A mild makeover with refinement and multimedia upgrades should keep the ageing Fiat 500 fresh until the next-gen Cinquecento surfaces in 2017
AUSTRALIA may see the 2016 Fiat 500 facelift sooner than expected, with a December or early first-quarter launch likely for the popular Polish-built retro baby.
Unveiled on July 4 in Turin to signify the current Tipo 312 generation sub-B segment supermini’s eighth anniversary, the makeover is the final before an all-new version launches internationally in two years time as the 2018 Fiat 500.
While the differences revealed for both the hatch and convertible are subtle, the Italians claim that some 1800 parts have changed; all are designed to help stave off the threat from a rash newcomers, including the latest Mini range, the Suzuki Celerio and – most importantly for the Australian Micro class where the 500 dominates – the all-new Holden Spark and Kia Picanto that are also due in the first half of 2016.
But don’t strain your eyes too hard attempting to spot the differences between old and new Fiat, since they’re restricted to non-sheetmetal bits such as the headlights (now on a greater slant and featuring daytime running lights), bumpers (brandishing two grilles and even more chrome lipstick up front and relocated reverse and fog light elements out back), tail-light lenses with body-colour centre inserts, and an amended colour palette.
However, if you’re a current Cinquecento driver, you’ll probably be happier with the revised front seats promising improved support more, as well as the more ergonomic window switches, increased storage, better cupholders, relocated 12V socket, and boost in sound-deadening material.
Additionally, the steering wheel adopts more remote control functionality, the dashtop has been redesigned with reshaped air vents to accommodate the fitment of the Uconnect multimedia system serving most other current Fiat Chrysler cars, and (in European spec vehicles), there is now touchscreen capability and new TFT instrumentation with a more comprehensive trip and infotainment data readout offered on up-spec Lounge variants.
Expect to see the same (albeit fettled) array of petrol engine choices powering the existing models for Australia, meaning a pair of four-pot engines (entry 1.2 Pop and 1.4 Sport) and the 0.9-litre TwinAir twin-cylinder firecracker for the Lounge. Final output info has yet to be released for Australia. However there is still no full automatic transmission availability, meaning the Dualogic robotised clutchless manual will suffice as the alternative to a conventional manual gearbox.
A new special 1.2-litre Eco model that can average a significant sub-100g/km carbon dioxide emissions rating will also most probably be overlooked for Australia, along with the revised 1.3-litre MultiJet turbo-diesel options.
Speaking of which, a step-up in personalisation options should see the facelifted Fiat 500 compete more ably against the recently revamped and expanded Mini range.
More information and final specifications for the MY16 Fiat 500 will be revealed closer to the Australian launch date, so watch this space, retro fans.
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