$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: Mileage Results

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Any car owner will tell you the cost of driving does not begin or end with the sticker price or the monthly payment notice arriving in the mailbox. There's insurance, maintenance and yes, the cost of gasoline.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Results

The competitors in our Cheap Speed Challenge may be relatively affordable considering their performance chops, but six of the eight require premium gasoline. Going into the contest, mileage didn't seem like it would be much of a story.

After a 220-plus-mile route through Wisconsin and Illinois that mixed in winding country roads, city streets and plenty of construction-laden highways, we discovered mileage was indeed worth talking about in this class.

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (1)

What's the Best Cheap Speed Car for $30,000?

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Plenty of drivers want a level of performance without breaking the bank. We found eight cars that prove fun at the track is not limited to the well-to-do.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Mileage Test

We focused our Challenge on compact coupes, sedans and hatchbacks that cost less than $30,000, including destination charge. We picked the price based on Cars.com's listings for cars of this type that came with the features we know are popular with younger drivers looking for a performance kick. After five days of testing (including a day at a drag strip and a day on a road course) by experts from Cars.com, USA Today, "MotorWeek" and a real-life, in-market family, here's how the results broke down:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (17)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: What the Judges Said

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To test our sub-$30,000 speedsters, we put them through an even more rigorous set of tests than we usually use in our Challenges:

  • We spent one day at the Byron, Ill., Dragway to get zero-to-60-mph times and quarter-mile times and speeds; we also captured 60-mph-to-zero braking distances there.
  • We spent one day at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., where the experts put the cars through a long day on the road course there.
  • We took all eight on a mileage drive of more than 200 miles to judge real-world fuel economy.
  • The experts drove all eight over the same course, back-to-back, to judge real-world ride and handling, acceleration and braking.
  • And then we brought in a real-life car shopper, Joe Weiss, a 38-year-old quality assurance manager from Chicago who's in the market for just such a car for himself and his fiancee.

CSJudges

Weiss joined our cast of judges (left to right):

  • Brian Robinson, producer for PBS' "MotorWeek"
  • Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor
  • David Thomas, Cars.com managing editor
  • Joe Bruzek, Cars.com road test editor
  • James R. Healey, auto writer for USA Today

We set a maximum price of $30,000, including a destination charge. We had 10 cars on our list when we started, but we ended with eight (more on that in a bit):

  • 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2014 Honda Civic Si
  • 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
  • 2014 Kia Forte5 SX
  • 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop
  • 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
  • 2014 Scion FR-S
  • 2015 Subaru WRX
  • 2015 Volkswagen GTI

Mini said it did not have a Cooper in its press fleets that could meet our price cap; the Civic lost a tire after hitting a Chicago pothole, and repairs could not be made in time for track days. The judges did drive it in our round-robin day, and a report on those tests can be found here.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | Results | Mileage Test

Here's how the scoring broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 50 percent of the total score; 10 percent came from the shopper's scores; 30 percent was based on track performance; and the remaining 10 percent was based on fuel economy.

Here is what the judges had to say about each car, in order of how the cars finished:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (5)

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth Photo Gallery

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The 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth finished eighth in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge. "The Abarth is an absolute joy on the road course, with unexpected levels of cornering grip and stopping power that give this weird little car surprising amounts of street cred," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below of the 500 Abarth up close and on the track.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio Automatic: Quick Spin

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Fiat's plucky little 500 Abarth has gained a reputation among performance enthusiasts as a fun, snorty, raucous little hot hatch. With its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumping 160 horsepower out of a specially tuned, snapping, popping, rasping exhaust system and its go-kart-like handling, it's a monster on the track — and something of a monster on the street as well.

Why Your Neighbors Will Hate the Fiat 500 Abarth

It's mainly been an enthusiast's toy because it's only been available with a five-speed manual transmission. But stick shifts are falling out of favor with U.S. buyers, so in the interest of expanding the Abarth's appeal Fiat added a six-speed automatic transmission for 2015. I had an opportunity to drive the new automatic Abarth Cabrio at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan and it won't let enthusiasts down.

