The Fiat 500 (Cinquecento, per i miei amici Italiani) is such a crazy hit in Europe that Fiat’s already had to increase production several times. They originally planned on only producing 60,000 500s a year, but the insane demand means that, in the first half of this year alone, almost 95,000 orders were placed. At this point, Fiat has upped the production capacity to 200k 500’s a year.
To capitalize on this fame, Fiat is offering several different versions of the 500. Two extremes, the Abarth and the Aria, were shown off earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show.
The 500 is already an eco-car by American standards, and the Aria pushes the envelope ever further. It has a 1.3-liter 16v Multijet diesel, a particulate filter and robotic Dualogic gearbox with start-stop technology that cuts carbon emissions and reduces fuel economy by 10% in the city. The 500 Aria also has recycled leather for the interior, low-power auxiliary systems, ultra-lightweight components, and low-drag tires. Although it’s still just a concept, look for some of those eco-bits and pieces to be on the regular 500 in coming years.
The other side of the coin is the Fiat 500 Abarth, which has a 1.4L turbo four-cylinder producing 135 bhp at 5,500 rpm and 152 pound feet of torque at 3,000 rpm, if you hit the Sport mode button. In Normal mode, Fiat has the 500 Abarth producing 133 pound feet of torque at 2,500 rpm, still sweet for a tiny car like the 500.
The Abarth also has big wheels, a rear anti-roll bar along with a re-tuned suspension that helps it stay low and go, and the Torque Transfer Control system, which detects wheelspin and sends the power to the wheels with the weight for better traction and handling. This car can hit 0 to 60 in under 8 seconds, and yet its only 2,300 pounds. It zips like a ninja.
The question is, when will it be available in the US? The answer: it might not be. First the news was 2009 or 2010, then they said never, and now there are rumors back that there are plenty of people in high places trying to get at least the 500 Abarth version over here. Let’s hope they succeed.