The new Fiat 500, bombshell or bust?Posted: July 25, 2011
Recently, Fiat returned to the United States for the first time since 1984. They did so with their new flagship model, the 500. One might recognize the name 500 from the postwar car that, for all intents and purposes, saved the Fiat brand. This new 500, however, is bigger than its father car, sportier, and all around better. The car is fairly strict as far as factory options go. There are 3 trim levels, in ascending order, the Pop, Sport and Lounge. Each trim level has equipped its luxuries, with the Pop being more of a bare-bones car than the others. Each is a 3-door hatch, with a cabriolet version available as well. While this is all well and good, there doesn’t seem to be a real attraction to enthusiasts yet and for good reason, this car, at least from the outside looking in, is just a simple city car. In order to understand the true beauty of this car though, one must delve deeper, inside the engine bay.
Under the hood lies what seems to be an underpowered 1.4 L inline-4 that was designed not for motorsport but for economic purposes. On the engine cover lies a singular word, “MultiAir.” MultiAir may seem unfamiliar to those in the United States, as it is a Fiat invention, but its implications are immense. This word means the end of throttle connections as we know it. Fiat has created a system in which there is no more throttle butterfly. You simply have a throttle pedal and more valve timing than you could ever wrap your head around. Infinitely variable valve timing to completely replace a major throttle assembly–also known as a total gimmick, but known more widely as incredibly interesting.
The Fiat has a base price of around $15,000, very modest in terms of new car pricing. Now, bear in mind that you are getting your money’s worth of car, but not all that much more. The 500 is aimed to suffice, not to impress. Most of the car’s competitors are starting a few thousand dollars higher, unnecessarily so. The wonderful part of this car though, is that it is an extremely good deal in that sense. It is well built, good looking, and just generally good as an entry level car, while not being marked up heavily. Fiat has made good on their plans to return powerfully to the USA. This is entirely thanks to the fact that Fiat is taking a gamble with being in the U.S. market, a gamble that they must not lose. One must realize that Fiat is here with a car that is good and cheap because they cannot survive here without coming as such. After the failure of the mid-80s, Fiat needs to recreate their image to Americans, and that won’t come easy. All things considered, the Fiat 500 is definitely worth looking at for a low budget new car, and would be my personal pick over its competitors, such as the Beetle, Mazda 2, Honda Fit, and Ford Fiesta.