Friday, November 19, 2010

Detour: Fiat 500 USA

Every once in awhile we detour off cycling into another subject area...

The United States version of the Fiat 500, an Italian and European market success story, was revealed yesterday at the Los Angeles auto show. Fiat is no newcomer to the USA market having established a Fiat manufacturing plant in Poughkeepsie, NY, in 1908.

The iconic Fiat 500, known lovingly as the "Bambino" but officially at the Nouva (new), was introduced in 1957.

The new Fiat 500 was introduced in 2007, and now the Fiat 500 USA is arriving in the USA.

The USA version of the Fiat 500 has undergone many modifications to meet market requirements: a redesigned body structure to increase resistance, a new suspension system, more than 20 modifications to reduce noise, vibrations and harshness, re-designed brakes and ABS system, fuel tank size increased to 10.5 gallons, improved heating and cooling system, newly designed seats, new steering wheel controls and a recalibrated steering effort.

The Fiat 500 USA price starts at $15,500 for 1.4-liter engine developing 101 HP. The Fiat 500 USA price list for the various options will be available at local dealerships.

The Fiat 500 USA is manufactured in Mexico.

A bicycle, minus wheels, does fit inside (best take your bike to the dealership to make sure).


Now back to regular programming....

ICJ Reader contribution contest will run 1 January to 15 February, 2011. Details here.

Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are very welcome. Contact me at There are more than 1,600 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also an Italian weather widget along the right side and a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page. What I'm riding.


  1. I'd like to try one of these but can't see spending over $15K on something this small. Too bad so many 'improvements' have to be added which likely boosts the price by several thousand dollars. Are European cars really that "harsh" and unrefined that they couldn't be sold 'as is' in North America? Some people (like myself) would prefer something a little more basic and simple - but not cheap - when it comes to a new vehicle.

  2. The Abarth version of this car is really cool - and probably never will see light in the US.

    I was a Fiat fan in the '80s and owned a few of 'em: '75 128 Sedan, '75 128 Sport, '74 124 Wagon, '77 X 1/9, and '77 181 sedan. Friends of mine also owned various 850 and 124 Spiders as well. I've driven a lot of Fiats.

    At the time, the cars purchased used, were cheap and fun. Not exactly super reliable, though mosty of the issues were minor.

    With globalization in full swing, not sure how Italian these car are - being made in Mexico dilutes the history a bit. In any case, still an Italian design and probably a blast to drive. I think it's cool that Fiat returns to the US. I'll stop by a showroom to look for sure.

    Buy one for $15,000 however? Not going to happen. My days (and interest) in buying new cars is long over.

    Still - welcome back Fiat. We missed you.

  3. I believe the Fiat Abarth is scheduled to be introduced in the USA in 2012. I love those old Fiat Abarths.

  4. I remember my Dad coming home with a lightly used Fiat 600, it must have been around 1961. Man, did I love that car! We lived in the northeast and in the winter he had a hell of a time getting it to start in the morning until he discovered spray cans of ether. From then on the standard garage smell on winter mornings was the sweet aroma of ether.

    Unfortunately, by the time I could drive the 600 was gone, traded in on a new Fiat square back wagon, I think it was an 1100. Definitely a bit nicer than the spartan tin can 600. When I started driving, the 1100 was the car they let me use. We lived in southern Pennsylvania by then and I learned how to drive by tearing up the back farm roads. That little wagon handled surprisingly well, I usually had the throttle all the way on the floor and would throw it into corners at top speed.

    Lots of fun until I was racing with a friend out in the country one day and blew a stop sign and got broadsided by a full size Chevy station wagon. 6 of us in the car, worst injury was a bruised arm, but the little Fiat was never the same. I don't think my Dad ever quite forgave me for that one, and it was the last Fiat we ever had, and the last car I drove until I could afford one of my own.

    But I sure have fond memories of Fiats.

  5. @Greg

    Great Fiat story. I also have many fond Fiat memories. And a few break down tales as well.

    They were fun cars to drive. Handled really well, light weight, rev happy motors.

    Out of all mine, I think 128 Sedan was the most fun. Little euro box that could be tossed all over. Incredible in the snow also.