The big-selling Fiat 500 is undergoing its most significant makeover since launching eight years – but will the changes be enough?
FIAT fans, mark July 4 in your calendar, because that’s when the Italian carmaker unveils the biggest change to its million-selling sub-B supermini – the Fiat 500 – since the existing Tipo 312 generation launched exactly eight years ago to the day.
Before that happens, however, here’s a sneak peak of what the fuss will most likely be all about next Saturday, as Fiat attempts to reseize the retro highroad against the 2015 Mini Cooper, Opel Adam, and even the in-house Alfa Romeo Mito.
Fundamentally the body and chassis are thought to remain unchanged, with the non-metal bits – those oval headlights and tail-lights, bigger bumpers, and redesigned wheels – undergoing the most obvious alterations. The nosecone features a twin-bar grille, mesh-style lower air intake with a stylised chrome surround, and tiny LED fog lights – at least, on the higher-spec prototype snapped here. Apparently they’re designed to connect the Fiat 500 more closely to the newer and larger Fiat 500X crossover recently launched.
Inside, expect to find Fiat’s latest Uconnect 5.0-inch multimedia touchscreen on most variants, dominating a heavily revamped dashboard. New larger front seats, more storage, and an overhaul of materials and trim are also believed to be on their way. All aim to address some of the practicality and useability criticisms that have been levelled at the series since its 2007 launch. Increased personalisation options are also said to be on the way.
It’s understood that a raft of mechanical and driveline upgrades will be introduced with the facelift, including engine efficiency improvements designed to meet the latest Euro-6 emissions targets. Whether the steering and suspension systems also undergo surgery isn’t yet known.
The word on the street suggests the MY16 makeover is a stopgap measure to keep the Fiat 500 fresh until an all-new version arrives in about two years time. That will most probably adopt a more modern architecture than the 2003 Fiat Panda-based item currently serving the series.
Australian launch timing has yet to be revealed, but we’re counting on seeing the MY16 500 sometime during the first half of next year at the very earliest, with pricing to most likely mirror the $16,000 (1.2 Pop coupe) to $24,500 (0.9 Lounge Convertible with MTA automated manual transmission) range as per today’s version.
July 4, by the way, will also signal the 58th anniversary of the Nuevo Cinquecento – the rear-engined, rear-drive original that pretty much put post-war Italy on wheels from 1957 to 1975.
The MY16 Fiat 500 will go on sale in Australia in early 2016.
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