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The Fiat 500: the first Fiat car to be made by Chrysler

based partly on an article by Terry Parkhurst • see Fiat 500 Abarth, Mopar Fiat 500 Stinger

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The first Fiat to make it to the United States via Chrysler is be the diminutive Fiat 500. The Italian car was introduced in 2007, the American car was unveiled in 2010 as a 2012 model. The styling echoes the original Fiat 500, the popular Italian car of the 1950s and 1960s (as seen in Cars) - of which 4 million were made between 1957 and 1975.

2014 updates: Respnding to customer complaints, a new passenger seat sits one inch lower, for better headroom, and has seat memory and its own armrest. New options include a new white-accented interior and five-spoke, 16-inch wheels on 500 Sport; new black 16-inch wheels on 500 Turbo; and Beats audio. New colors are Granito Lucente (gray) and Nero Puro (black). Mike V. also reported that there are now two 16x6.5 cast aluminum wheels, one standard, one $650. Black trimmed lights are $200 (and require optional wheels). Rear park assist is $250 on hatch, standard on Cabrio; and silver is optional on Cabrio only.

The Italian car has several four cylinder engines, displacing just 1.2 liters with horsepower ranging from 68 to 74 hp; but for the United States, the base powerplant is a 1.4-liter engine with MultiAir; turbocharged models are the Fiat 500 Abarth and the well-named Fiat 500 Turbo.

A four-door hatchback car to be called the Fiat 500L (L for Large), based on the larger SCSS platform (along with Fiat Punto), will have similar styling despite different key dimensions. Fiat 500L will launch in Europe in five and seven seat form, and in the US with five seats. The American version will most likely use the same engines as the US Fiat 500.

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In Europe, the Fiat 500 was the first A-segment vehicle to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) adult-occupant protection rating. The 2012 Fiat 500 has a new airbag system with driver and multi-stage front-passenger advanced air bags, driver's knee air bag, full-length side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags. Reactive head restraints activate during a rear impact, preventing whiplash.

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For 2013, Fiat 500 gets a standard "spotter mirror" on all levels, black-and-red leather optional on Sport, darker tinted glass (including on the sunroof), revised instrument icons, new carpet, configurable door locks (allowing the driver's door to be pushed twice, instead of once, as a "lock all doors"), tire pressure visible in the trip computer, speed-sensitive volume on the premium audio, and heated seats optional with manual transmission. A new, 368-watt, six-speaker-plus-subwoofer Beats premium audio system on Sport and Lounge replaces the Bose system, and there was much rejoicing.

Changes for the United States include:

  • Redesigned body structure for increased strength
  • Retuned suspension
  • Over 20 hardware modifications/additions for improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH)
  • New four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system (ABS) with redesigned front calipers
  • Larger 10.5-gallon fuel tank
  • New gearing for the five speed manual transmission and a new six speed automatic
  • Use of a MAP sensor instead of a mass airflow sensor
  • Upgraded heating and cooling system for North American climate extremes
  • Redesigned driver and front-passenger seats with a new armrest and seat cushion
  • Easy-entry system designed into the new front seats
  • New steering wheel controls and revised steering calibration to increase stability at highway speed (against crosswinds)
  • Revised stability control with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), anti-lock brake system (ABS) and traction control systems (TCS) to control all four wheels in response to yaw and steering input; this system attempts to understand and carry out the driver's intent.
  • New BOSE® Energy Efficient Series premium audio system features six premium speakers and a subwoofer

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Models and pricing

Fiat 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). The Fiat 500 Pop starts at $15,500.

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Fiat 500 Sport has modified springs, shock tuning, steering calibration and exhaust tuning for more responsive handling. The Sport model also includes a manual transmission and front and rear fascias with larger 'honeycomb' grilles and flared aerodynamic treatment. It has 16-inch aluminum wheels with Mineral Gray painted pockets and all-season tires, new bodyside sill cladding, and a a liftgate-mounted roof spoiler, red calipers attached to a sport-tuned suspension, chromed exhaust tip and fog lamps. Inside, the new Fiat 500 Sport has unique styling in a Gray/Black interior environment, 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.

