Fiat is going back to its roots with an all-new Cinquecento, with funky retro styling borrowed from the enormously popular, bubble-shaped Nuova 500 (right), of which more than three million were made between 1957 and 1975.
The new model, exposed in our artist’s impression (above) was given the go-ahead in August and will appear at the Geneva show in March 2004. Though based on the Panda, it will be a distinct model with its own name, in much the same way the Citroën C2 takes the place of a more conventional C3 three-door. Fiat is designing in what it calls ‘characterisation’, similar to the recently reborn Mini and Beetle, with rounded exterior surfaces and a classy cabin finish.
Although the model currently has no name, Cinquecento is the most popular choice, insiders disclose. However, Fiat could choose to revive Topolino (little mouse), the nickname given to the original front-engine/rear-drive 500C microcar.
Despite its tiny 3.4m length – the same as the original Panda – Fiat claims the new car’s well-equipped cabin will have enough room for four passengers. Outside, the cheeky looks are penned entirely by Fiat Centro Stile, with strong input from design chief Umberto Rodriguez and Roberto Giolito, the man behind the Ecobasic concept of 1999.
Expect a bargain-basement price tag of around £6000 when the new Cinquecento goes on sale towards the end of 2004, sharing the Panda’s engine line-up of 1.1 and 1.2 petrols, and 1.3 Multijet diesel. Another exciting opportunity offered by the reborn 500 is an all-new 500 Abarth, spiced up with sporty looks and power from the Ypsilon’s 94bhp Fire 1.4 16-valve motor, also rumoured to be bound for the range-topping Pandas next year.
Following in 2007 will be an even more direct rival for the Smart City-Coupé: a new bubble-style minicar. Known internally as ‘Piccolissima’ (tiny one), the four-seater measures less than three metres long, and majors on classic Fiat principles of simplicity and economy.