The Fiat 500 is a cheeky subcompact with little space but big style. Aside from the standard 500, the little Italian runabout can also be had in quasi-convertible 500c and hot hatch 500 Abarth form.
Before the 500, Fiat had not officially offered a car in the United States and Canada for nearly 30 years, so the diminutive two-door is a monumentally important vehicle for the brand as it hopes to reestablish itself as a player in the U.S. market.
For the latest model year, all models but the entry-level 500 Pop gain an instrument cluster-mounted 7.0-inch HD TFT that displays speed, fuel level, Eco index and trip information. The center console has also been redesigned for ease of use, and streaming audio via Bluetooth is newly standard.
North American 500s
The 500 - or Cinquecento, as it is known in Italy - saw many changes during its journey across the pond to make it fit for American consumption.
Revisions include a redesigned body structure that resulted in additional strength, a re-tuned suspension that is sporty, but not overly firm, over 20 changes to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), a new ABS system, a larger 10.5-gallon fuel tank, upgraded heating and cooling, redesigned seats, re-tuned steering to increase stability and a new Bose energy Efficient Series audio system.
The 500 is powered by a 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque while returning 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 27/34 mpg with an optional six-speed automatic transmission.
The 500 is available in three different trim levels:
If you want a 500 without frills (or added cost), the 500 Pop includes a manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels with chrome-accented wheel covers and all-season tires, seven standard air bags, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with auxiliary audio input, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, speed control and reconfigurable Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) with trip computer, miles-to-empty, average fuel economy and tire-pressure monitoring display (TPM).
For the driving enthusiast who seeks Italian style with a sport-tuned suspension and more convenience features, the new Fiat 500 Sport model adds into the mix stiffer springs, sport-minded shock tuning, steering calibration and exhaust tuning, to deliver a more firm ride with improved handling.
The 500 Sport model swaps in more sporty front and rear fascias with larger honeycomb grilles and flared aerodynamic treatment. Also added to the Sport trim are unique 16-inch aluminum wheels with Mineral Gray painted pockets and all-season tires, new bodyside sill cladding and a liftgate-mounted roof spoiler for a sporty appearance.
Completing the sport theme are Performance Red painted brake calipers attached to a sport-tuned suspension, chromed exhaust tip and fog lamps. Inside, the Fiat 500 Sport features unique sport-styled seating in a Gray/Black interior scheme, a Bose Energy Efficient Series audio system with six premium speakers and subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Blue & Me Handsfree Communication technology with USB port and iPod control capability. A 7.0-inch HD TFT display is newly standard.
The 500 Lounge is the "Limited" model of the range, loaded with premium amenities including front- and rear-fascia chromed accents, chrome mirror caps, fog lamps, fixed glass roof, 15-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires, premium cloth seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Sirius satellite radio, Bose Energy Efficient Series audio system with six premium speakers and subwoofer, security alarm, Blue & Me Hands-free Communication technology with USB port and iPod control capability.
500 by Gucci
The style-focused Gucci trim brings heated front seats, a Bose premium stereo system, a power sunroof, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod integration, 15-inch color-keyed aluminum wheels, green brake calipers and a host of Gucci badges inside and out. The six-speed automatic transmission is included as standard.
Based on the 500 Sport, the 500 Cattiva - a word that means "naughty" in Italian - boasts blacked out headlights and tail lamps, bespoke 16-inch aluminum wheels, a gloss black roof and a discreet spoiler out back. It is available in red, copper, granite crystal, white, black, silver and light blue.
Inside, the Cattiva features cloth sport seats with contrasting accent stitching, a flat black instrument panel and leather upholstery on the steering wheel and the shift knob. Leather seats are available at an extra cost.
Standard safety items include dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems.
Small, cute-as-a-button coupes like the 500 range from the truly small smart fortwo and Scion iQ to the larger, fine-handling MINI Cooper.