“I really like that concept,” she said about the split-top convertible.
Maffeo conceded that the 101-horsepower engine in the standard 500 may seem inadequate to road racers who want straight-ahead speed. It’s just fine for those of us who define performance driving as road-holding and crisp handling. In any case, Fiat is addressing the power issue.
Early this year, the company introduced the 500 Abarth, a high-performance version with sportier chassis gear and a turbocharged engine that puts out 160 horsepower. The Abarth starts at $22,700.
This fall, Fiat will bring out the 500t, another turbocharged version. Its 135 horsepower will straddle the gap between the standard 500 and the 500 Abarth.
So far the strategy seems to be bringing new fans to Fiat. Maffeo said that Kelly Fiat regularly sells out of the limited production Abarth models.
“I wish we
had 50 Abarths in here. They would be sold right now,” he said.
More popularity for the Fiat 500 will help firmly cement it within the American auto scene. That’s welcome, as long the lovely little car doesn’t sacrifice any of its charm to get there.
Jeffrey Zygmont has written about automobiles since 1982. Based in Salem, N.H., he writes books and articles about innovation, technology and culture. He can be contacted through the website jeffreyzygmont.com
2012 Fiat 500 Vehicle type: 2- door, 4-passenger, front-wheel-drive sub-compact hatchback and convertible Price range: $16,200 to $28,450 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 4 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance; 3 years/36,000 miles free maintenance Engine: 1.4-liter I4 Power: 106 horsepower at 6,500 rpm; 98 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm Base transmission: 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 30 mpg city; 38 mpg highway Wheelbase: 91 inches Length: 140 inches Width: 64 inches Height: 60 inches Weight: 2,363 pounds Fuel capacity: 10.5 gallons Turning circle: 30.6 ft.