A 500 That Pops: Trying to Rekindle Interest, Fiat Gives All 2018 500s a Turbo

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

We explored the Fiat brand’s troubles earlier this week, then put you in the driver’s seat and asked what you’d like to see done about it. Well, there’s no red telephone linking our comments section with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles HQ, so suffice it to say many of your suggestions probably fell on deaf ears up in Auburn Hills.

However, Fiat does have a plan to stimulate some renewed interest in its flagging 500 city car, but it’s not through a shocking redesign or by positioning the tiny vehicle as a trail-conquering off-roader. Up until now, non-Abarth 500s have, to put it mildly, underwhelmed from a performance standpoint. Double-digit torque figures are a rarity these days, but they’ve just become rarer.

For the delayed 2018 model year, Fiat’s giving every 500 buyer a 33 percent boost in horsepower and a 50 percent increase in twist.

Arriving in the second quarter of 2018, the 2018 500 ditches the previous 101 hp, 98 lb-ft engine for a turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder, thus bringing 135 hp and 150 lb-ft online. Paired with the new engine are a five-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic.

The nod to performance doesn’t end at the hood. Fiat claims Pop and Lounge models (essentially, all non-Abarth models) gain a sport-tuned suspension, performance braking system, “sport” suspension, and 16-inch wheels as standard kit. Joining the go-fast bits are subtle appearance upgrades, including side sills, a spoiler, foglights, and “turbo” badging out back. A backup camera now comes standard.

As before, all 500s can be had in Cabrio drop-top form. Joining the color palate for 2018 are three new shades — Brillante Red, Mezzanotte, Blue Pearl, and Vesuvio Black Pear — bolstering a buyer’s choice to 11 colors.

Abarth models remain static, with up to 160 hp and 183 lb-ft available from the hotter MultiAir turbo four, depending on transmission choice. Stiffer legs and a very noticeable exhaust note comes standard in this package. Abarth buyers take note: purchasing this tiny screamer grants you free entry (for one day) into the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. (How many buyers will actually make the trip to Phoenix, we wonder?)

If you’re curious as to whether the money-losing 500e electric car continues into 2018, it does — much to Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s consternation.

Other changes for 2018 affect the 500L and 500X. Both models gain FCA’s Uconnect 4 infotainment system, accessed through a 7-inch screen, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. For the 500L, subtle front and rear fascia tweaks, plus a standard backup camera, differentiates it from the 2017 model.

The only change to the 124 Spider, introduced in 2016, is the availability of a Red Top Edition on the mid-range Lusso trim.

Will the added grunt be enough to reverse the 500’s downward sales slide, or even arrest it? Time will tell. It would help if the turbo engine comes at no added cost compared to last year’s model, but Fiat hasn’t released pricing yet. Maybe, assuming you can fit behind the wheel, there’ll be a performance bargain to be had.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Feb 08, 2018

    I don't have a problem with the perceived reliability. I would have no issue leasing a Giulia. The Abarth performance is on par with an Omni turbo from 1988 in a smaller package. It just doesn't do it for me. It is a cute car though.

  • Colin42 Colin42 on Feb 11, 2018

    I'd like them to make the 500e a national product rather than a California car. I've thought of importing one to Indiana but the lack of any dealer support locally is a concern.

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Feb 13, 2018

      YOLO! The 500e is hilarious fun to drive, and hilariously cheap to buy used. If you have CarMax in your state, they'll ship a used one from California to the CarMax down the street from you. You may get one with buggy software, and I can assure you the Fiat dealer couldn't fix it even if you lived in Los Angeles, so worst case you can just install a quick-disconnect switch on the 12 volt battery---because where computers are concerned, the answer really is to turn the power off and turn it back on again. Just keep in mind you can lose quite a bit of range in cold weather with any EV. Given that it's a city car, you probably won't be driving far enough for that to matter.

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  • Michael Gallagher I agree to a certain extent but I go back to the car SUV transition. People began to buy SUVs because they were supposedly safer because of their larger size when pitted against a regular car. As more SUVs crowded the road that safety advantage began to dwindle as it became more likely to hit an equally sized SUV. Now there is no safety advantage at all.
  • Probert The new EV9 is even bigger - a true monument of a personal transportation device. Not my thing, but credit where credit is due - impressive. The interior is bigger than my house and much nicer with 2 rows of lounge seats and 3rd for the plebes. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, around 300miles of range, and an e-mpg of 80 (90 for the 2wd). What a world.
  • Ajla "Like showroom" is a lame description but he seems negotiable on the price and at least from what the two pictures show I've dealt with worse. But, I'm not interested in something with the Devil's configuration.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I really like the C-Class, it reminds me of some trips to Russia to visit Dear Friend VladdyPoo.