Strengths and weaknesses:
- agile steering
- interior finish
- not the fastest
- transmission shift points
Fiat 500 is an island unto itself
"Driving the pearlescent white 2012 Fiat 500 causes all who see it to smile."
Consider if you will, that heaven is a real place. What would it be like? Personally, it would definitely reflect the beauty that surrounds me as I drive a 2012 Fiat 500 on the two-lane highways crisscrossing North and South Pender Island in British Columbia.
BC Ferries “Queen of Nanaimo” had set sail from Tsawwassen to Otter Bay a few hours earlier with two scheduled stops along the way. Parked securely in the lower deck awaiting release, I can’t help but notice how driving the pearlescent white 2012 Fiat 500 causes all who see it to smile. In fact, while waiting for the ferry to depart, it stimulated an hour long discussion on the genesis of vehicle designs with a local engineering teacher. Something about this car gets people taking.
Power comes in the form of a 1.4-litre four-cylinder 16-valve engine. A spec sheet points to 101 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 98 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Hardly sinister numbers when compared to sister company Ferrari, but don’t be fooled.
Matched with the six-speed automatic transmission and carrying a reasonable curb weight, the Fiat 500 responds to my request for power with typical Italian bravado. Even more surprising when you consider Chrysler builds the Fiat 500 in Toluca, Mexico, a long boat ride from Italy.
A power rack and pinion steering system works in concert with the MacPherson front and twist-beam rear axle suspension to provide an agile driving experience. It isn’t complex, but gets the job done. Cast aluminum wheels feature either Pirelli or Continental 185/55R 15 all-season tires.
Stopping power improves via four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Outside, the shape is pleasing if not a little sexy. Inside, the 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge shows rich red and white accents, Bose stereo sound, A/C with micron filter and enough power options. Seat adjustment is manual, but sometimes simple really is better.
Poets Cove Resort & Spa is created as a premier setting for relaxation and outdoor fun located on South Pender Island. Driving in from the ferry is supposed to take 30 minutes. I require 45 minutes to arrive as I get turned around several times and need to slow down on two occasions for deer crossing the road. Not that I mind as its all part of the experience. I find out later that signage is limited as the island has strict rules regarding advertising, a fact that is most appreciated once I explore the area and take in nature’s beauty.
A total of 22 Lodge rooms, 15 Cottages plus nine Villas define this 2004-built property. The look reminds me of an Oceanside residence, but on a grand scale. Sailing vessels, power boats and seaplanes fill the slips with activity and families of all ages and nationalities. The marina is buzzing, with Canada Customs conveniently set up dockside.
Rooms are decorated in subdued tones of cream and white with thick Berber carpeting underfoot. Oversized crown moulding and natural wood trim is used throughout, there is even a gaslight fireplace. Access to the outside reveals a large deck with two wicker lounge chairs and a see-through railing so as to not spoil the view. From my 3rd floor vantage point, I can easily see all the dock side action, look out on Syrens Bistro, or see who may be taking advantage of the outdoor whirlpool.
World-class facilities include Susurrus spa and the not-to-be-missed steam cave. Spa menu items include the traditional Swedish relaxation, deep tissue and hot stone massages, but I opt for a new treatment entitled “The Journey.” A carefully blended assortment of body oils and expert hands-on treatment provide the perfect touch after the day long journey to arrive here from Southern Ontario.
Meals are served in the Aurora Dining Room, or in the convenience of your own villa, cottage or room.
Roads on Pender Island provide a challenge worthy of the 2012 Fiat 500. Tight turns rounding high cliffs, blind accents up steep hills and enough gorgeous scenery to cause your head to swivel on a continuous basis provide an entertaining atmosphere for driving. If this was a Ferrari-fast automobile, I couldn’t possible enjoy myself in such a setting as this. Instead, sharp handling and a lean exterior profile offer me an amusement park level of excitement at every turn.