The latest version of Fiat’s retro-style 500 ‘boutique’ hatch, released in South Africa this week, has been nipped and tucked at both ends and zhoozhed up in the middle.
The original 1957 styling cues are still there, as in the round upper headlights, now tilted more to the rear for an even cheekier look, and incorporating LED daytime running lights in the lower clusters, which also house the main beams and sidelights in two circular modules, echoing the double zero in ‘500’.
The traditional clamshell bonnet is also still there, over a trapezoidal nose with lots of chrome trim, while a big chromed handle on the boot references the number-plate light of the original and now contains the tail-light clusters.
But the big news is under that bonnet: it has lost two cylinders. The new 500 comes with Fiat’s perky little 875cc 900cc TwinAir two-cylinder turbopetrol, rated at either 62.5kW or 75kW, driving the front wheels via either five or six-speed manual gearboxes or a Dualogic robotised transmission.
Less is more
The 62.5kW version, backed up by a quoted 145Nm at 1900rpm, propels the 500 from 0-100km/h in 11 seconds and on to 173km/h flat out at a nominal 3.8 litres per 100km, while the 77kW tune lops a second off the 0-100 sprint and adds 17km/h to the top end.
It’s available here at launch in two body styles (tin-top and convertible) and three trim levels – Pop, Pop Star and Lounge. The base Pop trim includes seven airbags, a Uconnect Radio with five inch display, auxiliary and USB ports that feeds six speakers and satellite controls on the steering wheel.
With the Pop Star you also get automatic climate control, while the Lounge boasts a panoramic glass sunroof, 15 inch alloys, chrome-plated grille, Uconnect Radio 5 Live, with a touchscreen infotainment display and a lether-trimmed steering wheel with satellite controls for your smartphone.
The interior has been revised to accommodated the five inch central screen, but still has lots of retro touches, such as trim elements in your choice of ivory or black, and chrome-plated edging on the switches.
The Lounge model now has a seven inch virtual instrument panel specially developed for the 500 by electronics specialist Magneti Marelli, with a configurable centre section showing your choice of trip data, instant fuel-consumption, range and elapsed time. An image of the car highlights warning messages such as ‘door open’, and there’s an icon for the ‘Sport’ button, and a shift light.
The new 500 comes in your choice of 13 colours, as well as three two-tone combinations – red over black, yellow over black and black camo over black, available only on Lounge models. These can be accessorised like an outfit from a Milanese fashion house with a patterned appliqué called Second Skin, available in classic tartan, comic-book pop, naval and trendy camo.
You can opt for Small, which is just a neat band of your chosen pattern down the belt-line to separate the two colours, or Medium, which also covers the pillars and roof – and in some cases bonnet and tailgate as well.
Add to that a choice of 15 and 16 inch diamond-finished rims and the possibilities are almost limitless; Fiat calls it ‘haute couture for cars’ and it’s unlikely you’ll ever see another 500 just like yours.
Pop 62.5kW – R179 900
Pop 62.5kW AT – R189 800
Pop Star 62.5kW – R198 900
Pop Star 62.5kW AT – R208 800
Pop Star 62.5kW convertible – R231 900
Pop Star 62.5kW convertible AT – R241 800
Lounge 77kW – R225 500
Lounge 77kW AT – R234 400
Lounge 77kW convertible – R258 500
Lounge 77kW convertible AT – R268 400
These include a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a three-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.