Watching the success of MINI and Scion in the personalization wars, Fiat is handing over the keys to 500 buyers and letting them go wild with color, features and other add-ons.
But first, the basics. The 2013 Fiat 500 offers three major variants, each with their own flavors: the 500, the 500C, and the 500 Abarth.
At the first run on the ladder, the $15,500 Fiat 500 Pop sports the five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack, power windows/locks/mirrors, and cruise control. The $17,500 500 Sport sizes up to 16-inch wheels, adds a fixed glass roof, and gets a sport-tuned suspension and sport-bolstered seats. It also wears specific side cladding and a spoiler on its hatchback, even painted brake calipers. On the Sport, Fiat includes standard Bluetooth and USB hardware. For $18,500, the 500 Lounge moves back down to 500 Pop spec; it reverts to 15-inch wheels and hangs on to the glass roof, while it adds the six-speed automatic and rear park assist, along with satellite radio, premium speakers and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Brand new for 2013 is the 500 Turbo (or 500T), starting at $19,500. Intended to slot between the 500 Abarth and the standard 500, it gets a 135-horsepower turbocharged engine, some sportier exterior details, and a "sport influenced" interior. Full details on the 500T haven't been released just yet--the car was unveiled late this summer.
Moving to the Fiat 500c, you get, naturally, a retractable soft top roof. Unlike other convertibles, however, the 500c's roof retracts just the center section, leaving the metal sides and pillars of the standard 500. It's a unique arrangement, and a nod to the 500 cabrios of the past. Both Pop ($19,500) and Lounge ($22,500) are available, but there's no 500c Sport. They each offer the same basic features as their hardtop alternatives.
The major options on the Pop models include the Bluetooth system and Bose speakers; on the Sport, automatic climate control and satellite radio are available. The Lounge editions can be fitted with a TomTom navigation system that can be mounted on a dash bracket; leather seats with heating and rear parking sensors are available, too.
With the Fiat 500 Abarth, you get a whole host of changes, including a much more potent 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir four-cylinder engine, and a range of bodywork and interior cues to suit it. On the equipment side, the Abarth comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, Alpine audio system, Blue&Me infotainment with USB port, performance cloth seats, 16x6.5-inch wheels, and Abarth logos inside and out.
Once you've picked the model you'll use as your canvas, there are all kinds of choices for customization: 15 exterior colors, 15 different seat color and materials options, and 50 accessories. In all, some 500,000 different Fiat 500s can be built from the catalog, right up there in MINI Cooper territory.
Every Fiat 500 comes with a four-year/60,000-mile warranty--and Fiat will pay for basic maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles of service. Call it penance for the bad old Fiats of the 1970s if you want--it's more a smart marketing reality for a brand that's starting fresh from somewhat tainted roots.