By on February 8, 2018

Image: FCA

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.

Image: FCA

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.

Image: FCA

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]

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30 Comments on “A 500 That Pops: Trying to Rekindle Interest, Fiat Gives All 2018 500s a Turbo...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    This intrigues me. If the price bump is negligible, I’d certainly consider biting the BB and picking one of these up as my daily driver to bring more miles (and smiles) per gallon to my long commute.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      These are tremendously fun cars on city streets. You’ll have to look past the flimsy interior bits though.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Are the flimsy interior bits any worse than those that Scion used to deploy, or are flimsy European interiors less durable than their flimsy Japanese counterparts? Genuinely interested!

        • 0 avatar
          tekdemon

          lol, I can’t believe you’re comparing Toyota’s Scion parts to Fiat…those Scion parts may look cheap but they’re durable and generally stay on the car.

          With Fiat it’s literally that parts will be falling off the car or literally breaking in your hand:

          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/8-fiat-500-general-discussion-forum/141073-trunk-handle-button-broke.html
          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/8-fiat-500-general-discussion-forum/95241-fell-off.html
          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/55-fiat-500-safety-issues/14426-my-wheel-fell-off-highway-bit-scary.html
          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/8-fiat-500-general-discussion-forum/113418-c-temperature-control-knob-fell-off.html
          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/8-fiat-500-general-discussion-forum/2479-rear-view-mirror-fell-off.html (evidently not limited to the 500: https://www.fiatforum.com/panda-iii/432654-my-rear-view-mirror-fell-off.html)
          https://www.fiatforum.com/500/355940-plastic-coolant-hose-fitting-broke-off.html
          https://www.fiatforum.com/500/418512-front-bumper-trim-fell-off-how-glue.html
          http://www.fiat500owners.com/forum/8-fiat-500-general-discussion-forum/13634-my-side-skirt-peeling-off.html
          (this last one was SUPER common for the early Abarths…there’s a thread somewhere of someone’s brand new Abarth having the entire side skirt fall off on the highway…which they didn’t think was a big deal. lol)

          A Scion is a goddamn bank vault compared to a Fiat 500. If you do buy a Fiat 500 just expect to be gluing back parts and replacing parts you didn’t ever think could snap off on a car from time to time. It’s pretty hilarious because there’s ready made repair kits for the door handle falling off the car and I honestly can’t think of another car where people produce repair kits for the handles falling off the vehicle, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            Hellenic Vanagon

            In 70’s my father bought a Fiat 124.

            In 80’s I repeat the clever idea and bought a Fiat 238, (“Pratico” in Greece, never sold in the U.S.A. for some very good reasons, (nothing remained unbroken in the first 20.000 km)).

            As I can see from the above links, the Fiat brand, (“Fiat-Chrysler”), as a matter of quality principles, remains stable as a solid rock. 50 years after! Impressive!

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Yeah, what’s the price? Forget it if they price it like the 500 Turbo.

  • avatar
    quickson

    Didn’t we tell them to Abarth everything?

    Now that we know FCA is reading our posts and then responding with appropriate haste, I think they’re on the right track.

    Now, toss the 500x and put its 2.4L into the 500L, and give the 500L Trekking the rest of its function (AWD, etc).

    You’re welcome, FCA. Tomorrow, we’ll get to work on Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, “Abarth everything” was my exact suggestion. Think Sergio will write me a check?

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        I told them in the other thread that the 160hp should be base and another 40hp to make a hot hatch otherwise they are relying only on looks to separate it form the pack. 10 years ago this may have worked, but there are many in this field now with good performance and looks.

        I don’t think grip is an issue, other than maybe too much grip right now. I guess I am not the customer they are looking for. Nor is Mini.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          You are nuts if you think the Abarth needs any more power. I usually ran mine with sports mode off, as 130hp was way more than enough to be entertaining.

          Whats better than a car that is fast is a car that feels fast, and the Abarth feels like you are strapped to a missile.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I don’t think any number of changes will help the 500L as long as it looks like a people mover.

      Now, it’s a fair bit smaller, but I could see the Fiat Panda Cross being a little more appealing to CUV buyers (and an uncladded version would at least give FCA something to sell to more conventional compact buyers).