By Aaron Bragman | July 3, 2014 | Comments (1)

Recall Alert: 2013-2014 Fiat 500e

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Vehicles Affected: About 4,141 model-year 2013-14 Fiat 500e electric vehicles manufactured between Sept. 24, 2012, and April 4, 2014

The Problem: Cooling plates for the Power Inverter module may leak coolant into areas of the high-voltage circuitry, resulting in a short circuit that could cause the related service fuse to blow. This could cause a loss of vehicle propulsion while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.

The Fix: Chrysler will notify owners starting this month, and dealers will replace the Power Inverter module for free.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Chrysler at 800-853-1403 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236, or visit www.safercar.gov, for more info.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

More Recalls

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By Matt Schmitz | June 9, 2014 | Comments (0)

Cars.com's Top 10 Fun-to-Drive Fuel Sippers

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When I was 10, my dad set me and a go-kart loose in an abandoned parking lot, free to zip around the blacktop. At that age, you don't give a thought to how much gas costs; it's all about the fun. At this age, however, fuel economy is a big consideration when it comes to buying a car, but it doesn't have to trump the fun-to-drive factor.

More Top 10s

There are plenty of cars that offer both fun and fuel savings, from affordable subcompacts and gas-electric hybrids to pricier luxury cars and diesel-powered vehicles. To qualify for this list, a car has to have an EPA combined rating of 30 mpg, while bringing out the inner go-kart-loving kid in all of us:

By Jennifer Geiger | June 9, 2014 | Comments (9)

Godzilla Bites Off a Mouthful in New Fiat 500L Ad

Remember those TV commercials back when the 1998 "Godzilla" movie came out featuring the King of Monsters himself opposite that annoying "Yo quiero Taco Bell"-spouting, gordita-hawking Chihuahua? Well as of Monday, the great lizard is back in the advertising game — sans lapdog — in time for the release of the latest "Godzilla" reboot, which stomps into theaters May 16. And this time, he's traded Mexican for Italian as he throws his considerable weight behind Fiat.

Kia Super Bowl Ad Takes 2015 Kia K900 for a Ride in 'The Matrix'

The just-released cross-marketing spot — boasting visual effects by the same team that brought Godzilla out of retirement for the new Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures production — features the eponymous creature rampaging through a chaotic cityscape, feasting on cars like the man from Mars in Blondie's "Rapture." The car cuisine of choice comes courtesy of the Italian automaker. When Godzilla attempts to devour a 500L, however, he soon learns he's bitten off more than he can chew, segueing into the ad's tagline, "The four-door Fiat 500L. It's a lot bigger than you think."

The all-new 2014 500L is longer and wider than the regular 500. The front-wheel-drive hatchback is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque, pushing it from zero to 60 mph in just less than 9 seconds. But rest assured 500L drivers, while you might not be fast enough to outrun gargantuan radioactive lizards, your supersized minicar will prove too hard to swallow.

Watch the commercial above.

By Matt Schmitz | May 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

Fiat's Italian Brands Plan Massive Assault

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The first name in the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is, of course, Fiat, but that doesn't mean there will be much news for the Italian brand in the U.S. over the next five years.

Dodge Means Performance: SRT Comes Back to the Fold

Only a couple of new Fiat models are coming to our market by 2018, but combined with the relaunch of the Alfa Romeo badge and the expansion of Maserati in the U.S., there will be some interesting new vehicles to see down at the Italian end of your FCA showroom:

By Aaron Bragman | May 6, 2014 | Comments (2)

2015 Fiat 500, 500C and Abarth Get Welcome Upgrades

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If you ask me, the Fiat 500 was already out of date when it made its U.S. debut in 2012. Its main liabilities were its interior quality and lack of Bluetooth streaming audio.

More 2014 New York Auto Show Coverage

After checking out the new lineup at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, I think Fiat has improved matters for 2015 with a couple of well-chosen upgrades.

By Joe Wiesenfelder | April 24, 2014 | Comments (3)

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