Fiat 500 gets an extra dash of spice
The cute Fiat 500 is ditching its 4-cylinder hamster wheel and going turbo.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced at the Chicago Auto Show today that, for 2018, its Italian meatball will be roadkill no more: Its base 101-horsepower, normally aspirated engine is being retired for a turbo-4 shared by the rest of Fiat’s lineup.
Gaining 33 percent more horsepower over the previous leafblower, the 135-horse 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo is a detuned version of the 160-horsepower buzzsaw in the 500’s Abarth performance model.
The 500’s engine is shared by the rest of Fiat’s lineup which includes the Pope’s favorite roomy hatchback, the 500L; the 500X subcompact crossover; and the Fiat 124 Spider sports car. All Fiat models receive trim and feature updates for the new model year.
A mainstay in tight Italian streets since 1957, the 500 — or “Cinquecento” in Italian — has struggled to gain traction in SUV-obsessed America since its introduction in 2011.
In addition to its small size, the 500 was derided for its mousy mill. The new engine comes standard on Pop and Lounge trims with the six-speed manual transmission an option.
The feisty, top-trim Abarth, meanwhile, maintains its turbocharged 160 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque while offering sporty touches like bolstered seats, stiffened suspension, 16-inch black aluminum wheels, red brake calipers and a dual-exhaust with an obnoxious howl.
Abarth owners also get — free of charge — a one-day high-performance driving tutorial at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix.
The 500 lineup adds new colors for 2018 — Brillante Red, Mezzanotte Blue Pearl and Vesuvio Black Pearl — for a total of 11 paint choices. The 500 is also available in a topless “Cabrio” body style as well as an all-electric 500e version targeted at West Coast greenies. The latter is only available in California and Oregon.
Also new for 2018, the 500L features a redesigned exterior with new front, rear, and side design updates. The 500X gets FCA’s award-winning Uconnect 4 infotainment system standard — including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. The 124 Spider — which shares its bones with Mazda’s Miata — introduces a Red Top Edition on upper-trim Lusso models.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.