Fiat 500 – the very distillation of Italian automotive design


What more can one say about a car that represents so much more than mere transport? A product so mechanically and stylistically pure that it is the very distillation of Italian automotive design – immensely practical yet implausibly stylish, reassuringly safe yet inexplicably fun, comfortably accessible yet alluringly exclusive.

It transcends all notions of what a compact car should be and inhabits that rarefied realm normally only reserved for supercars and exotics. Enter the new 500, the manifesto of the ‘new Fiat’, a model that is to all intents and purposes the materialisation of a new approach, of new brand strategies, and a different approach to the car.

Exactly 50 years after the launch of the first edition of the model, which was to become an icon of Italian motoring and of an entire period of history, Fiat is accelerating into the future.

You see, Fiat’s goal has not been to design a car that ‘looks like’ a 500, but one that ‘could be’ the 500 again, in other words, a car for the people of our times; one that ticks all the right boxes…

Ultra-modern styling that doesn’t forget the past

Designed by the Fiat Style Centre and built in the plant in Tychy (Poland), the new 500 is a ‘3-door’ model with compact dimensions: just 355 centimetres long, 163 cm wide, 149 cm tall and with a wheelbase of 230 centimetres. A compact car that appeals immediately for its soft, rounded line. And its ‘tomboyish’ looks bring a smile of complicity to drivers who have to tackle intense town traffic every day, with a lack of space and a frenetic lifestyle.

The front combines the current family resemblance between the latest Fiat models with the distinctive elements of the first Fiat 500. For example, the strongest reference to the earlier car is the combination of the circular upper headlights together with full beam lower lights and the ‘whiskers and logo’ unit.

What’s more, the waistline slopes slightly at the front and highlights its robustness while the rear end features a large shaped, chrome-plated handle which reiterates the motif of the registration plate light holder on the first Fiat 500 that resembled a bicycle saddle. The exterior styling of the new car is set off by twelve bodywork colours (metallic, non-metallic and one pearlescent), all combined with the wide range of fabric and leather upholstery.

And last but not least, the Fiat 500 is the first Fiat model to use its own name as a logo, positioning it on the wheel hubs and rims.

The new car combines an attractive, original line with new upholstery that confirms the impression of great quality that the car transmits at first glance.

Thanks to the large ring that circles the interior space, the passenger compartment embraces and protects you, every detail has been honed to perfection, and there are plenty of citations from the past, reread in a modern key and enhanced by exclusive materials, such as the refined Frau Leather upholstery (optional) that makes its first appearance in this segment.

Chromed elements, two-tone seats, a facia that matches the body colour and numerous storage units complete the elegant, functional passenger compartment that can seat four adults comfortably.

Green engines

In the local context the 500 comes with a choice of two engines that guarantee sparkling performance but are sparing on fuel and eco-friendly, combined with 5 or 6 speed manual gearboxes.

The two petrol units, the 51 kW 1.2 fitted to the Pop version and the 73,5 kW 1.4 installed in both the Lounge and Sport Variants are from the Fire family that boasts a total output of over ten million engines to date. Both these engines are Euro 4-compliant and designed to meet the even stricter limitations of future European standards (Euro 5).

Class-beating safety

Designed to respect the most stringent standards, the Fiat 500 is one of the safest cars in its entire segment. Stable, efficient braking combined with good acceleration from the engines and predictable handling at all times, get the new model out of difficult situations without batting an eyelid.

All models come standard with 7 airbags (two at the front, two curtain-bags, two sidebags and one to protect the knees): a record for this vehicle class.

The new model also adopts sophisticated technical solutions to guarantee that the driver is in complete control of the car at all times (active safety): from ABS complete with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), to the sophisticated ESP* (Electronic Stability Program) and ASR* (Anti Slip Regulation or traction control), plus Hill Holder*, to help the driver on hill starts, and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) which steps in for emergency stops.

