The Fiat 500 immediately conveys the idea of compactness, thanks to a lateral section made up of several superimposed layers and its ‘shell-like’ roof, whose measurements are decidedly smaller than those of the sides in the plane view. The proportions and a number of aesthetic features give it an ‘appealing’ air, but also convey solidity and robustness.
In a total length of just 3.5 metres, the designers have extended the passenger compartment to obtain a pleasant form that is extremely luminous in the side view, with a short bonnet and minimal overhangs.
The bonnet folds down over the sides while the front combines the family resemblance of the latest Fiat models with the distinctive elements of the first Fiat 500 with great stylistic harmony. For example, the strongest reference to the historical car is the combination of the circular upper headlights together with full beam lower lights and the ‘whiskers and logo’ unit.
From the side, the waistline slopes slightly at the front to highlight the robustness and dynamism of the design. The lateral section proposes a modern interpretation of the look of the historic 500, but with more essential, modern surfaces, interrupted by the generous shape of the wheelarches.
It is also possible to see the front and rear light clusters, because of the way the rounded side links up to the nose and tail. And finally, the roof pillar forms an arc which simplifies the design of the glazing which is continuous and hides the upper edge of the doors with black profiling.
The rear end of the Fiat 500 features a large shaped, chrome-plated handle which reiterates the motif of the registration plate light holder of its forebear that resembled a bicycle saddle.
The rear lights are set between the edges of the tailgate and they are divided chromatically by function so that they appear more vertical and farther apart.
The side view of superimposed volumes continues right to the tailgate, creating a striking wraparound shape. The rear window ‘cuts’ the tailgate at the sides, creating a simple modern look for the glazing while a small spoiler at the top of the tailgate enhances the contemporary look and improves the aerodynamic efficiency.
And finally, although there are plenty of references to the past, all the elements are only reiterated on the new Fiat 500 after their place on a modern car has been analysed in depth, reviewing their functions and materials, or even finding new uses for them.
For example, the famous canvas roof of the past has now been replaced by a Sky Dome glass roof (standard on the 1.4 Lounge). This large roof continues the line of the windscreen, with a linear, luminous interpretation of the roof, highlighting the two arcs of the pillars (it is available in a fixed version, or with an electric opening mechanism).
Another example of a stylistic re-interpretation is found in the retro design of the front and rear light clusters which is now combined with the most sophisticated exterior lighting technology.
Produced by Magneti Marelli Automotive Lighting, they are precious design elements, and the front light clusters offer DRL (Day Running Light) daytime lighting as standard: this function is activated automatically when the engine is started, with a beam stronger than that of the side lights but lower than that of the dipped headlights.
The DRL system meets current legislation in some countries that requires motorists to drive with their headlights on, but makes it possible not to turn the rear side lights on, thus saving on consumption. The DRL daytime light is another innovative feature that the Fiat 500 introduces in this segment for the first time.
The styling of the new car is completed by the broad choice of metallic and non-metallic colours which creates a large number of possible combinations, some of which are inspired by the ‘vintage’ appeal of the original shades of the first 500, while others have a decidedly contemporary look, and the bodywork can always be chosen to match the fabric or leather of the upholstery, with a facia the same colour as the exterior.
And finally, the Fiat 500 is the first Fiat model to use its own name as a logo, positioning it on the wheel hubs and rims.
The designers paid the utmost attention to detail, while focusing on simplicity. Simple, however, does not mean ‘bare’, but embraces a particular stylistic and constructive interpretation that strives for ‘simplified enjoyment’.
The passenger compartment is airy and roomy, an environment where you can enjoy the time you spend in the car comfortably and at ease. It is also an embracing, protective environment thanks to the large ring that circles the entire space inside.
The structure of the Fiat 500 cabin sums up the comprehensiveness of the modern, ergonomic outfit, in a design inspired by the historical 500. Starting with the steering column, which is made up of steering wheel and instruments, grouped in a single panel which contains the speedometer, rev counter and trip computer, all concentric and perceptible immediately and simultaneously.
These elements, together with the central console and the radio-air vent unit, can be ordered in ivory or black, a choice that influences the character of the car, making it more ‘vintage’ or sporty. The instrument panel on the Fiat 500 is an ideal blend of retro styling and modern technology which adapts perfectly to the interior of the car.
If the upper part of the facia is designed to convey a sense of refinement and elegance, the lower part conveys functionality with capacious, open storage shelves, as well as small and medium sized drawers for more valuable items that you want to conceal.
The gear lever, which is positioned on the facia, looks like a refined mechanical component, with chromed parts and a simple but efficient black knob that is shiny or chrome-plated depending on the version. The set of most frequently used buttons was inspired by the telltales and small levers of the old 500, and is very quick and easy to use.
