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New 2012 Fiat 500 made US debut at LA Auto Show

Introduction of the 2012 Fiat 500 at LA. Click to enlarge.

The 2012 Fiat 500 made its US debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show this past week. The four-passenger A-segment car features a new fuel-efficient 1.4-liter MultiAir (earlier post) engine and offers a new six-speed automatic transmission as well as interactive driving software and Blue & Me Handsfree Communication technology. Pricing starts at $15,500. EPA fuel economy ratings are not yet released.

The 1.4-liter engine features four valves per cylinder and is the first mass-production engine for the North American market to incorporate Fiat’s Fully Variable Valve Actuation (FVVA) (MultiAir). With cylinder-by-cylinder, stroke-by-stoke direct air intake control and without a throttle valve, MultiAir technology cuts fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 10%, while obtaining 10% more power and 15% more torque when compared with similar engines not equipped with the system. The engine delivers 101 horsepower (75 kW) at 6,500 rpm and 98 lb-ft (133 N•m) of torque at 4,000 rpm.

The MultiAir technology is currently available outside of North America on these other Fiat vehicles: Abarth Punto Evo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 165 HP; Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 MultiAir 105 HP and 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 135 HP and 170 HP; Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Multiair Turbo 170 HP; Lancia Delta 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140 HP; Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Turbo 85 HP; Fiat Bravo 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140 HP; and Fiat Punto Evo 1.4 MultiAir 105 HP and 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 135 HP.

The new 2012 Fiat 500 offers two transmissions for the North American market. Exclusively available for the North American market, the new six-speed automatic transmission provides the new Fiat 500 with smooth shifting and excellent fuel economy. The transmission allows for driver-selectable gear changes. Should the driver select ‘Sport’ mode by pressing the button on the instrument panel, the transmission’s shift schedule and the steering response are automatically adjusted to provide even more sporty driving dynamics.

An upgraded five-speed manual transmission features new gear ratios for the US market, improving fuel efficiency and acceleration. A new self-adjusting hydraulic-clutch system is standard with this transmission, benefiting drivers with consistent pedal efforts over the life of the clutch and virtually maintenance-free operation. Selecting ‘Sport’ mode with the manual transmission calibrates the pedal-to-throttle relation and the steering response to add greater driving enjoyment.

Key adaptations of the 500 for the North American market include:

  • Redesigned body structure for increased strength
  • Exclusively tailored suspension for the US market to keep the Fiat 500 nimble while delivering a comfortable and quiet interior cabin for highway driving;
  • More than 20 specific hardware modifications/additions for improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH);
  • New four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system (ABS) with redesigned front calipers for optimum brake performance;
  • Larger 10.5-gallon fuel tank for extended driving range;
  • Upgraded heating and cooling system for North American climate extremes; and
  • New steering wheel controls and revised steering effort calibration to increase stability at highway speed (against crosswinds).

The new 2012 Fiat 500 features an all-new air bag system; its seven standard air bags include: driver and multi-stage front-passenger advanced air bags, driver’s knee bag, full-length side-curtain air bags and standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags, to offer enhanced protection to all occupants in the event of a collision.

Reactive head restraints that activate during a rear impact are another innovation helping to minimize injuries by reducing the gap between the head restraint and a passenger’s head.

The new 2012 Fiat 500’s interactive driving technology system collects all necessary data relating to vehicle efficiency and, through the Blue & Me USB port, transmits it onto any USB memory stick. Once the driver plugs the memory stick into his or her personal computer, the system presents drivers with the Fiat 500’s detailed environmental performance including the CO2 emission level for each trip. In addition, it analyzes each driver’s style and provides recommendations on how to modify their driving styles to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Chrysler Group LLC is engineering and plans to produce a battery electric vehicle using the Fiat 500 platform in 2012; the Fiat 500 EV was previewed earlier this year at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. (Earlier post.) SB LiMotive, the 50:50 joint venture of Samsung SDI and Bosch formed in 2008, is providing the battery pack. (Earlier post.)



I remember driving a Fiat 500 during my visit to Europe in the 70s. Now that was a SMALL car.

Will S

Looks like a great commuter (or small family) vehicle, though the fuel economy will be one key metric we'll need to know.


Unlike Europeans, Americans don't like goofy-looking cars. This car will not sell very well in the US...unless gas prices go through the roof.


There is a buyer preference balance, 30 mpg city and I have so squeeze myself into the car and between big trucks. At 25 mpg city I get more elbow room but not enough trunk room and slow performance. 20 mpg city I get everything I want.


Glad to see more interesting cars being offered in the USA in the small car segment. My personal opinion is that part of the attraction Americans have for large cars is that the small cars have historically been deprived of interesting styling and void of quality components inside and out. The Mini has shown that there is a market for small cars if you don't penalize the buyer with a lack of content and I expect similar acceptance of the 500. Regarding the engine, I'm not impressed with the published performance values. Its hard to say how efficient it will be without seeing the BSFC maps, but the specific torque and spread between peak torque and rated power are not impressive, especially considering the capabilities of the valvetrain.



Why can't we have the 2 banger turbo? I can never figure out why North America gets stuck with the gas guzzler options, while the Europeans, who drive a lot faster than us, get the fuel saving, small displacement engine options.


It is a matter of what Americans will buy. If you could sell 100,000 of those someone might produce them. Look at the 90s, people were buying Explorers in great numbers. They guzzled gas, rolled over and took up space, but people bought them. The market system in action.

Thomas Lankester


Your are right that these won't sell well in the US but for the wrong reason. It is precisely because 'Americans' (US citizens) DO like goofy looking cars that they won't buy the reasonably sized and stylish cars favoured in the EU.


Look at the 90s, people were buying Explorers in great numbers. They guzzled gas, rolled over and took up space, but people bought them. The market system in action.

Actually that was the tax lawyers in action;


I have one of these cars (the 1.2 version), so I can comment on it based on experience.

It is superb for town use as it is very small and easy to park, turn, etc.

I have also used it for several 270 Km runs from Dublin to the back end of Limerick, where it is OK, but not brilliant. There are several minor problems:
The cabin is noisy at 65 mph+
The footwell is a bit cramped, and
the petrol tank is a bit small (35L) and doesn't quite make the "there and back journed" 540KM at motorway speeds.
The car can go at 75mph OK, but can't really overtake much at that speed (the 1.4 would probably be much better). The 1.2 is not ideal for motorway driving (!)

I was getting 50 mpg (UK) on average at 70-75 mph most of the way. That would be 40 mpg (US), which is OK, but not brilliant. (it is petrol, not diesel).

So, a great car for city use, and a usable, but not brilliant car for motorway use - no surprises there.

[ Sorry for the mix of imperial and metric units, we are a bit schizophrenic in Ireland on motoring units ]
- JM


"In 2003, the Bush administration proposed increasing the tax deduction to $75,000. Lawmakers responded by expanding it to a whopping $100,000 as part of the $350 million tax cut package."

That was when professionals were buying Hummers instead of V12 Jaguars, anything over 6000 pounds qualified. It did not make much sense to have doctors driving to and from work in a 6 mpg vehicle, but that was the case.


It is almost unbelievable that any country would subsidize 6 mpg vehicles for personal uses. No wonder we had the 2007 financial crisis.


When Bush's Department of Energy Secretary was interviewed by 60 Minutes, he said something to the effect that "we trust them to do the right thing with their money". The right thing for whom? Certainly not the country.

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