pronounce Bupyeong. But, as my Grandpa Bogart used to say, “Buy American or bye-bye America.” He would have loved this car to have been American-made and so would I.
Now, for the 2016 Fiat 500X, Fiat’s first entry into the all-wheel-drive crossover market. This is no American-made car either. If you’ve seen their brilliant television commercials (especially the one when the old man accidentally flips his Viagra™ pill out the window and it lands in the gas tank of a 2014 Fiat 500 and bulks up the car) Fiat always celebrates the fact that it is an Italian company. I’m half-Italian, so mebbe I’m a little partial. Had I reviewed the Fiat 500X without comparing it to any other vehicle, I was prepared to open my column with, “Dear Fiat—you probably might want to know why I’m not returning your press car to you. Ever.” I really, really was sad to see this car drive off into the sunset. With its automatic ability to engage and disengage its all-wheel-driveline, roomy interior, gorgeous good looks, Italian leather seats and handsome appointments, thoroughly understandable GPS system in any language, optional sunroof and amenities galore, and 25 miles city, 34 miles highway mpg, this quiet, luxurious, comfortable, Italian car does it all for a family of one to five.
So, what’s the difference between the Encore and the Fiat 500X? Price. Base price for the Encore starts at $28,000. The Fiat? $20,000. Where’s the $8,000 difference? You tell me.
1. It appears that Fiat is trying to get its share of the American car market. Could you speak to that?
2. What innovative ideas are Fiat using?
3. What stands out most to you about possible Fiat success in developing a real market base?
4. Would you own a Fiat personally?
5. Price is always a factor somewhere in the equation. Can you speak to Fiat pricing?
6. What are the strongest and weakest points relevant to Fiat?