Fiat can't figure out what to do with its aging city car
Can you believe the Fiat 500 is over a decade old? It's true. Fiat sold its first reincarnated 500—the successor to the iconic Cinquecento—in 2007, and the Frank Stephenson-penned design has barely changed since. Europeans clamored for the stylish city car when it first debuted, which stoked enough interest for the 500 in America to prod Fiat into bringing it here. Now, some seven years since it arrived on American shores, the 500 is no longer the forbidden fruit it once was. Instead, it's a shrivelled-up Italian grape dying on the vine.
That hasn't stopped FCA's engineers and product planners from attempting to make turbocharged wine from the 500 by fermenting the entire lineup with a more powerful base engine. After ditching the 500 Turbo model for the 2017 model year—leaving just the underpowered, naturally aspirated, 101-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder to motivate non-Abarth models—the Turbo returns, but not in name. FCA has seen fit to rip out the 500's asthmatic four-pot to replace it with the heart of the previous Turbo model—a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that produces a healthier 135 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. The engine will power both the 2018 Fiat 500 and 500c models, paired with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
While the more pedestrian 500 enjoys its new-found power, Abarth models will use the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo mill as before, producing 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. If we're honest, that's just fine as the Abarth is more than powerful enough for its diminutive size and weight. To help you make the best use of its available grunt, buying an Abarth will also net you a one-day high-performance driving session at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Also remaining unchanged is the electric 500e, the California compliance car that even FCA head honcho Sergio Marchionne loves to hate. Pricing will be available later this month.