A 500 That Pops: Trying to Rekindle Interest, Fiat Gives All 2018 500s a Turbo
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]
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- Prabirmehta I charge my EV at home 100% of the time. The EV is used for in-town driving and the gas guzzling SUV is used for out of town trips. This results in a huge cost saving and rare trips to the gas station.
- Conundrum Three cylinder Ford Escapes, Chevy whatever it is that competes, and now the Rogue. Great, ain't it? Toyota'll be next with a de-tuned GR Corolla/Yaris powerplant. It's your life getting better and better, yes indeed. A piston costs money, you know.The Rogue and Altima used to have the zero graviy foam front seats. Comfy, but the new Rogue dumps that advance. Costs money. And that color-co-ordinated gray interior, my, ain't it luvverly? Ten years after they perfected it in the first Versa to appeal to the terminally depressed, it graduates to the Rogue.There's nothing decent to buy on the market for normal money. Not a damn thing interests me at all.
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- Inside Looking Out Articles like that are nirvana for characters like EBFlex.
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.
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.