Fiat’s new trip down memory lane has come a long way since 1957
The Fiat 500 1957 Edition – or Cinquecento for those of the Italian persuasion – is the latest embodiment of the ‘what’s old is new again’ cliché.
If there were a retro-style car franchise, the Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group would own it, lock, stock and barrel. BMW might offer its revived MINI as evidence to the contrary and VW would undoubtedly point to its contemporary Beetle to make the same argument. But truly, the old Chrysler group – now FCA – is the one that offers the larger variety of retro-inspired vehicles. Check out the Dodge Charger and Challenger if you doubt my assertion.
There was a version of the 500 created in 1949 but production was halted in 1954. It was a dress rehearsal for the 479cc, two-cylinder, 13-horsepower (yes, you read that correctly), rear-engine Nuova 500, which was revived in 1957. Not many of the almost four million 500s produced until 1975 made it over here.
But many of us came to love the microcar via various Hollywood movies shot in sundrenched Rome (usually). So, North Americans were primed for purchase, when in 2007, the 50th anniversary of the Nuova 500’s launch, Fiat introduced the new 500.
It was clearly influenced stylistically by the 1957 Nuova 500 but weighed in at 1,072 kilograms, more than twice the weight of the original. And a front-mounted engine more than twice the size now powers the new version.
I had my first ride in a 500 in 1975 when a colleague offered to drive me home. She didn’t tell me it was Fiat 500. My facial expression soured as I caught first sight of the car she always referred to as ‘baby’. At 2.97 metres, it certainly appeared smaller than my Mini Traveller that was in for service that day. Actually, it wasn’t dramatically shorter in length of my car that measured a mere 3.3 metres.
Once inside it reminded me of the time-travelling Tardis featured in the hit TV sci-fi series “Doctor Who”, which has enjoyed an equally successful revival in recent years. The Tardis was a blue UK police telephone box in appearance but its massive internal dimensions defied the laws of space! I’m not suggesting the 500 was huge inside but it was somewhat larger than I had expected. Today’s version is similarly larger inside than one would surmise when viewed from curbside. Looks can deceive, truly.
I’m pleased to report the 1957 Edition is somewhat quicker off the mark than my friend’s car. With a 1.4 litre engine under the hood, this ‘baby’ takes less than ten seconds to reach 100 klicks, rather than the ten days it took the original 1950s 500 cc version (just kidding). It has just 101 horses to draw power from but it’s enough to bob around the city and freeway driving is no challenge as long as you are not looking to drag race.
Once you get past the name and the style interpretation, this commemorative edition is a very different car from the real 1957 edition. It’s got all the extras today’s drivers demand, such as a comprehensive air bag system, hill start assist, electronic stability control, touchscreen navigation and comfy leather seats.
The tester also had a power sunroof, which adds a $750 to the base price of $22,995. Don’t think you would want to do without that goody. The full leather package, with classy accent stitching, adds another $2,000. With the inclusion of the $1,755 destination charge, the final sticker price for this version hit $28,755.
Not a cheap little car at all but it’s more than merely cute and it’s a lot of fun to drive.