This is a short story about why car reviews tell you so little about whether or not you’ll actually like a vehicle.
A friend of mine (G’day Eggs!) posted a link to this review of the Fiat 500 Abarth on Auto123 on Facebook a week or so ago. The excerpt, taken from the first paragraph, hooked me in.
If looks could kill, then the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth’s kill ratio would be very low. Certainly, its arsenal of weapons tells a different story, but in the game of life, the Abarth leaves behind doubts and questions as to why it even exists.
The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is a fun car destined for those desiring thrills in a very compact format. Although the car’s heart is in the right place, the pint-size cabin poses far too great a compromise unless the owner is single or likely enjoys short partners.
Read through the interview and you’ll find out that the author is older (he’s been writing about cars for 15 years) and married (to a 5ft 6in wife with boofy hair).
While he does praise certain aspects of the car, he’s reasonably critical about the liveability of the 500 Abarth, as you can tell. By his own admission, he’s not the target market for the car and it doesn’t seem like he tries too hard to put himself in the target market’s shoes. After that rather negative introduction, he still gave the Abarth an average of 4 out of 5 stars.
And in the other corner…….
I saw a Fiat 500 Abarth article (not a review) online yesterday morning. I still have The Truth About Cars on my RSS feed, despite my issues with them about Saab matters in the past. This morning, one of their newer, younger writers posted this piece – Generation Why: My Gen Y COTY
A couple of excerpts that I liked:
[the Abarth] sounds like a tuner car, and tries to look like a serious performance machine but doesn’t have any of the “I work at McDonalds” vibe that a tuner car (factory or aftermarket hackjob) carries…..That wonderful exhaust note that everyone goes on about? It never drones or buzzes like an aftermarket unit does. But it sounds wonderful with the windows down, when you can hear the turbo spooling, the wastegate exhaling and the unburnt fuel crackling and popping.
…..The Abarth is definitely a niche product, and a lot of people will be more comfortable with something else, whether that’s a Mini, a Mazdaspeed 3 or even an FR-S. But if you are that mythical Millenial; downtown-living, employed in the creative field, the kind of person that GM and Ford are trying so hard to cultivate, then this is your car. I love it for more tangible reasons; it can fit in nearly any parking space, easy on gas and has just the right amount of performance. Do I love it enough to take on a car note? No. But of all the cars I’ve driven this year, this is the one that I’d buy.
He’s pretty impressed and enthusiastic, yes? And as it happens, he’s right in the target market demographic for the 500 Abarth. He’s in his early 20’s, establishing his career, single, etc etc.
Why don’t car magazines or web publications choose people to review cars according to the type of person/car? Does anyone think there’s any value in having someone review a car that they’re never likely to be interested in? Does it lend some weird sort of distance-induced objectivity?
It’s a funny old world.
Having written all that, maybe there IS no right formula to match between demographics and cars. I’m much closer in demographics to the Auto123 writer – older, married, etc. I haven’t driven an Abarth but I’m a sucker for smaller cars with punchy engines and I’m pretty sure I’d like it A LOT.
As I wrote on Eggs’ FB posting, the existence of the Fiat 500 Abarth is completely justified (as is this blog post), even if it’s only so that Fiat could make this ad: