I labored over whether to even post an article on the Fiat 500; opening the lil’ guy up to all sorts of abuse by the harsh readership of ridelust. Poor defenseless guy….you all BACK OFF! But don’t let its “Herbie the love bug” looks deceive you, the 500 packs some punch.
I’m not sure Americans are ready to appreciate the Fiat 500, but huge sales success of this pocket rocket is, in large measure, the reason Fiat is still around and not bankrupt.
Fiat refers to the 500 as the iPod of cars. Not because of its size or shape, but because of the huge demand with consumers. In 2009 Fiat will be producing two new versions of the 500: the “Abarth” designation represents the performance version and the “Aria” a fuel efficient model of the same basic car. The 500 Abarth has a 135-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that driven in “normal” mode has peak torque set at 132 pound feet at 2500 rpm. But drivers will have the option of switching to “sport” mode via a dash-mounted button altering the torque levels to 152 pound feet at 3000 rpm. A torque transfer control system promises improved traction and sharper handling. The Abarth version also has a lowered suspension, bigger wheels, and aggressive front and rear bumpers. Plus, the options list for the 500 is quite extensive making it a highly customizable car, in the vein of the Mini. With even more coaxing, drivers are easily able to tune the car to go nearly 130 mph!
For those looking for better fuel consumption the 500 will also be offered in an “Aria” version that is fitted ultra low emissions 1.3-liter Multijet fourcylinder diesel engine. This is mated to the Fiat’s Dualogic transmission and stop-and-start system, which turns off the engine to save gas when the car is stopped. The result is that the the Aria’s fuel consumption is predicted to be 10 percent better than that of the standard 500. Engineering also went into reducing the power used by the auxiliary systems of the vehicle and utilizing lightweight parts. Keeping in line with the “eco-theme, even the seats are covered in a material made of recycled leather.
This most fuel efficient model gets around 56 mpg and the basemodel cost of the 500 is the equivalent of $13,600, but unfortnately, it is not yet available in the U.S.