Fiat 500

Fiat 500

An iconic vehicle as it brought transportation to a wider audience in Italy, the Fiat 500 was chosen to be first Fiat sold in the U.S. when the brand made its return in 2011.

Fiat 500 Overview

Very few vehicles are truly game changers. The Ford Model T is considered one as it made car ownership attainable to the masses. Another vehicle that achieved the same goal is the original Fiat 500. Introduced in the late '50s in Europe, the 500 was the right vehicle at the right time. Its small size made maneuvering in crowded European cities a snap, but the 500 was also spacious enough to seat four people and carry their luggage.

Fiat decided to bring back the 500 in the late-2000s, and the new 500 offers many of the same traits as the old model, but in a modern package. With a dash of retro styling, the Fiat 500 proved to be a massive success for Europe. So when Fiat decided to make a return to the U.S. marketplace after an almost 30-year absence, they chose the 500 to lead the charge.

The Fiat 500 arrived in 2011 as a 2012 model. It's available as either a two-door hatchback or the 500C convertible. Power comes from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 101 horsepower, which is paired with either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.

If you want a bit more oomph you can opt for the Fiat 500 Abarth, which gets a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower. Initially, the 500 Abarth was only available with a five-speed manual transmission. Along with the punchier engine, the Abarth also gets a revised suspension, quicker steering, sport seats and red accent stitching.

In terms of standard equipment, the 500 comes with power locks and windows, keyless entry, heated mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control and a six-speaker audio system. Higher trims get leather, an improved audio system, parking sensors, automatic climate control and heated front seats.

A new Turbo trim became available for 2013, which splits the difference between the base model and the Abarth with 135 horsepower. A sport suspension and a five-speed manual transmission were standard on the Fiat 500 Turbo. A Fiat 500 Abarth convertible was also introduced for the 2013 model year.

In 2014, two special edition models were the big story. First was the 1957 Edition, which commemorates the first year of the original 500. The 1957 Edition gets three different wheel designs, along with unique exterior and interior design touches. Second was the GQ Edition convertible. Produced in concert with the popular men's magazine, the GQ Edition took the Turbo cabriolet and added more aggressive bodywork and premium leather.

For 2015, Fiat added the option of a six-speed automatic transmission for Turbo and Abarth models. Also, all 500 trims get Bluetooth audio streaming and a revised center stack. All trims aside from the base Pop model got a new instrument cluster as well.

Competitors to the Fiat 500 include the Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.