Car Review: 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth

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You know very quickly when you are driving something special, and the 500 Abarth is special. We drove the 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth for a week and had about as much fun as any car we tested in recent months. There is no doubt that the Fiat 500 Abarth brought world-class performance and precision, purposeful and aggressive styling, high power-to-weight ratio and limited-production volume to the small-car segment in North America.

EXTERIOR

The Abarth badging on the 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth has a tint of dare we say a Ferrari in just the slightest but most impressive way. The aggressive styling of the Fiat 500 Abarth embodies the Abarth brand tradition in full — purposeful and intentional details, all designed to improve the car’s performance, while enhancing the clean and simple design language of the Cinquecento. Our test model proudly boasted rosso (red) paint and sweet 17-inch x 7-inch forged aluminum hyper black wheels, which set the tone for this confident compact.

To improve aerodynamics and the necessary engine compartment space for the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine, the Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio feature a more pronounced front fascia. For additional air intake, the signature “Abarth” shield floats on a finned surface and a larger intake below consists of three inlets with broader openings than the standard Cinquecento models. For a more aggressive look, twin “nostrils” are precisely positioned on the front fascia to maximize airflow in and out of the two engine intercoolers (both intercoolers are visible through the “nostril” inlets).

Abarth-designed side skirts give an athletic profile, while 16-inch or optional 17-inch (as tested) lightweight forged-aluminum wheels fill the flared wheel arches and provide ventilation for the performance brake system. From the rear, an aggressively-styled, Abarth-specific, cloth top-mounted spoiler extends the roofline and improves the Abarth Cabrio’s aerodynamic behavior by creating additional downforce. Below, the two-piece Abarth-styled rear fascia accentuates the road-holding stance and optimizes airflow with its rear diffuser. Integrated behind the diffuser, the low-restriction Abarth-tuned exhaust system features concentric “double tips” and the signature Abarth-tuned sound.

INTERIOR

Quality, style and fun all come together to invigorate you in the cabin of the 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth. The interior design theme of the Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio is an artistic blend of clean lines and functional performance appointments. An Abarth-designed steering wheel features a thick rim, perforated leather and flat bottom to provide the look, feel and increased roominess desired during at-the-limit driving. A large concentric instrument cluster with 160-mph speedometer, tachometer and trip computer sits behind the steering wheel and features a leather-wrapped cluster brow wrapped in Nero leather with Rosso accent stitching. To the left, an analog turbo-boost gauge has an integrated LED shift light in the center that illuminates an instant before redline to optimize gear changes. Below the instrument panel, Abarth-designed aluminum pedal covers feature Nero rubber trim for a decidedly racing look, while the Nero leather shift knob with Rosso accent stitching provides a precise feel of the shifter.

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Car Review: 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge

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Fiat has been steadily gaining back a foothold in the North American marketplace and now looks to continue that growth with the 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge. The all-new 2014 Fiat 500L expands the Cinquecento’s appeal by offering 42 percent extra interior space with comfortable seating for five. We drove a 500L Lounge for a one week test and came away with the following impressions.

EXTERIOR

According to Fiat, the 500L was designed with the active and thrill-seeking North American customer in mind, as the 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking expands the appeal and practicality of the Fiat 500L with distinct and rugged looks. We found the 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, white roof and bi-function halogen projector headlamps to be very stylish, but the overall design was not as sharp as competitors in our opinion. There is no question that the 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge has its own look, but that look can come off as somewhat quirky. A design that could build off the cool front fascia might be the way to go here!

INTERIOR

When you enter the cabin of the 500L Lounge, there is no doubt that quality materials played a big role in the finished product. Fiat went for a “loft-like interior,” which will work for some car buyers, but there is also a feeling that you’re in a miniature school bus. With that feel comes way more room that the two-door 500, but without the sporty appeal that we loved about the 500. The power sunroof was large and the Beats premium audio system with six speakers was awesome. One thing that needs to be addressed is too much engine noise making it’s way into the 500L.

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Car Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS VSport Premium

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As the luxury car market in North America continues to see new entrants, the all-new Cadillac 2014 CTS sedan ascends into the heart of the midsize luxury market with expanded performance, elevated luxury and sophisticated technology. We had the opportunity to test drive the new CTS VSport to learn first-hand what the folks at Cadillac are offering luxury car buyers who are looking for some excitement.

EXTERIOR

Cadillac’s shield grille and signature vertical lighting elements – including LED front signature lighting detail – evolve on the CTS. The grille is wider, with a more detailed texture, while the headlamps flow up with the hood line, incorporating crystalline LED light guides for a technologically advanced appearance with more uniform illumination.

