Ah yes, 4th July; Independence Day. Unfurl those stars and stripes, place your hand on your heart and holler out a lung-busting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. After all, what else is there to celebrate?
Plenty, as it turns out, particularly if you’re a fan of all things Fiat. Whilst the party across the pond is in full swing, Turin’s most famous export is throwing a very Italian celebration. On this day way back in 1957, a four-wheeled legend was born as the first ever Fiat 500 rolled into showrooms in Italy. Exactly 50 years and 3.8 million sales later, the icon was resurrected and reintroduced for the 21st century as the all new Fiat 500, a retro reincarnation that became an instant hit with more than 1.5 million drivers the world over.
Now, the clock ticks forward once again and a new chapter in the enduring Cinquecento saga begins as 4th July 2015 heralds the arrival of the second generation of the new Fiat 500.
Outwardly, Fiat’s 1,800 subtle detail tweaks seem, well, extremely subtle indeed. While its supermini proportions and distinctive clamshell bonnet remain unaltered, the new 500’s front facia has undergone some very modest cosmetic surgery with new front headlights and a pair of natty ring-shaped LED daytime running lights nestling just beneath. Below, the air intake is now fed via a three-dimensional grille and flanked by a pair of chrome whiskers which certainly give a slightly more spruce appearance than those of the 2007 model.
A pair of new, doughnut-like ’empty’ light clusters is the headline alteration to the rear of the 500, officially and somewhat perplexing described by Fiat as giving the impression of “an illuminated tattoo”. Light-up body art aside, the rear fog lamps and reversing light aslo find a new home on the updated 500, relocated to the edges of the redesigned bumper trim.
Pinpointing any more of Fiat’s 1,800 design changes would require forensic examination. Make no mistake; what we have here is no major exterior overhaul, à la the dramatically sleeker second generation of the new VW Beetle introduced three years ago. But with such a cult appeal, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Once again available in hatchback or convertible guise, the new Fiat 500 features three trim levels, Pop, Pop Star and Lounge, in ascending order of opulence. Plumping for the latter will see your 500 kitted out with an array of customisable extra goodies such as 15-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, a chrome front grille and fog lights, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a touch-screen infotainment system.
This multimedia interface, dubbed Uconnect, replaces the audio system of the previous 500 and comprises an FM/AM radio, steering wheel-mounted controls, AUX-IN and USB ports and six speakers as standard. It represents the standout interior update and means the traditional analogue dials and instrument clusters on the dashboard can be jettisoned in favour of a flat screen display on the top spec model.
The engine line-up will once again include the trusty 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol unit plus
a duo of Fiat’s remarkably efficient 0.9 litre two cylinder TwinAir turbos, producing 85bhp and 105bhp respectively. The Panda’s pocket-sized diesel powertrain, the 1.3 litre Multijet II, is also an option on the new 500 and will deliver 95bhp. This may, however, lend itself more to longer commutes which don’t necessarily feature in the daily routines of the Fiat 500’s traditional inner-city customer base.
With the 500L mini-MPV having made quite a splash since its 2012 debut and the 500X SUV variant hitting the showrooms this spring, Fiat’s revived Cinquecento clan is growing fast. The new and updated Fiat 500 will aim to continue the success of its immediate predecessor and, ultimately, take up the legendary mantle of its original 1957 ancestor when it goes on UK sale this September, priced from £10,890.