Somehow it doesn’t seem five minutes since the current Fiat 500 range came, cheekily, back on to the automotive stage in a blaze of colour and tricolor Italian hype eight years ago.
And, in August 2014, the automaker moved its HQ – after 115 years – from Turin, Italy, to London under the corporate cloak of automotive giant Chrysler and production of the 500 shifted to Poland.
Now, eight years on, comes that model’s replacement in the form of the (wait of it!) New Fiat 500 to revitalise the now not-so-baby cars after a production run of more than 15-million.
‘PACKED WITH MORE TECHNOLOGY’
The car, we are told, has been “refreshed” inside and out to make it, the automaker says, “unmistakably 500 and even more attractive”.
It’s the same size, we’re told, as the 2007 product, but “packed with more technology, engines and customisation” and still available as a hatchback and a convertible in three trim levels: Pop, Popstar and Lounge.
Dreadful names, sure, but nevertheless they are well-equipped for small cars with seven crash bags, Uconnect radio which accommodates six speakers and auxiliary and USB cables, and diode daytime running lights.
Here’s how the models differ:The Popstar adds auto aircon; the Lounge adds glass sunroof, 15” alloy wheel rims, chromed grilled, the Uconnect infotainment system with touchscreen control, and a leather-wrapped steering-wheel with controls for a smartphone.
The engine choice includes a two-cylinder, 900cc, TwinAir engine (65 or 77kW).
SOME EXTERNAL CHANGES
Revised are the rear lights, the colour choice, the cabin facia and upholstery in a – despite being built in Poland and run business-wise from London – car described by its maker as “having a quintessentially Italian heart”.
The car is still tiny, though bigger than the original, at 3.57m long, 1.63m wide and 1.49m high and runs on a 2.30m wheelbase.
The most obvious reference to the past, Fiat says, is in the upper headlights – still circular but with “a more dynamic and audacious slant” – with the lower clusters using diode technology for the running lights. The effect is said to graphically reproduce the zeros of 500.
The nose is still trapezoidal with the chromed ‘whiskers’ but now has bolder ribbing and the auxiliary air vent is has its own three-dimensional grille with chromed buttons on the Lounge version. “The New 500,” Fiat says “is even more expressive and has a seductive gaze.”
NEW ‘EMPTY’ LIGHT CLUSTERS
OK, then. We’re convinced the 500 is still the bloody cheeky little Italian it always has been…
The rear has a large chrome-plated boot release reminiscent of the number plate light of the first Fiat 500 but now, Fiat says, has special new light clusters: the only car in its segment with ’empty’ light clusters – a ring-shaped structure which lets the body colour show through.
The cars ride on either 15 or 16″ alloy rims/tyres and 13 body colours are available – five of them metallic..
The cabin, Fiat explains “is still enveloping, protective and packed with small details, full of references to the past re-interpreted in a modern key and embellished with exclusive materials”.
The controls are said to be more versatile and complete and chrome-edged.
DIGITAL INFO ON FUEL, RANGE, TRIP
The steering column is characterised by concentric-circle “at a glance” while trip data information appears digitally in its centre.
In the Lounge model a 19cm colour display provides information on speedometer, odometer and trip data simultaneously. The central section of the display – an image of the car – can be configured to swop to instant fuel consumption, fuel range, trip time.
The gear -shifter is on the facia and nine upholstery combinations are available.
The rear seat can accommodate to bottoms or, on the Lounge model, be split or all dropped to accommodate luggage. Boot size with the seats up is claimed to be 185 litres, seats folded 550 litres.
SEVEN BAGS, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES
Fuel consumption is listed as less than four litres/100km through a five or six-speed gearbox.
Seven crash bags are standard with crash protection equipment including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, emergency brake-pressure and hill-holder.
The Fiat family in South Africa comprises of the Fiat 500 , Fiat 500 Abarth and the all-new Fiat 500x. Prices start at R180 000.
For more information and prices visit the Fiat South Africa website.