And the Fiat 500 boasts all the dynamic features and comfort that enable its occupants to tackle any type of route comfortably and safely. Plaudits must go to the suspension: an independent MacPherson system at the front, and semi-independent interconnected wheels with a torsion axle at the rear. The two layouts have evolved from a Magneti Marelli design and have been used on other Fiat models in the past; they have now been revised and modified for the new car, to guarantee outstanding handling and the highest possible level of comfort.

*Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport

500,000 ways to make your 500 yours (See the spec sheet for the full list of options)

In South Africa, the 500 is offered with three outfits (Pop, Sport and Lounge), two engines (1.2 and 1.4 petrol), 12 body colours and numerous alloy wheel choices in both 15″ and 16″. But if we add all the many accessories and devices on offer, the Fiat 500 reaches an absolutely unique level of customisation for the car market: no fewer than 500,000 possible combinations.

For example, the customer can decide to make his car more distinctive by adding a range of original stickers on the sides, the roof and the bonnet, choosing three different graphics: from a chequered flag to the Italian flag, a barcode or racing stripes. He can also choose a number of chrome-plated elements such as the wing mirror cases, bonnet trims or the nudge bar on the front bumper.

Inside, elegance, innovation and practicality blend in an ideal environment. One example is the new ‘fragrance diffuser’, with a choice of three fragrances, and the practical jacket hanger on the head-restraint. Or the mobile phone holder or iPod player, USB and 12V sockets, aluminium pedals, the 500 logo on the kick panel of the door, and three types of leather upholstery for the gear lever knob, to match the steering wheel. And then there are the free-time accessories, like the original luggage rack that fits on the rear window and a convenient storage unit that lets you pack away items of various sizes in the loading floor.

The long list of accessories terminates with the car covers decorated with a picture of the Fiat 500 of the 1960s, an original way of remembering the new model’s forebear. With the dedicated Customisation programme, the new model confirms its vocation as a car with Italian class and plenty of content and excellent value for money. A new type of ignition key also makes its debut on the new model, on which you can change the protective covering, choosing from 9 covers that match the bodywork or the stickers.

The Fiat 500 introduces numerous other novelties for its segment including a daytime DRL function* (Day Running Light), a large glass sunroof (standard on the 1.4 Lounge) and Blue&MeTM (incorporates a hands-free function with Bluetooth® interface and evolved voice recognition, USB port, MP3 reader and text message interpreter) which is standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport.

Options are too numerous to list but worthy of mention is the electro-chromic anti-glare rearview mirror and the sophisticated Hi-Fi system known as ‘Interscope Sound System’. This system was designed and developed for the Fiat 500 and is combined with a radio incorporating a CD and MP3 player. The novelty of the Interscope Sound System is the simultaneous use of three different methods to process the signal, which make for unique enjoyment of the sound on board the car.

In addition to a conventional heater and a manual climate system, the Fiat 500 is also available with the option of a sophisticated climate system that incorporates an electronic control unit, which automatically controls the temperature, air flow, air distribution, compressor engagement and air recirculation.

* This function is activated automatically when the engine is started, with a beam stronger than that of the side lights but lower than that of the dipped headlights. The DRL system meets current legislation in some countries that requires motorists to drive with their headlights on, but makes it possible not to turn the rear side lights on, thus saving on consumption. The DRL daytime light is another innovative feature that the Fiat 500 introduces in this segment for the first time.

Pricing, warranty and servicing

  • Fiat 500 1.2 Pop: R149 000
  • Fiat 500 1.4 Lounge: R179 000
  • Fiat 500 1.4 Sport: R179 000

Enhancing the ownership prospect, the new Fiat 500, as with other premium products in the Fiat stable, has 30 000 km service intervals and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory (housed and distributed in an all-new, state-of-the-art facility) and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.

Fiat Auto South Africa offers a three-year 100 000 km Warranty (three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation) as well as a five-year 90 000 km service plan.

The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.