Active grille shutters are included on some models, improving aerodynamic performance on the highway to enhance fuel efficiency. A longer, lower and more athletic-looking proportion is introduced on Cadillac’s landmark sedan and evolves the brand’s Art & Science design philosophy. While growing five inches (127 mm) in length, including a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, the roofline and cowl – the base of the windshield – are about an inch lower, dimensions that complement the longer exterior to accentuate the car’s lean aesthetic. The 18-inch, ultra bright machined aluminum wheels were a work of art that really elevated the appearance of the 2014 Cadillac CTS VSport Premium. Our VSport test model also sported dual stainless steel exhaust, intellibeam headlamps, LED vertical accent lighting, illuminating door handles and illuminated front door sill plates. The look of the 2014 CTS clearly resembles the new ATS sedan with an ultra-athletic look that is a positive from all angles!

INTERIOR

Cadillac probably realized that in order to take the 2014 Cadillac CTS VSport Premium to the next level, the cabin space needed a big leap forward, and they delivered in some kind of way! A roomier, driver-centric cockpit interior with integrated technology and hand-crafted appointments complements the exterior and supports the CTS sedan’s driving experience. Eight available interior environments are offered, each trimmed with authentic wood, carbon fiber or aluminum. Leather seating is available, including available full semi-aniline leather with hand-crafted, cut-and-sewn executions. The CTS sedan seamlessly blends comfort, convenience and safety technologies with the interior’s hand-crafted appointments and flowing design. Active safety features provide alerts and intervene when necessary to help avoid crashes.

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Car Review: 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST

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As the Ford Focus continues posting very impressive worldwide sales figures, one need not wonder what the Blue Oval will do to continue building momentum behind this Focus nameplate. Ford has at last released the long-awaited Focus ST, which absolutely takes the compact car segment to new and wonderful heights. The all-new Focus ST is Ford’s first truly global performance car, building on the heritage of previous Focus ST models in Europe and giving drivers around the world the opportunity to share the exhilarating performance, excellent handling, addictive sound and sporty design that Ford’s ST badge represents. With innovative technologies throughout, the Focus ST will be highly fuel efficient too. Yes, the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST was one of our favorite reviews in recent times for numerous reasons, and we’ll let you know why below.

EXTERIOR

From the striking one-piece design interpretation of Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille at the front, through the sculpted side skirts and dynamic rear bumper with prominent diffuser-style vents in the lower fascia, Focus ST’s design adds aggression and aerodynamic stability. The highly effective roof spoiler is optimized to deliver improved high-speed stability and reduced drag, while the unique center-exit exhaust sports a tailpipe design influenced by the exclusive hexagonal mesh of the front bumper.

The well-recognized Focus ST style extends to the iconic Y-shaped alloy wheels. Wrapped around the rado grey 18-inch wheels are high-performance 235/40R-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires, developed after rigorous testing on all kinds of road surfaces and in all kinds of conditions. These dynamic features together play a huge role in what Ford has accomplished her, as the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST truly resembles a sports car rather than a compact. The Focus ST turned heads wherever we drove the car, and we realized quickly that the Focus ST was a superstar on the road! The performance blue paint was also a real winner that just highlighted all of the muscular curves and highpoints of the ST.

INTERIOR

When you first enter the cabin of the 2014 Ford Focus Hatchback ST, the first thing you notice are the black and blue partial leather recaro sports seats that look like they would fit nicely into a track-only racing car. These seats are not for the buyer looking for bland looks and passive seating, as these ST sports seats wrap around your body and keep you nice and snug for those tight corners. The dashboard is closing in on perfection with a well laid out instrument panel and a smart center console with armrest with storage and room for two good size cups. The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with the ST branding was super cool and again an upgrade from just about anything you can find stock from the factory. An illuminated entry, MyFord touchscreen with Sirius, dual zone electric air temp control, navigation system and one of the top stereo systems in this price range is also included. We fit four adults somewhat comfortably in the Focus ST and felt there was ample storage in the hatch area.

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Car Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE

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When one looks to the 2014 Ford Fiesta, you have to expand your thoughts on the car, because Ford smartly offers many configurations of this gem. We had the chance to test drive the 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE with a manual five-speed transmission and truly appreciated what this car had to offer. The overall design is solid but not overwhelming, and for the price range you are looking to spend on a Fiesta, most will find the packaging appealing!

EXTERIOR

The major change to the exterior is the front fascia, which incorporates Ford’s global look and resembles cars that can cost thousands of dollars more that the Fiesta. Yes, the thinner headlights with built-in LED running lights with more aggressive lower intakes, a pronounced power dome on the hood and a new trapezoidal grille transform the Fiesta into somewhat of a combative little brother to the Focus and Fusion models. We thought the 16-inch painted aluminum wheels set the tone for the Fiesta, along with auto headlamps, dual power mirrors, the 5-bar chromed grille, integrated spotter mirrors and rear spoiler.

INTERIOR

The 2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE is much better car when it comes to the interior space compared to the 2013 model. The center counsel and armrest between the two front seats is a huge improvement, as you don’t get the feeling that just because it’s a compact car that it has to eliminate so many things that buyers crave, and I believe that was part of why Ford built the new Fiesta in the first place, so hat’s off on a great step forward! The seats are also very comfortable and wider than some midsize sedan seats that we’ve driven, which was a welcome surprise.

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