The seats deserve a separate mention; the various versions copy those of the 500 F of the 1960s with the same ‘split’ effect: solid tone fabric at the bottom and the upper lunette and a head-restraint that match the colour of the steering wheel.
The most lavish version of the new 500 also offers elegant Cordura fabric upholstery, finished with a tubular border over the stitching, while the seats and facia on the sporty outfit show the influence of the racing world, with leather coloured or black elements, a chrome-plated gear lever knob and a more encircling shape for the front seats.
Fiat 500 customers can also order prestigious Frau leather upholstery, choosing from a traditional Black, a Hide colour that recalls the earlier 500 and an ultra-sporty Red.
The door panels feature a contrast between the part upholstered to match the seats and the plastic structure that incorporates a large oddment pocket and the speakers. The door handle has a chromed ‘hook’ shape that recalls one of the best remembered features on the door of the historical 500.
What is more, in spite of its small size, the new model is amazingly roomy, thanks to careful analysis of the distribution of the storage units, such as the two compartments on the facia for the driver and passenger, the hidden compartment on the passenger side, those in the door panels, another in the gearbox support and one above the passenger seat.
The luggage compartment is also quite capacious (185 litres, or a maximum of 550 litres right up to the ceiling), and the loading threshold is low to make loading easier; the rear seat squab can also be folded down.
The rear seat is very comfortable for 2 people, and on all versions it reiterates the same attention to detail that is evident in the front seats.
To highlight the fact that the car really is roomy, the upper outline of the squabs is raised to support and clasp passengers’ backs better.
And finally, a console positioned between the seats near the tunnel acts as a ‘docking station’, it can hold the usual small items (glasses and cans), and houses the 12V socket and USB port to connect a range of functional accessories, and telematic devices such as an iPod or PDA, or even a fragrance dispenser which offers the customer a choice of fragrances.
There are two petrol units (the 51 kW 1.2 8v in the Pop and the 73,5 kW 1.4 16v in the Lounge and Sport). Each offers different features, all of which are exploited fully by combining them with manual 5-speed box on the Pop or 6-speed transmission on the Lounge and Sport.
All the engines are Euro 4-compliant and are designed to meet the even stricter limitations of future European standards (Euro 5), already meeting the emissions limits that will presumably be enforced in 2009.
51 kW Fire 1.2 8v
The tried and tested Fire engine that will power the Fiat 500 has a capacity of 1242 cc, and has undergone a series of refinements designed to make it a champion of fuel economy, but without detracting from performance. The engine delivers 51 kW at 5500 rpm, and peak torque of 102 Nm (10.4 kgm) at 3000 rpm, with a top speed of 160 km/h. That is not all. With the 1.2 8v engine, the Fiat 500 leads its class for consumption, delivering 5.1 l/100 km in the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 119 g/km. Acceleration over 100 metres is also excellent at 12.9 seconds.
This figure is even more significant in view of the car’s low consumption. The credit goes to the structure of the engine, which achieves a generous torque at low revs (this makes for more enjoyable driving and outstanding flexibility) and ratios chosen to highlight fuel economy.
A sparkling engine that is sparing on fuel. This has been achieved thanks essentially to:
- The adoption of an electronic throttle valve control system known as ‘drive by wire’ (with no mechanical connection between the accelerator and the throttle), while it is the electronic control unit that delivers the torque on the basis of the driver’s demands (torque-based system).
- Fluid dynamic optimisation achieved by a new high turbulence combustion chamber combined with a continuous variable cam phaser. This innovative system allows a substantial part of the exhaust gases (about 25%) to be recirculated in the combustion chamber, significantly reducing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions when driving with a partial load.
- The timing components have been made lighter and the valve springs are of the low load type, to reduce friction.
Another interesting feature of this engine where fuel consumption is concerned, is the use of an active knock sensor capable of managing the advance in the best possible way in all conditions and, above all, the multipoint sequential phased injection system by Magneti Marelli.
The quality of life on board has also been improved by optimising the performance of the intake and exhaust systems, optimising the coupling play between the crankshaft and crankcase, through the computerised selection of the main bearings, and the development of a specific installation of the engine in the engine bay.
This keeps the transmission of vibration from the engine to the bodyshell to a minimum. A special engine support system has been adopted, that comprises two blocks and a reaction link, which acts as a tie rod, in which the new bearings are aligned on an axis that goes through the engine’s centre of gravity in order to obtain reaction forces with a neutral arm.
On the environmental front, the 1.2 8v fits a catalytic converter in the engine bay, welded to the exhaust manifold flange. In this position the device is extremely efficient because it reaches high temperatures very rapidly thus abating emissions even while the engine is warming up.
The engine has been made even more reliable. The coils have been mounted closer together in a single block.
