Fiat 500 Models Proliferating: Which Will Come to the U.S.?

Fiat 500 Zagato

Fiat is doing a cool thing in marketing its 500 for the U.S. It is introducing a veritable profusion of models/trims, presumably so that buyers can have a customized, personalized car.

Will the gambit work? We happen to think the 500 is a great car to begin with. Adding special features may well attract people who fancy its uniqueness—and want more of it. With famous names like Abarth and Zagato, the appeal to sports car fans will be strong.

The Zagato Coupe (above), shown at Geneva, has the famous double-bubble roof of the classic 1950s Z-cars, with some engine tweaking and a beautiful take on the basic 500 design. Even if you don’t know the history, the appeal is there.

Fiat 500 Abarth U.S.Abarth, the famed Italian race tuner, has created several models. The U.S. version (coming in 2012) develops a reported 170 hp from the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo, which would make the 2,400-pound car an incredible performer that should leave any MINI Cooper glued to the trees.

Your basic Fiat 500 comes in three flavors, called Pop, Sport, and Lounge. The Pop costs $15,500 and has a 5-speed manual. The Sport costs $2 grand more and gives you some nice performance options, 16” wheels, premium audio, etc. The Lounge at $19,500 gets fancier and has a 6-speed automatic. A roll-back ragtop roof version will be coming.

Fiat 500 Prima EdizioneAnd there are reports of a possible small SUV (yes) in the works and a wagon that may be based on the Fiat 500 Giardinetta. Differences between the European and American versions are described here and here, with some good interior shots on the latter site.

And finally, there are several special editions being made, including one by Gucci, which is a little silly, and the Prima Edizione, which is very sharp (above right). And if you want green, an electric version is coming in 2012.

Does the Fiat strategy of “customized” small cars make sense to you?

—jgoods

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