The little Italian hatch gets mild updates for 2018

One of Fiat’s most iconic nameplates, the 500 was originally introduced in 1957 and kept in production for almost two decades, until 1975. The nameplate was revived in 2007 as a neo-retro design based on the first mini car. It was Fiat’s answer to the modern Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper, introduced in 1997 and 2000, respectively. The new 500 was received with great enthusiasm, and the addition of convertible and Abarth models made it that much more popular. However, unlike the Mini Cooper, the 500 soldiered on unchanged for years, with its first update launched in 2015. Three years have passed, and Fiat is again updating the small hatchback.

Unveiled at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show alongside the rest of Fiat’s North American lineup, the update is far from spectacular, but it does add a few new features to the 500’s cute exterior. The interior carries over unchanged, which is somewhat disappointing, but the drivetrain department has a new engine to brag about. It’s not as new as it is rehashed from an old model, but it’s significantly more powerful than the outgoing unit. More about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Fiat 500.

Exterior

  • Front bumper from Abarth model
  • New colors
  • Sporty diffuser
  • Tailgate spoiler
  • New 16-inch wheels
  • "Turbo" badge
  • 2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
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    The front fascia is very similar to that of the outgoing Abarth model

    Although it’s no less than 11 years old as of 2018, the Fiat 500 didn’t get so many updates with this refresh. The same thing happened in 2016, when the mid-cycle facelift changed just a few things here and there. Fiat claims that the revised 500 boasts a sportier appearance, but a quick comparison to the outgoing model reveals that it’s mostly just PR talk.

    Up front, the tiny hatchback gets a bit less chrome and a revised bumper with new intakes. The layout is very similar to that of the outgoing Abarth model, with the side vents brought into the same opening as the main intake. The fog lamps have also been replaced with new units and moved on each side of the inner intake. The bumper has one more vent on each side, toward the wheel, yet another feature borrowed from the Abarth. Everything else remains unchanged here.

    2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
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    The rear end is indeed a bit more aggressive, thanks to the larger spoiler on the roof and the diffuser-like element

    Sure, I guess I could say that an Abarth-inspired bumper makes the 500 look a bit sportier, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this layout in the past. Fiat needs to do better to get an "attaboy" from me.

    Onto the sides, there are new 16-inch aluminum wheels to run buy. These come standard, as do the "side-sill ground effects." The latter are actually the same side skirts, but with barely noticeable changes. Fortunately, there are more significant changes to talk about around back. And it’s here where the 500 is indeed a bit more aggressive, thanks to the larger spoiler on the roof and the diffuser-like element with three fins. And the larger exhaust too. Other changes include the revised chrome trim atop the license plate and the "turbo" badge on the liftgate.

    The updated 500 lineup also features three new colors for 2018: Brillante Red, Mezzanotte Blue Pearl, and Vesuvio Black Pearl. The lineup now includes 11 exterior paint color choices.

    Interior

    • Standard rear backup camera
    • Same features as previous model
    • Not as fancy as the Mini Cooper
    2018 Fiat 500 Interior
- image 768164
    While the exterior gained a few nips and tucks, the cabin carries over with no changes whatsoever

    While the exterior gained a few nips and tucks, the cabin carries over with no changes whatsoever, outside a standard Parkview rear backup camera. This means that you’ll get the same updates that Fiat introduced with the 2016-model-year facelift.

    Back then, the 500 received a more advanced instrument panel with a seven-inch, high-definition TFT cluster display, allows drivers to easily check up on important data like speed, fuel level, Eco index and trip information. The screen also works as a rearview display any time the 500 is put in reverse.

    The center console was also redesigned to become more useful and easier to navigate for both the driver and the front passenger. Other upgraded included a new cup holder design, a new USB port integrated into the radio, as well as Bluetooth streaming audio.

    Granted, the cabin design and the technology available are far from dated, but I think that the Fiat 500 is significantly behind its main competitor, the Mini Cooper.

    Drivetrain

    • "New" turbo engine
    • 135 horsepower
    • 150 pound-feet of torque
    • Sport-tuned exhaust
    • Sportier suspension setup
    • Performance brakes
    The Chicago-Bound Fiat 500 Is Really Old, Including the "New" Turbo Engine
- image 766591
    The "new" turbo unit cranks out 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque

    The biggest news about this update is under the hood, where the previous naturally aspirated, 1.4-liter engine was replaced by its turbocharged sibling. Available on both the Pop and Lounge trims as standard, the mill, which uses a single turbo unit and twin intercoolers, cranks out 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. That’s a solid 34 horsepower and a whopping 52 pound-feet more than the outgoing model!

    But there’s a catch.