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Fiat 500 Lounge has premium amenities including the new six-speed automatic transmission with driver-selectable gear changes, 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 Handsfree Communication technology with USB port and iPod control capability.

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Fiat 500 Cabrio follows the tradition of the original 1957 models, with a dual-layer power-operated cloth top. It retracts up to the rear spoiler with a single button push, at speeds of up to 60 mph. The interior theoretically holds four passengers; there are three exterior soft-top colors, 14 exterior colors, 12 unique seat colors and material combinations and a choice of two interior environments.

More Fiat 500 information

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Roberto Giolito, head of Fiat-brand styling and designer of the popular 500, says Chrysler will build four versions of the mini-car beginning in 2011. The lineup will include the standard 500 hatchback, a convertible, a station wagon and a sporty "tuner" hatch based on the Abarth version of the 500. An all-wheel-drive CUV is a possibility. All the versions will be sold as Fiats. Production will be done at Chrysler's Toluca, Mexico assembly facility.

The car fits into the A-segment but allows for four passengers. It includes the new 1.4-liter Fiat MultiAir® engine, state-of-the-art Blue & Me™ Handsfree Communication technology, seven standard air bags, and new quality and refinement adaptations for the U.S. market, including a new six-speed automatic transmission.

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The tiny Fiat 500 coupe was crowned "best compact car" by Japanese Internet users in 2008, against the equally small Toyota IQ (also coming to America) and Peugeot 308. In Japan, though, people tend to accept small cars more readily; micro cars - powered by engines of just 600 cubic-centimeters (.6 liters) - have been street legal for years.

Fiat's Multiair technology won "Best of What's New" from Popular Science. The new engine features electro-hydraulic management of the inlet valves that helps reduce fuel consumption by up to 10%, and provide up to 15% more torque. It is based on direct control of the intake air, cylinder by cylinder and stroke by stroke by reducing dependence on a throttle valve for airflow control, simply and effectively varying the amount of time the intake valves are open and the amount of charge that is let into the cylinder, particularly at low speeds or partial load driving condition - the type of driving most commuters are familiar with on local freeways. Earlier in 2010, the Fiat 1.4 Turbo engine equipped with Multiair received the prestigious "Engine of the Year" recognition in 2010 in Europe.

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Unusually, the engine does not use a throttle plate, but uses valve throttling.

Fiat had considered building the 500 for the American market at its Case New Holland tractor factories, before tying in with Chrysler. Its goal was to repeat the success of BMW's Mini, which proved that, while Americans generally don't care for small cars, sometimes they make an exception. Automotive history is littered with nameplates that tried to establish a footing in America with small cars and achieved only marginal success, until they faded away: Crosley, Nash Metropolitan, Studebaker Lark, and Geo.

Three engines are sold with the European Fiat 500: a 69 horsepower, 1.2 liter engine, a 75 horsepower, 1.3 liter diesel engine and a 100 horsepower, 1.4 liter engine with a 16 valve cylinder head. Those engines could be mated to either a five or six speed manual transmission or a five-speed, Dualogic® sequential gearbox.

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Buyers in WhatCar? were generally full of praise for the 500, noting its sporty feel, satisfactory power and cruising, high gas mileage (50-60 mpg), and general reliability. WhatCar? itself noted that the engines were lively, if not particularly fast; the car is inexpensive; and the interior feels high quality while engines have been reliable and safety is on the top of the supermini range. Down-sides were a jittery ride, less than ideal handling, and limited interior space. They preferred the 1.4 liter gas engine, which is probably the only one that will make it to the U.S.

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Fiat 500 car electronics and customizations

With the optional TomTom® navigation with Blue & Me Handsfree Communication technology, a 4.3-inch TomTom hand-held navigation unit docks on top of the new 2012 Fiat 500's instrument panel, providing a large touch-screen display, simple map displays with available real-time traffic, weather, and more than 7 million points of interests. With its direct integration into the Fiat 500's interior system, the driver is able to use steering-wheel-mounted controls; and to remove the device and use it for walking or, presumably, rental cars.

