Is it a Trepiuno, Cinquecento or 500?
Welcome to the new Fiat 500 - due to launched 50 years to the day after the unveiling of the original 500. That car became an icon, and Fiat is hoping for more of the same with this modern interpretation, the most exciting launch in Turin for a generation. On 4 July 1957, the original 500 marked the culmination of the Italian manufacturer’s post-war revival: the new car will again be crucial to Fiat, consolidating the success of the Panda, Grande Punto and Bravo.
So what’s changed since the Trepiuno concept?
Not a lot. Massive public interest after the car was shown at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show convinced Fiat to put the 500 into production, and thankfully it remains faithful to the concept. So it's pretty cool, then. There have only been detail changes: the Trepiuno's door handles and indicators have been replaced by more conventional items, the rear lights are no longer smoked, and the exhaust has been moved from its central position. The rest of the exterior is near identical, especially the wonderful proportions.
So does it sit on an all-new platform then?
Nope, it is in fact a Fiat Panda underneath. Both cars will have a near identical wheelbase but the 500 is a little longer and taller. It is however still smaller than the latest (maxi-sized) Mini. Fiat can afford to make the car because it has been developed in conjunction with Ford. Both the 500 and new Ka will share the Italian company’s platform, engines and transmissions. The tie-up saves both manufacturers hundreds of millions of pounds, and gives Ford access to Fiat’s small car know-how. For Fiat, it means its Tychy plant in Poland, where both cars will be made, can run nearer capacity.
If it’s a Panda underneath, is it a Panda inside too?
Not quite, although the interior is similar. Chrome accents help lift it whilst there is a single large dial behind the steering wheel featuring concentric rings for the speedo and rev counter. The interior of the car in our photos is finished in cream and red trim, but expect a multitude of finishes to be available. Fiat wants this car to be its version of the Mini so there will be an extensive, and expensive, options list. When the 500 was confirmed for production, Fiat launched a website allowing prospective owners to personalise the car. So far more than 50,000 designs have been submitted, so we anticipate inspiration to be drawn from these, including the possibility of a choice between classic and modern steering wheels, switches and door handles.
Will it be as good to drive as the Mini?
Although it'll have to be good to out-dazzle the Mini, we reckon the Panda-based 500 should be a fun steer. As well as a 1.2 petrol and 1.3 diesel engines, buyers can also pick the Panda 100hp’s 1.4 petrol - and that car's a bundle of fun. It should get even better in a few years time with an Abarth version. Fiat recently unveiled a turbocharged version of the 1.4 in the Punto, available with either 150 or 180bhp. Combined with the 500’s low kerb weight, it could give the Corsa VXR and Clio 197 a scare.
So does this mean Mini prices?
It’s a Fiat, so no - we don't expect Mini prices, though there may be a premium over other bread-and-butter cars in the class. However, whilst the 1.4 petrol is on par for power with the Mini One, it should undercut it to come in around £8000. There will, however, be ample scope to accessorise your 500, nudging up the price. A glass roof will be offered, as shown on the car in these pictures. Unfortunately, the 3+1 seating layout that gave the Trepiuno concept its name has been scrapped for four conventional seats.