    While it may seem new, the turbo-four powerplant is actually quite a few years old. This engine was offered with the same rating in the 500 Turbo in the U.S. between 2013 and 2016 and in an Abarth model with slightly different power rating outside North America.

    2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
- image 768154
    The 500 also gained a sport-tuned exhaust system, a sportier suspension setup, and a performance braking system

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that the 500 now comes with more oomph, but I just wanted to point out the engine is far from new.

    By discontinuing the naturally aspirated engine in the U.S., Fiat also reduced the gap between the regular 500 and the Abarth, as the latter is only 25 horsepower and 20 pound-feet above. The regular 500 also gained a sport-tuned exhaust system, a sportier suspension setup, and a performance braking system, so it remains to be seen how this move will affect Abarth sales.

    Transmission options remain similar, so you can still choose between the standard five-speed manual or the optional six-speed automatic.

    Prices

    2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
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    Pricing for the revised model isn’t yet available, but the sticker should increase by much given that Fiat is using an existing engine. For reference, the current Pop trim retails from $14,995, while the Lounge version fetched $18,495 before options. The Abarth model comes in at $19,995.

    Competition

    Mini Cooper

    2014 Mini Cooper
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    Also, a neo-retro design based on a classic icon, the Mini Hatch competes in the same segment, although the British car has grown in size significantly over the past decade. The Cooper was most recently redesigned in 2013, so it looks quite fresh compared to the 500. Its interior is also a tad fancier and comes with a more modern feel. Engines include various gasoline and diesel options globally, but the U.S. market is restricted to three versions. The base Cooper uses a 1.5-liter three-cylinder rated at 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, while the Cooper S uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet. Finally, the range-topping John Cooper Works model, which competes against the Abarth 500, gets 228 horses and 236 pound-feet of twist from a beefed-up 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill. Pricing starts at $21,600, which makes the Cooper significantly more expensive than the Fiat 500.

    Read our full story on the 2018 Mini Cooper.

    Volkswagen Beetle

    2012 - 2013 Volkswagen Beetle High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 442182

    The Beetle was the first iconic classic model to be revived as a neo-retro car and pretty much the model car that prompted Mini and Fiat to do the same with the Cooper and 500. But while the Mini Cooper is doing great and the Fiat 500 is returning solid sales, the Beetle isn’t doing very good, and word has it the Germans aren’t planning on a successor to the current generation. The latest Beetle is seven years old as of 2018, and while it may seem like a lot, it’s pretty new compared to the Fiat 500. At the same time, it’s also bigger, being closer to the Mini Cooper in terms of size. Get a Beetle in the U.S., and it will come with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood. The unit is rated at 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and returns up to 33 mpg on the highway. Pricing starts at $20,220.

    Read our full review of the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle.

    Conclusion

    2018 Fiat 500 Exterior
- image 768152

    While it may not be as iconic as the original 500, the modern version of the Italian hatchback already enjoys a cult following. This popularity probably explains why Fiat didn’t bother to give it significant updates since 2007. It’s the kind of privilege these neo-retro design cars get. I mean, most people buy them for the heritage or simply because they’re cute. This is actually a good thing, and I think that the 500 is somewhat of an honest car, but Fiat should really consider a redesign, at least under the skin.

    • Leave it
      • * No updates inside the cabin
      • * Old turbo engine

    References

    Fiat 500

    Fiat Adds Turbo Fun Across The 500 Lineup At Chicago Auto Show
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    Fiat Adds Turbo Fun Across The 500 Lineup At Chicago Auto Show

    2015 Fiat 500 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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    Read our full review on the 2017 Fiat 500.

    2015 Fiat 500 Abarth High Resolution Exterior
- image 547913

    Read our full review on the 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth.

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    Read more Chicago Auto Show news.

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    Read more Fiat news.

    Press release

    The Fiat 500 lineup goes all-turbo for 2018, with the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine and a sportier appearance now standard on all models.

    “With an all-turbo lineup, the iconic Fiat 500 now offers an even more dynamic driving experience and more standard horsepower than any of its competitors,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and Fiat, FCA – North America. “In fact, the entire FIAT brand lineup now comes standard with turbocharged power, adding to our roster of fun-to-drive, Italian-designed vehicles.”

    The 2018 Fiat 500 lineup is available in three models: Pop, Lounge and the high-performance Abarth. Pop and Lounge models now come standard with the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine, which features a single turbocharger, twin intercoolers and a sport-tuned exhaust, and delivers 135 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque – 34 more standard horsepower than last year’s model. The MultiAir Turbo engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission as standard and is available with a six-speed automatic transmission.

    Pop and Lounge models are also updated with standard 16-inch aluminum wheels, performance braking system, sport suspension and ParkView rear backup camera. Exterior updates include body-color front and rear fascias, side-sill ground effects, a sport spoiler, fog lamps and “Turbo” badging on the liftgate.

