4 February 2005

Fiat is to go ahead with production of the Trepiuno, the 2004 Geneva Motor Show reinterpretation of the famous 1957 Cinquecento (500). The decision to build the Trepiuno comes after months of deliberation, and it will probably be unveiled in 2007, 50 years after the cute original appeared. Sales are likely to start in 2008. Based on the new Panda, the Trepiuno will be front-engined and front-wheel drive – in contrast to the rear-engined, rear-drive ’57 car. Engines are likely to include the 85bhp 1.3 Multijet turbodiesel unit and possibly Fiat’s revolutionary Uniair engines, whose performance, economy and emissions will be dramatically improved by new inlet valve technology that enables the combustion behaviour of the cylinders to be individually controlled. High performance Abarth versions are also a possibility, and Fiat may take a cue from Mini by offering the car with a range of unusual options, such as the part-glass roof of the concept car.

Ever since Fiat revealed the Cinquecento-inspired Trepiuno at the Geneva show last year it has been under pressure to produce a showroom version – the Cinquecento is fondly remembered not only in Italy, where the tens of thousands remaining were recently granted emissions exemptions, but across Europe too. Fiat’s challenge has been to find a way to make the car profitably. Although its retro cachet should make it possible to charge more than for the Panda on which it would be based, it will be significantly cheaper than the Mini. Another potential difficulty is production capacity. Fiat’s Polish Panda factory is working flat out – it made 320,000 cars in 2004 – and it may not be economically viable to make the Trepiuno at a different plant. However, by 2007 Panda production may have eased enough to accommodate it.

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