Customization is aided by 14 paint colors available in metallic, non-metallic and premium tri-coat pearl finishes, and two interior environments (Black or Ivory) with 14 unique seat color and material combinations for an individualized look.

A full line of authentic Fiat 500 accessories by Mopar will offer customers more personalization possibilities at their local Fiat dealership, including unique striping packages, exterior and interior styling accessories and Fiat-styled merchandise.

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Fiat Start & Stop system

As of February 2009, the Fiat 500 has a new Start&Stop system which stops the engine when the car is stopped and instantly restarts it when the driver wants to accelerate again. The Fiat 500 Start&Stop has the highest mileage of any gas-engined 500, and starts at US$14,000 (£9,500). Gas mileage rises in the urban cycle from 6.4 liters/100 km to 5.7 (from 37 to 41 US mpg, or from 44 to 50 UK mpg). Highway mileage is unchanged.

Start&Stop is based on a battery and starter able to perform a fast engine restart and to deal with a far higher number of starts than a standard system. Sensors and control strategies manage operations, to guarantee safety, driveability and energy balance with a minimum impact on heating and other services. Engine stop is only allowed once a speed of 6 mph has been achieved after pulling away; to restart the engine the clutch pedal must be depressed. The Start&Stop system can be manually activated or deactivated using a button switch.

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Start&Stop will not activate in certain cases, including engine still cold, battery in low charge state, heated rear window active, front wiper at maximum speed, or reverse gear engaged.

If the engine has been stopped and the clutch pedal has not been depressed for more than three minutes, the engine can only be restarted using the ignition key. Similarly, if the engine has been stopped and the driver's seat belt has been unfastened, or a door has been opened, engine restart will only be achieved with the key.

Fiat's hands-free telecommunications and entertainment system is standard on 500 Start&Stop, which means the car also benefits from eco:Drive, the system that allows customers to monitor and improve on their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures. The cheapest fiat 500 is $11,936 in the U.K. and comes with a 1.2 liter petrol engine.

Fiat 500 Specifications

The 2012 Fiat 500 was built in Toluca, Mexico, starting in January 2011. The 83 cubic inch engine has a bore and stroke of 2.83 x 3.31 inches, and is belt-driven, with hydraulic end-pivot roller rockers. The engine uses a cast iron block with aluminum alloy heads and bedplate, and has a compression ratio of 10.8:1. The 2013 is essentially similar, but has a turbocharged option (500T).

North American Fiat 500: Gasoline
Horsepower101 hp
Torque98 lb-ft
Gas mileagePremium; 31 city, 40 highway (manual; 27/34 automatic)
Built inToluca; engines from Dundee, Michigan
Length90.6 inch wheelbase; 139.6 inch length
Width x Height64.1 x 59.8
Ground clearance4.1"
Drag coefficient0.332 (Pop), 0.362 (Sport), 0.359 (Lounge)
Weight2,363 to 2,434 (Turbo: 2,477)
Front suspensionMacPherson, coil spring with twin tube shocks and stabilizer bar
Rear suspensionTwist-beam axle with coil springs and twin-tube shocks
Tires (Pop, Lounge)185/55R15 (Pop, Lounge); 195/45R16 (Sport)
Front brakes10.1 x .86 vented-rotor
Rear brakes9.4 x 0.4 solid rotor
Swept area, F/R193 / 153 sq in
Driving range320 miles city, (more) combined (mpg * tank capacity)
Headroom F/R38.9 / 35.6
Legroom F/R40.7 / 31.7
EPA interior volume75.6 cubic feet
Trunk9.5 cubic feet

The 2010 U.K. version, with optional 1.4 liter engine and Lounge configuration, costs £12,265, or around $19,550. The engine produces 100 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and a similar 131 Nm of torque at 4,250 rpm. It weighs 2,050 pounds, and does 0-62 mph in 10.5 seconds. It has similar exterior dimensions, but has a six speed manual gearbox and uses 15 inch alloy wheels. VansReviewsFreemontForum

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