This new type of coil means less spark plug wear, more energy available to ignite each plug thanks to the elimination of the lost spark, better cold starting due to the additional energy available for the spark plug (more energy supplied by the coil and no losses caused by the transfer of high voltage due to the adoption of very short cables), and finally, a significant reduction in the risk of disturbance to the onboard instruments due to high voltage cables.
73,5 kW 1.4 16v Fire engine
One hundred horsepower on hand on such a compact car points up a brilliant, agile character, which allows it to slip easily and cheerfully through congested town traffic. The engine has a capacity of 1368 cc and four cylinders in line, with a bore of 72 mm and stroke of 84 mm.
There are four valves per cylinder, driven directly by the overhead camshaft. The engine was developed focusing particular attention on performance and consumption, fields in which the Fiat 500 leads its class. All credit to the volumetric efficiency which has been optimised throughout the operating range, thanks to careful fluid dynamic development of the entire intake system and timing phasing.
The 1.4 16v delivers a maximum of 73.5 kW (100 bhp) at 6000 rpm and peak torque of 131 Nm (13.4 kgm) at 4250 rpm. Performance is excellent: the new car has a top speed of 182 km/h, and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds. It is a sparkling engine with excellent performance enhanced by an electronic throttle valve control system known as ‘drive by wire’.
This engine also proposes a number of changes that help to keep consumption down. For example, the timing components have been made lighter and the valve springs are of the low load type, to reduce friction.
Other features of the new 1.4 16v Fire are the increased compression ratio and the generous torque at low engine speeds, characteristics that have made it possible to limit consumption: for example, in the combined cycle it returns 6.3 l/100 km.
This target was achieved by the calibration of the latest generation engine control system, which succeeded in reducing consumption as much as possible, compatible with the requirements of driveability, performance and emissions.
In order to guarantee low emissions, special injectors have been adopted that optimise the spray phase, thus reducing the quantity of petrol that adheres to the walls of the intake manifold during cold starting and in transients (when you depress the accelerator). This reduces the quantity of hydrocarbons in the exhaust, guaranteeing respect for the environment and for increasingly stringent legislation.
The new model is the first car in this category to offer 7 airbags as standard (front, side, curtain- and knee-bags). And the new 500 also proposes a number of sophisticated technical solutions to control the car’s dynamic behaviour.
They include ABS complete with EBD, the sophisticated ESP* (Electronic Stability Program), ASR* (Anti Slip Regulation), HBA* (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) and a Hill Holder* device.
And to guarantee the safety of the occupants, the bodyshell of the new model is designed to respect all the latest impact resistance criteria (it is the first super-mini with a front structure designed specifically to improve compatibility between vehicles in a head-on impact), and is rigid around the passenger compartment to protect occupants with high-absorption areas on the outside.
Seat-belts with double pretensioners and load limiters are standard on the front seats, with three-point belts at the rear. The front and rear seats are fitted with antisubmarining devices that prevent the occupant from sliding forward, under the seat-belt. Isofix attachments for child seats are standard throughout the range.
The Fiat 500 is fitted with all the dynamic and comfort features that ensure occupants can tackle any type of road comfortably and safely. The credit also goes to the suspension: an independent MacPherson system at the front, and semi-independent interconnected wheels with a torsion axle at the rear.
The two layouts have evolved from a Magneti Marelli design and have been used on other Fiat models in the past; they have now been revised and modified for the new car, to guarantee outstanding handling and the highest possible level of comfort.
*Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport
4.1 Active safety
The braking system on the new car has two independent cross-over circuits to guarantee prompt, smooth braking and shorter stopping distances. The pedal has a short stroke, so that the characteristics of the servo assist are exploited in full.
The front discs have a diameter of 240 mm; they are solid for the Pop version with the 1.2 8v engine and ventilated for for versions with the 100 bhp 1.4 16v. The rear brakes mount drums (180 mm) on the 1.2 8v and 1.3 Multijet, and discs (240 mm) on the 1.4 16v. The 9″ brake servo makes braking easier and more effective, decreasing the effort needed on the pedal.
ABS system – Standard on all models
The ABS on the Fiat 500 has four active sensors, four channels, a hydraulic control unit with eight solenoids and comes complete with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution). The system can guarantee the best possible braking effort even with each wheel close to locking, which means it is possible to control the direction of the car fully in emergency situations using the steering wheel.
The strong points of the system are the active sensors, which process the wheel speed data themselves (without having to send them to the control unit); they can read values very close to nought (passive sensors do not register speeds below 2.5 km/h) and are less sensitive to disturbance caused by electromagnetic fields.
