Friday, September 28, 2018

In the mood for something retro? How about a new Fiat 500 1957 Edition?

1957 Fiat 500 ad
Photo: FCA Media website.
It’s hard to keep up with the many flavors of Fiat 500. Clearly, a Fiat 500 is not for everybody. The basic characteristics of the variations that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) markets under the 500 nameplate invite a number of obvious criticisms—too small, too quirky-looking for some tastes, too underpowered.

And for a car that looks so bleepin’ little, they’re actually surprisingly heavy—not a great quality if you’re looking for a small car that you can have fun chucking around.

But, if nothing else, the Fiat 500 lineup adds a lot of personality to an automotive market today that, overall, from a design perspective, at least, is pretty humdrum and samey-samey. For the driver who simply wants to stand out as different or make some kind of a contrarian statement, a Fiat 500 fits the bill quite well.

That’s one reason why we made the case earlier this year that the Fiat 500 just might be today’s equivalent of the original Volkswagen Beetle.

In spite of sales in the U.S. since the nameplate’s 2007 reintroduction that have been far from impressive, Fiat 500 been among the few model families of the current era to achieve a retro vibe that visually links to its past without looking like comic-book caricature of itself. Granted, part of that success probably stems from the fact that the Fiat 500 started with a very simple design when it launched over 60 years ago.

In a 1957  world of intimidating road monsters with design flourishes like menacingly sharp tail fins, Fiat made its statement with a an understated small car with a simple design language  based on curvy ponton styling.

Girl in 1957 Fiat 500
Photo: FCA Media website.
Perhaps it is those smooth simple lines, lacking un-streamlined protrusions like the VW Bug’s fenders, that have helped the basic look age well and earn a cult following (especially for the Abarth) within the modern design vernacular without the awkward, cartoonish pitfalls of retro-revival attempts like the Chrysler PT Cruiser or the 11th-generation Ford Thunderbird.

Now, capitalizing on the Fiat 500’s retro appeal seems to be an important part of FCA’s strategy for the nameplate. On Thursday, FCA announced the return, following a hiatus after its original release in 2016, of the Fiat 500 1957 Edition.

New Fiat 500 1957 Edition
Photo: FCA Media website.
 According to the automaker, the 1957 Edition trim package “celebrates iconic Italian style and fun-to-drive dynamics inspired by the original 1957 Fiat Nuova 500”—or, if you want to say it the proper Italian way, 1957 Nuova Cinquecento.

Retro elements of the new Fiat 500 1957 Edition include:

  • 16-inch wheels painted in white, green, or blue, and adorned with spherical, chrome-centered hubcaps
  • Retro fascia with bright inserts 
  • Retro Fiat badging
  • Interior styling that features ivory door-trim panels, a Marrone leather shift boot, and an Avorio/Marrone leather-wrapped steering wheel
New Fiat 500 1957 Edition wheels
Photo: FCA Media website.
The new Fiat 500 1957 edition comes in hatchback and cabrio configurations painted in Celeste Blue (Retro Light Blue), Chiaro (Light Green), or Bianco Ice (White). It’s powered by a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine—now standard across the entire Fiat 500 lineup—delivering 135 horsepower and 150 foot pounds of torque.

An upcharge of $995 over the $19,745 MSRP of the Fiat 500 Lounge Edition, on which the new retro trim package is based, gets you behind the wheel of the new Fiat 500 1957 edition, which will arrive soon in Fiat “studios”—that’s FCA-speak for “dealerships.”

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