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Driven: Fiat 500 now just $14k drive-away

Buongiorno, bella: Rivals such as the Nissan Micra and Volkswagen Up are firmly on Fiat’s radar now that it’s cut the price of the 500 hatch and cabriolet.

Italian style for beer money as Fiat slashes prices on 500 hatch and cabrio range

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Fiat logo7 Jun 2013

FIAT has cut the price of its 500 retro charmer to an aggressive $14,000 drive-away, injecting some Italian style into the cheap and cheerful end of the Australian market.

It’s a provocative move sure to give prospective Volkswagen Up and Nissan Micra buyers pause for thought, and comes as one part of a significant expansion of the whole 500 range.

This expansion also sees the addition of a new ‘warm’ version called the Sport from $16,900 plus on-road costs (Fiat only offers special drive-away pricing on the base hatch), a revised TwinAir turbo variant called the Lounge (from $20,300) and a limited-run Gucci version from $23,200.

The base variant – called Pop – and the Sport come with five- or six-speed manual gearboxes respectively, but can be had with a MTA ‘robotised’ automated manual for an extra $1500.

This transmission is essentially a dry clutch manual gearbox fitted with an electronic actuator that changes gears itself. Fiat says it’s lighter and more frugal than a regular torque converter automatic.

Fiat is also offering automatic-only 500C ‘pseudo’ cabriolet versions of each specification level for a $2400 premium over their respective (automatic) hatch versions, meaning the starting price for the topless version is cut to $17,900.

These versions come with a standard retracting fabric roof, although the door pillars remain fixed in place.

The new hatch starting point is more than $5000 cheaper than the current entry price, although budget buyers aren’t getting quite the same car.

While the previous base – and now upper-level – variant features a rorty two-cylinder turbo engine known as the TwinAir, the new $14k entry version makes do with something a little more traditional: a 51kW/102Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder.

The Pop also loses a few creature comforts along the way, though it still gets seven airbags, Bluetooth and USB connections via a Windows-based system called Blue&Me, chic contrasting cabin plastics and daytime running lights.

All versions also have a five-star ANCAP and Euro NCAP safety rating.

Fiat Chrysler Group Australia president and CEO Veronica Johns said the price cuts were part of a plan to net some first-time car buyers, calling the expanded 500 range its “next step”.

To May this year, Fiat has sold just 336 units of the 500. During the same period Volkswagen found 1232 Up buyers. The Italian company expects 500 sales to rise with gusto once the new pricing restructure takes hold, but hasn’t made its targets public.

It will also give the 500 some breathing room at the bottom end of the range, with company open about its plans to expand its range by adding the larger Panda and Punto models this year.

Meantime, the $16,900 Sport is powered by a larger 1.4-litre engine with 74kW and 131Nm with six-speed manual gearbox (or optional auto), and gets a Sport button that modulates throttle response and steering weight.

It also gets extra standard equipment including a bodykit and rear spoiler, the aforementioned Sport button, better-bolstered seats with red stitching, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, larger brakes and privacy glass.

Moving further up the range, you get the $20,300 Lounge hatch and $22,700 Lounge cabriolet, both of which are powered by the TwinAir engine. However, the 63kW/145Nm turbo is now available only with the MTA robotised transmission – perhaps a disappointment to enthusiasts.

Fiat has added extra kit to what now becomes its regular range-topper, including a fixed glass roof with sun-blind, climate control, idle-stop, chrome bumper accents and a different 15-inch wheels.

For those after something a little more exclusive, Fiat has also imported 101 units of the 500 and 500C Gucci Editions – developed in collaboration with the famous Italian fashion house.

Extra touches include special black or white paint with a green and red racing stripe, 16-inch alloys, leather seats and steering wheel, rear parking sensors a larger sound system and – perhaps most notably – special green and red seatbelt straps.

Combined fuel economy on the three powertrains is as follows: 5.1 litres per 100km for the Pop’s 1.2, 6.1L/100km for the Sport’s 1.4 and 3.9L/100km for the Lounge’s Twin Air.

All 500s come with electric power steering and a derivation of the panda’s Multi-link-front/torsion beam rear suspension.

Standard features:Pop:ABS anti-lock braking with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)
Driver and front passenger airbags
Side airbags
Head-protecting side airbags
Driver’s knee airbag
Electric front windows and door mirrors
Air conditioning
Dualdrive electric power steering
Trip computer
Height adjustable driver’s seat
Front passenger under seat stowage
Seat-back pockets
Folding rear seat
14-inch steel wheels with wheel cover
Sport (in addition to the Pop):Sports body kit & rear spoiler
Sport function/button
Sports seats with red stitching
Flat bottom sports steering wheel with red stitching
15-inch sports alloy wheels
Larger ventilated front disc brakes & larger rear brakes
Fog lights
Dark tinted glass
Lounge (in addition to the Pop):Fixed glass roof with sun blind
Climate control air conditioning
Start&Stop system
Chrome bumper accents
15-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels2013 Fiat 500 hatch pricing*
Pop 1.2L$14,000 drive-away
Pop 1.2L(a)$15,500
Sport 1.4L$16,900
Sport 1.4L(a)$18,400
Lounge 0.9L TwinAir (a)$20,300
500 by Gucci 1.4L (a)$23,200
2013 Fiat 500C cabrio pricing*
Pop 1.2L (a)$17,900
Sport 1.4L (a)$20,800
Lounge 0.9L TwinAir (a)$22,700
500 by Gucci 1.4L (a)$25,650
*Excludes on-road costs unless stated otherwise

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