By the time this is published, I will have had the all-new Fiat 500 for only the first day of seven. So there’s not much to report. Except that it’s red and fits easily onto our parking pad — and that I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this vehicle since Fiat and Chrysler said “I do” a couple of years back.
The Fiat 500 has a rich history and people like me have been touting it as the Great White Hope for Chrysler. In an age when younger urban drivers are demanding style and fuel economy, not one of Chrysler’s other brands even offers a compact. So it’s interesting and coincidental that the same week the Fiat 500 became available to Canadian auto journalists, Chrysler paid off its $1.7 billion debt.
Still, while it’s great that Chrysler’s paid back nearly all the dowry supplied by the Canadian and American governments (as a tax-paying hoser, you still co-own just over one percent of Chrysler!), pretty much before the 500 even arrived, there’s that whole “future” thing to worry about.
Is the 500 that future?
In its last North American incarnation, the Fiat 500 was saddled with — and many former owners would say “earned” — the unwelcome and slightly racist acronym, “Fix It Again Tony.” Of course, this was in the ’70s, when a good car wasn’t a given and auto journalism mattered more. But in the shop or not, the Fiat 500 always had plenty of style.
Its main competitors are the Mini Cooper and the Jetta and, to a lesser degree, the SmartCar. Then again, maybe not: Its base price compares well with the latter two, but the Fiat 500 boasts far more style. You really will want to don a good suit before getting behind the wheel. It’s also priced much lower than the Mini Cooper. Chrysler seems to be taking a corporate gamble and sourcing a new market: the style and value-conscious city dweller. While it’s probably no bigger a gamble to play it safe, it sure makes things more interesting.
Gamble babble aside, the Fiat 500 needs to deliver the fun-to-drive goods. Look forward to reading about the performance drive test next week.
Image courtesy of Chrysler-Group.