    On the Fiat 500 Abarth models, the track-tested 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine delivers up to 160 horsepower and 183 lb.-ft. of torque; while Abarth-tuned hardware offers a world-class ride and track-ready durability.

    Other unique Abarth features include a performance suspension; three-mode electronic stability control with an innovative torque transfer control (TTC) system that maximizes throttle performance during on-throttle cornering; 16-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels; and Pirelli tires with red brake calipers. An Abarth-designed concentric “double-tip” dual-exhaust system delivers a high-performance look with menacing Abarth-tuned sound.

    Inside, distinctive Abarth-styled front performance seats feature a one-piece design with large side bolsters, a racing-harness pass through, accent stitching around the perimeter and integrated side-thorax air bags. Below the instrument panel, Abarth-designed aluminum pedal covers feature Nero (black) rubber trim for a decidedly racing look.

    Should the driver choose to switch to Sport mode in a Fiat 500 Abarth, the turbo-boost gauge, mounted left of the instrument cluster, illuminates “Sport” and an up-shift light integrated in the cluster alerts the driver when engine speed is approaching the redline, giving the immediate feedback needed on the track or during high-performance driving.

    Customers who purchase or lease a Fiat 500 Abarth also receive – for no additional charge – a one-day high-performance driving session at the legendary Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.

    The 500 lineup also features three new colors for 2018 (late availability) – Brillante Red, Mezzanotte Blue Pearl and Vesuvio Black Pearl – for a total of 11 exterior paint color choices. Any 2018 Fiat 500 model is also available as a Cabrio, delivering open-air freedom across the 500 lineup. 2018 Fiat 500 vehicles are available to order this month, with cars arriving at FIAT studios in the second quarter of this year.

    The entire FIAT brand roster – each gasoline-powered model now featuring a standard turbocharged engine – continues to offer a dynamic driving experience and iconic Italian design for 2018:

    2018 Fiat 500e
    The 2018 Fiat 500e electrifies the Cinquecento lineup with innovation and style, an EPA-tested 84 miles of driving range and 112 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) combined rating of pure battery-electric power (121 MPGe city).­ Offering iconic style, engaging dynamics and an environmentally responsible zero-emissions design, the Fiat 500e is designed to keep electric vehicle ownership simple with its familiar no-nonsense design, convenience features, unique “blended braking” and intelligently integrated approach to battery-electric technology. The 500e is available in California and Oregon.

    2018 Fiat 500L
    Building on the style, efficiency and driving enjoyment that has made the Fiat 500 an icon, the Fiat 500L expands the Cinquecento’s appeal by offering 42 percent extra interior space with comfortable seating for five, engaging driving dynamics and a standard 160-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine, all wrapped in contemporary Italian design. The Fiat 500L offers best-in-class cargo capacity with more than 50 seating and storage configurations.

    The 2018 Fiat 500L features a redesigned exterior with new front and rear fascia design, bodyside molding design, wheel designs, daytime running light lens and rear side reflector design, while a standard ParkView rear backup camera delivers additional driver convenience. The 2018 500L’s revamped interior also adds to convenience and ease of use, with a thin-film transistor (TFT) cluster display, an improved center console, additional USB port, LED interior ambient lighting and other interior upgrades. The Uconnect 4 system is standard on all 2018 Fiat 500L models, and includes a 7-inch display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

    2018 Fiat 500X
    The 2018 Fiat 500X delivers the Italian design and engaging driving dynamics that are synonymous with the FIAT brand. The 500X offers an advanced all-wheel-drive system, functionality, and a full array of safety, comfort and convenience features. The small crossover features two engine options including the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine standard on Pop models when paired with the six-speed manual transmission, and the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir2 engine standard on Trekking and Lounge models, an available nine-speed transmission and an all-wheel-drive system with a disconnecting rear axle for improved fuel efficiency.

    New for 2018, the Fiat 500X now features the Uconnect 4 system standard on all models, which includes a 7-inch display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

    2018 Fiat 124 Spider
    The newest member of the FIAT product lineup, the 2018 Fiat 124 Spider revives the storied nameplate, bringing its classic Italian styling and performance to a new generation. Paying homage to the original 124 Spider 50 years after its introduction, the 2018 Fiat 124 Spider delivers the ultimate Italian roadster experience with driving excitement, technology and safety combined with iconic Italian design. With the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine as standard, the 124 Spider has the most powerful 4-cylinder in its class.

    The Fiat 124 Spider is available in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and, for performance enthusiasts, Abarth. For 2018, the Fiat 124 Spider offers more flexible package content, allowing customers to select the exact options they desire. The all-new Red Top Edition is now available on Lusso models and will be arriving in dealerships soon.

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