NEW_CAR_PREVIEW

2013 Fiat 500 Preview

5/31/2013
Fast Facts:
  • 2-door hatchback coupe or convertible microcar
  • Front-wheel drive
  • Three 4-cylinder engines, two turbocharged
  • Seating for 4
  • New 500e all-electric model for California
  • 500 Turbo model now offered with more power than base model but less than Abarth
  • 500c Abarth added to lineup
  • Beats by Dr. Dre audio system now available
  • New final drive gear for manual transmission improves fuel economy

Introduction
The Fiat 500 is a microcar from the Italian company that now runs the Chrysler Group. It is smaller than subcompacts and is one of the smallest cars offered in the United States, along with the Mini Cooper and Smart Fortwo. The Fiat 500 is offered as a 2-door hatchback coupe called 500 or 2-door convertible called 500c. An electric version of the Fiat 500, the 500e, debuts this year and is offered only as a hatchback and only in California.

The Fiat 500 is uniquely positioned. Though sized most like the Mini Cooper, it is less expensive, competing on price with subcompacts like the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Mazda 2, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris.

Exterior Features
The Fiat 500 features a retro design that pays homage to the Fiat 500 of the 1950s, a car that was never offered in the United States. Fiat refers to the convertible as a cabrio. Its power-operated convertible top retracts and bunches up at the back of the car instead of folding into a well. Only the center of the top folds back; the side pillars and edges of the roof stay in place. Base models, called Pop, come with P185/55R15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Sixteen- and 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and fog lights are also offered for both body styles, and a windblocker is also available for the convertible.

The Fiat 500 Turbo gets unique front and rear fascias and side sills, while the Abarth models are recognizable by their more pronounced front fascia, larger front air intakes, aggressive side skirts, wheel flares, rear spoiler, unique rear fascia, black-accented rear diffuser, and dual exhaust.

The 500e has a 0.311 coefficient of drag (Cd) compared with the 500 Lounge's 0.359 Cd. Wind tunnel testing helped Fiat make other exterior changes to improve the aerodynamics of the 500. Parts that were reshaped include the front and rear fascias, exterior mirror caps, and side sills. A liftgate-mounted aero spoiler has been added to extend the roofline, under-body panels help reduce drag, and the wheels feature a flush design for better aerodynamics. The front and rear fascias also have dot-matrix pattern accents for what Fiat calls "retro futuristic" styling.

Interior Features
The Fiat 500 seats 4 occupants. The hatchback has 9.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, but that seat folds down in a 50/50 split to increase cargo capacity to 26.8 cubic feet. The convertible has a 5.4-cubic-foot trunk. The 500e has 7.0 cubic feet behind the rear seat.

Standard interior features include cloth upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, height-adjustable driver's seat, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD stereo, auxiliary input jack, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, rear defogger, and a theft-deterrent system.

Optional Features
To the Pop, the Sport adds an Alpine sound system, fog lights, rear spoiler, sport suspension, and P195/45R16 tires on alloy wheels. The Lounge gets automatic climate control, satellite radio, and P185/55R15 tires. It deletes the sport suspension, and the hatchback version also has a fixed glass roof panel. In addition to the Pop equipment, the Turbo has larger brakes, rear spoiler, sport suspension, and P195/45R16 tires on alloy wheels. The Abarth adds to the Turbo the Alpine sound system, fog lights, and a sportier suspension.

The 500e has leatherette and cloth upholstery, TomTom navigation system, TFT instrument cluster display, electronic vehicle information center, auto-dimming rearview mirror, premium audio system, and satellite radio.

Fiat offers several optional equipment packages for the 500. A Beats Audio package comes with a Beats sound system, satellite radio, and an alarm. A Comfort/Convenience package for the Turbo adds automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, and an alarm. A Convenience group for Lounge models comes with rear park assist, heated front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A Luxury Leather package includes leather upholstery, rear park assist, heated front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A Mopar Interior Appearance group has chrome door sills, bright pedals, cargo tray, and rubber floor mats, while the Mopar Exterior Appearance group features stainless-steel door sills, additional chrome exterior trim, rear spoiler, and rear mud guards.

Also offered are a portable navigation system and a sunroof. The 500 Abarth is also available with 17-inch wheels and tires, side stripes, and mirror caps.

Under the Hood
The 2013 Fiat 500 is offered with a choice of three 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engines. An all-electric model is also offered. The base engine is a normally aspirated unit that produces 101 horsepower and 98 lb.-ft. of torque. Fiat 500 Turbo models get a turbocharged version of this engine that makes 135 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque. Fiat 500 Abarth models also have a turbocharged 1.4-liter motor, but it generates 160 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. The base model is offered with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic with manual shift capability. The Turbo and Abarth models have only the 5-speed manual.

The Fiat 500e comes with a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that makes 111 horsepower (83 kW) and 147 lb.-ft. of torque. It sends its power to the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. Fiat says the 500e has more than 80 miles of range and its battery can be recharged in less than 4 hours on a Level 2 (240-volt) outlet or less than 24 hours on a Level 1 (120-volt) outlet.

Fuel Economy
EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2013 Fiat 500 are:

  • 500/500c with 5-speed manual transmission: 31/40/34 mpg (city/highway/combined)
  • 500/500c with 6-speed automatic transmission: 27/34/30 mpg
  • 500/500c Turbo and Abarth with turbocharged engine and 5-speed manual transmission: 28/34/31 mpg
  • 500e: 122/108/116 MPGe

Safety
To the list of standard safety features, the 2013 Fiat 500 adds a hill-holder clutch, driver's knee air bag, and active front head restraints. The convertible also gets rear park assist, which is optional for the hatchback.

In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's New Car Assessment Program, the Fiat 500 received the best rating of 5 stars in the side crash test, 4 stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests, and a 4-star overall rating. The 500c and Abarth were not tested. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Fiat 500 received the best rating of "Good" in the moderate overlap front, side-impact, roof strength, and rear crash protection tests, qualifying it as a "Top Safety Pick." The Fiat 500 has not been subjected to the new small overlap front crash test, so it cannot qualify as a "Top Safety Pick Plus."

Additional Research:

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