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Fiat 500: Small Car, Big Shoes

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2008 Fiat 500

2008 Fiat 500

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Fiat’s new 500 hasn’t even passed its first driving test, but already the mini-hatchback and reincarnation of great Fiats past is being crowed as the next best thing to the MINI Cooper.

 

A “manifesto of the new Fiat,” according to its parent brand, the 500 has been designed in a distinctly modern ethos, one equal parts Apple and Vespa, it seems. And — despite the huge 20-foot-tall version looming over the Fiat display at the Frankfurt show — the 500 makes all its virtue of its subcompact size.

 

The task of reinventing the 500, which is fifty years old this year, comes as Fiat’s reputation is waxing once again. Quality is up, and the company has resurfaced from dire financial condition that compelled it to ask GM to invest in the company at the start of the decade. Clear of its GM commitments, the company is putting money on the 500 and its potential to further reinvigorate the brand.

 

The basics of the car are typical subcompact stuff: there’s a 69-hp, 1.2-liter engine, a 75-hp 1.3-liter engine, and the big powerplant, ahem, is a 110-hp, 1.4-liter. All meet the Euro 5 standards, and the 500 is the first car of its size (about 140 inches long) to make a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests. Seven airbags are standard, and stability control is an option.

 

The fun comes in outfitting the 500. The four trim lines are provocative: Naked, Pop, Sport and Lounge. Six vintage colors will highlight the 500’s role in Eurocar history; 15 upholstery options, nine wheel choices, and more than 100 accessories will mean the 500 will offer more than 500,000 variations. Your Cinquecento will be yours alone, in other words. The best option? A fragrance diffuser for the cabin, the more cosmetically advanced counterpart to the VW New Beetle’s bud vase.

 

Despite its referential looks, the 500 is awash in tech options, including a high-end audio system, Bluetooth, MP3 plugs, and a navigation system.

 

Sadly, the 500 will remain in-Continent. It’s not one of the cars Fiat will send over to the States along with the Alfa 8C Competizione — and maybe the MINI folks are happy with that. Us? Not so much.

 


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2008 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Preview by TCC Team (7/31/2007)
Limited-edition Competizione heralds maker's U.S. revival.

 

Fiat Abarth Returns at Geneva by Richard Yarrow (3/7/2007)
Famous name applied to new Punto hatchback.

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