This advanced ABS system is supplemented by electronic brake force distribution, EBD, which distributes the braking force between the front and rear wheels to prevent the rear wheels from locking, guaranteeing a balanced response from the car in all conditions. The system also adapts to the grip conditions of the wheels and the efficiency of the brake pads, and it reduces the temperature of the front brakes and the effort demanded from the brake servo.
ESP (Electronic Stability Program) Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport
The new Fiat 500 offers the sophisticated Electronic Stability Program to guarantee complete control over the car; this program cuts in when conditions are close to the limit, and the car’s stability is at risk, to help the driver to control the vehicle.
To do so, ESP constantly verifies how the tyres grip the ground, longitudinally and laterally, and if the car does skid, it cuts in to recover the trajectory and trim stability. It incorporates sensors that measure the wheel speed, the vehicle’s rotation around its vertical axis (yaw speed), the lateral acceleration and the steering angle set by the driver (which indicates his chosen direction).
It then compares these data with the parameters processed by a computer and uses a complex mathematical model to establish whether the car is taking a bend within the grip limits, or whether the front or rear is about to veer (understeer or oversteer).
To bring it back to the correct trajectory, the system generates a yaw moment opposite to the one that caused the instability, singly braking the appropriate wheel (nearside or offside), and reducing the engine power by adjusting the throttle valve. This is where the device developed for the Fiat 500 differs from other systems.
Its intervention on the brakes is modulated to be as gentle as possible (therefore without disturbing the driving), and the reduction in engine power is limited, to guarantee excellent performance and enjoyable driving at all times. ESP is always engaged.
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) & MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung)
Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport
To limit any slipping of the driving wheels when grip on the road is poor, the new Fiat 500 is equipped with a sophisticated device that controls traction automatically. It is known as ASR (Anti Slip Regulation), and is standard equipment on all versions that mount the ESP system. ASR functions at all speeds and adjusts torque on the basis of the grip detected.
Based on the number of wheel revs calculated by the ABS sensors, the device calculates the degree of slipping and activates two different control systems to recover grip:
- when an excessive demand for power causes both drive wheels to slip (for example when aquaplaning or accelerating on an uneven, snow-covered or icy road surface), the system reduces engine torque by decreasing the throttle valve aperture and thus the air flow;
- if only one wheel slips (for example the wheel inside a bend following acceleration or dynamic changes to the load), this is automatically braked without the driver having to press the brake pedal. The effect obtained is similar to that of a self-locking differential.
ASR helps to maintain vehicle stability, and it is particularly useful when there is a loss of grip (just think of the ramps in a garage in Winter) and when the paving does not guarantee homogeneous friction.
Another advantage of ASR that should not be overlooked is the reduction of stress on mechanical organs such as the differential and gearbox, which is achieved by controlling take-off and traction at low speeds.
ASR is engaged automatically every time the engine is started, but can be excluded by a switch on the centre console.
When ASR is activated a telltale on the instrument panel flashes. If the telltake in the control panel comes on, but the LED on the switch is off, this indicates a malfunction or irregularity in the system. ASR must be de-activated when snow chains are mounted, because in order to transmit torque to the ground, the wheel has to be able to ‘pile up’ snow with small slips that the ASR system tends to avoid.
If the driver changes down suddenly and grip is poor, the MSR device (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) takes over, returning torque to the engine and preventing slipping due to wheel lock.
HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport
The Fiat 500 adopts a device that assists in emergency braking. On cars fitted with ESP this function is performed electronically by the ABS control unit and it is called HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance).
During ‘panic’ braking, most drivers recognise an emergency situation and put their feet down very rapidly on the brake pedal, but not with the necessary additional effort. Because, unless he is a professional driver, the motorist is accustomed to braking by applying a certain ‘load’ to the pedal, and like all automatic gestures repeated over and over again, he tends to use the same effort in all circumstances.
On the new model, at this point the Brake Assist devices are triggered, and although the pressure on the pedal remains the same, they ensure the same deceleration that you would achieve by braking with every possible force.
The panic braking assist is also useful for more expert drivers who do brake rapidly, and with the right amount of energy when necessary. Because in any case the system reduces braking implementation time, i.e. the time between the moment he applies the force on the pedal and the moment that the circuit reaches maximum pressure and can give its best performance.
Hill Holder (Standard on the 1.4 Lounge and Sport)
The Hill Holder is a system that helps the driver on hill starts. It cuts in when the ESP control unit perceives a difference in the inclination of the car through a longitudinal acceleration sensor on the floor under the front passenger seat.
During a hill start, the control unit prepares to intervene when first speed is engaged and the brake and clutch pedals are depressed. The pressure on the front brake callipers is maintained for about 2 seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal, allowing him to set off without difficulty.
The Hill Holder is not activated when the car is started downhill with first speed engaged. Similarly, when reverse is engaged, the system is activated for downhill starts, and it is not activated for uphill starts.