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The Development of the Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 was launched in the UK at the start of 2008.

It was designed by Fiat Centro Stile and incorporates visual cues from the past, but it more than just an interpretation of Dante Giacosa’s iconic Fiat 500 of July 1957.

The Fiat 500 has been awarded a maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test safety programme, placing it at the  top of its category in terms of passive, active and preventive safety.

Nine versions of the car went on sale in the UK at launch, embracing three trim levels – Pop, Lounge and Sport.

The car’s equipment list includes ABS anti-lock braking, remote central locking, seven airbags, electric front windows and door mirrors, an MP3-compatible CD player and Dualdrive electric power steering fitted as standard.

The standard equipment package is further enhanced by a range of options such as automatic climate control, a SkyDome sunroof, parking sensors, an anti-glare electro-chromatic rear mirror, an Interscope Sound System Hi-Fi and Blue&Me mobile phone and MP3 player connectivity with steering wheel controls.

The Fiat 500 personalisation programme offers an additional range of over 100 bespoke accessories generating more than 500,000 possible trim, colour and option combinations.

The model was launched with a choice of three powerplants - the 75bhp derivation of Fiat Group Automobiles’ 1.3-litre 16-valve MultiJet turbodiesel, and two FIRE petrol engines – a 1.2 litre 8-valve 69bhp unit, and a spirited 100bhp version of the 1.4-litre 16-valve powerplant.

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Both 1.2-litre petrol engine and 1.3-litre turbodiesel come with five-speed manual gearboxes, while the 1.4-litre petrol unit is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Dualogic – a clutchless, five-speed sequential manual shift with a selectable fully automatic mode – is offered as an optional transmission on all petrol-engined Fiat 500 models.

The Fiat 500 has a full range of braking, traction control and stability systems including ABS anti-lock brakes, complete with electronic brakeforce distribution, ASR to limit wheel spin during acceleration, MSR to modulate brake torque while changing down, and a sophisticated ESP to control stability through bends.

Vehicles fitted with ESP – standard equipment on 1.4-litre versions – also benefit from hydraulic brake assistance and a unique Hill Holder function to facilitate smooth hill starts.

The Fiat 500 was created in 18 months from completed production specification to launch. The launch was so successful and sales so plentiful that sales of used Fiat models actually decreased.

Fiat Group Automobiles employed Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) systems to complete the task.

Not only could Fiat’s engineers simulate every aspect of the new 500’s structural, dynamic, NVH and accommodation characteristics, but they were also able to create a virtual production-line.