(1) This is Roberto Giolito. He is the head of Fiat Style. A designer. He says that when they were developing what was to become the 2012 Fiat 500—more than 50 years after the original Cinquecento, which had its roots in the 1936 Topolino—they wanted to acknowledge the past without being captive to it. One modern aspect of the vehicle development: They actually crowd-sourced some of the design, with people going on line making suggestions regarding a concept version of the car-in-becoming. Giolito says that interior features and the shape of the fascias were directly influenced by those voting on the website.
(2) In order to be contemporaneous, changes had to be made to what is typically considered to be iconic about the Cinquecento. While the new car is respectful, it is different. One consideration that was made in designing the 500 is, Giolito says, “The position of people sitting in the car. We wanted them to be centered in the windows—not too low, not too high.” Not all designers ostensibly pay attention to this.
(3) The Fiat 500 was originally launched in 2007. Since then, more than 500,000 have been sold, and it has become available in some 80 countries. The Fiat 500 that is available in the U.S., explains Laura Soave, head of Fiat Brand North America, has undergone modifications to not only meet regulations, but to make it more appealing for the American consumer. For example, an acoustic package—including door and hatch sealing, foam in the C-pillars, foam-in-place material under the carpet, and an acoustic damping engine cover—was developed for the car; which reduces the sound level to 71 dB, five dB less than the European car. The five-speed manual has new gear ratios for the U.S. market and an Aisin six-speed automatic was developed specifically for American customers. There is a new rear axle design to improve the torsional stiffness. These developments will be rolled back across the Atlantic. The Fiat 500 for U.S. consumers is built in the Chrysler Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico. (The 500 available elsewhere is built in a Fiat plant in Tychy, Poland.)
(4) Michael Vincent, chief program engineer, 1.4 MultiAir Engine, says that there is an acronym related to what’s found under the hood of the 500: FIRE. It stands for “Fully Integrated Robotized Engine.” Essentially, there is an electro-hydraulic intake valve management system that controls air intake into each cylinder and stroke-by-stroke, based on driving conditions. In addition to which, there’s no throttle valve. The result of this is that there is 10% more power and 15% more torque developed while reducing fuel consumption by 10%. The 1.4-liter in-line four produces 101 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 98 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. The engine is built at the GEMA Engine Plant in Dundee, MI.
(5) The 500 is available in three models: Pop, Sport and Lounge. There are 14 exterior paint colors (including metallic, non-metallic, and tri-coat pearl finishes), two interior colors (black and ivory), and 14 seat color and material combinations. Soave describes the car as a “lifestyle vehicle,” and hastens to point out that while it is small—it has an overall length of 139.6 in.; a 90.6-in. wheelbase; a width of 64.1 in.; and a height of 59.8 in.—it has seven airbags, reactive head restraints, electronic stability control, and other safety features, including an ultra-high-strength steel hot-stamped B-pillar.