Fiat launched the new 500 to the Irish media on Monday at Weston Airport in Lucan, Co. Dublin and they’re billing it as ‘the icon reloaded’.
On the surface of things it doesn’t look much different from the petite 500 remake that first arrived here in 2008.
But according to Fiat, there are 1,900 new components to enhance and refine an already very successful 1950s-inspired retro recipe.
How successful exactly? 1.5 million have been sold in over 100 countries since launch in 2007 and sales have increased year on year – even as the car has aged. From an Irish perspective, the market may be small for 3-door city cars like the 500, but just under 2000 of them have found homes here.
The marketing for the Fiat 500 is very much aimed at the young, social urbanite, yet interestingly Fiat’s own sales data shows that the average customer is a bit more middle-aged – 45 to be exact – but predictably female.
Image and styling are naturally very important to Fiat 500 buyers and with the success of the current model, Fiat decided not to get too creative in the design studio when it came to updating the car. The most noticeable changes to the styling are the addition of new LED daytime running lights in a circular shape (like the zeros of the 500 logo), new bumpers with squarer edges, and a 3D-effect grille with chrome-like buttons on the Lounge version.
At the rear there are new ’empty’ tail lamp clusters with ring-shaped illumination and body-coloured centres.
There are new alloy wheel designs and two brand new colours, “Glam Coral” pastel and “Avantgarde Bordeaux” metallic, which bring the total number of colours available to 13.
New ‘Second Skin’ personalisation options have also been added to the 500 range. These are factory-fitted themed graphics that add more wow factor, for example “Comics”, which has a cool two-tone appearance of black-yellow or black-red.
The interior still has the retro vibe with coloured dash panels and large round instrument binnacle. There’s more choice inside in terms of colour schemes and seat fabrics, though some of it is dependent on the trim level of the car. The Uconnect infotainment system is now standard across the range, with steering wheel-mounted audio controls and USB / Aux-in ports on all cars.
Available as a hatchback or cabriolet, there are three trim levels for the Irish market: Pop, Pop Star and Lounge. Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, Uconnect, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and LED daytime running lights. An electric roof with heated glass rear screen is standard on the cabriolet.
Step up to Pop Star for air con and alloys, and to Lounge for a panoramic fixed glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and front fog lights. Lounge models also have a more advanced Uconnect system with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, voice recognition and an SMS reader for reading text messages.
In terms of engines, there is a choice of three petrols and one diesel: a 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol , 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo petrol with 85bhp or 105bhp and a 1.3-litre 95bhp turbo diesel.
At the launch I sampled the 1.2-litre 69bhp and TwinAir Turbo 105bhp. The TwinAir is predictably quick but it likes to let you know it’s working, so the noise will be either irritating or endearing. The 1.2-litre feels flatter through the gears, and the lack of power could get frustrating out on bigger roads – but it’s fine at low speeds around town.
The key to the Fiat 500 is pricing. The hatchback range starts at €13,450 for the 1.2-litre petrol in Pop trim. The Pop Star range starts at €14,400 and Lounge models at €15,800. The cabrio is available from €16,450.
Yes the Fiat 500 is a small car with a small boot. But in terms of pure desirability, presence and style, you won’t find many that move in such fashionable circles and can match that sort of pricing.
Watch out for a full road test of the Fiat 500 coming soon!