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It’s a poor quality tiny car in a market that no longer exists in this country. Styling is awful. The Fiat name means “Fix it again Tony”. Fiat needs to make reliable Jeeps if they are concerned about selling cars.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This car is getting old, but I’ve seen so few on the road that it still comes across as fresh. 500 Turbo sounds peppy but apparently even with a manual it is an 8-second to 60 car. You’ll have to dump clutch and shift hard to keep up with a base Sonata, but then the expressway isn’t where this car shines anyway.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Ha, I guess that explains why they dropped the Turbo trim: turbos for all!

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Yep, apparently Steph missed the comment thread a week or two back on the Turbo: “Up until now, non-Abarth 500s have, to put it mildly, underwhelmed from a performance standpoint.”

      This sounds like, for the most part, a reintroduction of the Turbo that had been around for the ’13-’16 model years.

      Per krhodes, who had one, the Abarth’s upgraded suspension (KONI shocks and, I think, some different hardware) actually rides better than the non-Abarth-sport suspension. So expense would be the downside then, not increased stiffness versus the Turbo.

      Kind of a shame to lose the cheap & cheerful naturally aspirated versions, but I imagine people who want them already have them. The examples in my neck of the woods look to be holding up well, apparently in the hands of happy first owners. And while I’m glad the turbo versions are available, 101-hp/97 lb-ft is perfectly fine for real world driving in a car of this size and weight. Just by virtue of paying attention, you still can outpace 95% of the other cars on the road in a 500 or other subcompact.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I completely agree. What got me into the 500 was having a couple rental base automatics. Even with the automatic, they are perfectly fine cars – you just keep your foot pinned to the floor. The motor is incredibly willing.

        I love the comments of “low quality car” and “Fix It Again Tony” by the various morons here who probably have not so much as sat in one, nevermind owned one, while those of us who have owned these cars loved them. A nice little niche car that works great in it’s intended environment. Not every car has to do everything for everyone. I will have another one at some point. If the Saab in FL blows up it might well get replaced by one.

        • 0 avatar
          b534202

          My wife’s is out of warranty now, totaled 4 trips to the dealer. 1 is for window trim, twice for rear hatch handle, and 1 recall for the clutch. No mechanical issues besides the recall.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          I’ve got 88,000 miles on my Abarth. Since the factory warranty expired, I’ve had two issue: a bad fuse and a bad power window regulator. My parents daily a 500C with 165k miles. It started having a lot of problems at about 150k but was trouble free up to that point.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        that comment on ride quality has been my experience. I own an Abarth with the 17″ rims and previously had 500 sports as rentals. My impression was that the Abarth actually rode nicer.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    They need to take the 2.4L from the Cherokee and drop/wedge it into this thing.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I have no idea if it’d fit.

      But a tuned version of the 2.0T from the Cherokee would be pretty damn cool in the 500X. It’d kill Clubman sales, for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Just hire some 1980s Renault engineers and instruct them to make the Demon’s engine work.

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/02/rare-ride-renault-r5-hot-hatch-dream-1984/

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Eww, a lumpy generic economy 4-cylinder engine would kill the character of the 500. The Abarth has exactly the engine it needs with exactly as much power as suits its chassis.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    More power means more fun. However, the real intent is better fuel mileage as the engine is smaller and cruise revs stay relatively low, avoiding the need to suck fuel quite as much. Possibly 40mpg on the flat and with more torque probably handle steep grades without needing to downshift as often or as far.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      The engine is the same 1.4L displacement. I don’t know about how gearing changes from the normal 500 to the Abarth, but my Abarth has some ridiculously short gearing from the 5 speed manual. 70 mph is like 3000+ rpms. Adding the turbo wont help the mileage.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Smart move. If you can’t sell bulletproof reliability, sell performance instead. I don’t know why they didn’t do this from the beginning.

    Here’s an even better idea: a performance 500X variant. Sell it for around $30,000, and that’d be a very interesting little car.

    All this might be too little, too late, but we’ll see how this goes.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I’ve seen 4 500Ls in the last 2 days, and considering none were sold in Canada last month, it’s feeling a bit creepy.

    I thought the solution was to “baruth everything” – only offer lime green with a standard $1000 Weiss clock built into the dash.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    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.

  • avatar
    colin42

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      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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