Old but not cold: Fiat’s 500 is a real survivor
Not much separates the current model from the car launched more than a decade ago, yet it hardly feels archaic
Fiat was a slightly different company when it launched the rebirthed 500 in SA 13 years ago. At that time, the Italian automaker, along with Alfa Romeo and the Fiat Professional commercial vehicles divisions, had yet to make its merge with Chrysler.
Today Fiat is part of the massive Stellantis conglomerate, which, in addition to the marques mentioned above, includes Abarth, Citroën, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall. Finalised at the beginning of 2021, it’s a relatively new development – and whether the clout of such a group has a radical impact on locally underperforming brands such as Fiat remains to be seen.
Earlier this month the company decided to remind us of the existence of the Cinquecento at a relaunch of sorts. Even though the model isn’t all that nuova. Let’s go back to June 2008 for a bit, when the tiny hatchback made its South African debut. Pricing started at R149,000 for the 1.2 Pop, while the 1.4 in Sport and Lounge guises both cost R179,000. It wasn’t an ideal time for the industry, right in the middle of a global recession. July that year saw new vehicle sales slashed by 19.7% and the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said that for the remainder of 2008 the market would remain under pressure...