FIAT has nailed one of the oldest mysteries on the planet, because it seems to know exactly what a girl wants.
And it’s a Fiat 500 - a whopping 80 per cent of which are bought by women.
What girls desire, it seems, is a car that’s stylish, small and simple to park, but what’s most important of all is that they be allowed to pay significantly more for it than it’s worth.
This styley shopping trolley segment is very good business for a car company to be in, and Fiat Chrysler Australia has decided to see just how far it can push it by raising the price of its new, facelifted 500 by $2000.
The Pop now starts at $18,000, while a Lounge spec is a dizzying $21,000.
The extra money gets you exactly no engineering improvements to what was already a surprisingly fun car to drive, with a 1.2-litre engine that feels zippy despite its outputs of just 51kW and 102Nm in the Pop.
The Lounge retains its 1.4-litre dinky donk with 74kW and 131Nm, and you can still have a manual transmission, operated by a neat little shifter on the dash, which is a far better option than the five-speed Dualogic transmission that everyone will buy.
What your $2000 is paying for is what Fiat has decided women want in their vehicles: more technology (there are also new colours, proper 15-inch alloys instead of hubcaps, and a tiny tweak to the styling, of course, dahling).
The new 500 upgrades its Uconnect infotainment system from the kind of screen last seen with the word “Amstrad” beneath it to a five or seven-inch screen that’s colourful and touch sensitive. All models can now do what most cars have been capable of for many moons, and stream Bluetooth audio from your phone.
The range has also been simplified - ditching the twin-air engine option - and FCA is offering a tempter for people who don’t like doing too much maths, a drive-away offer of $1000 across the range ($19K for a Pop or $22K for the Lounge, no more to pay).
FCA claims there have been no fewer than 1800 changes to the latest evolution of the 500, and that the new generation is all about adding substance to the style.
The changes to the exterior include headlights with “polyellptical” (I’m fairly sure they’ve made that word up) modules for improved vision at night. There’s also “more pronounced ribbing” on the nose and some new chrome brightwork on the now “three-dimensional” grille.
Most vitally, of course, it still looks like a small, smiling puppy, or a handbag with eyes.
And the interior, which is also handbag-like, is now available in no fewer than 10 colour combinations, including the option of “tobacco Frau” leather upholstery.
For the cute as a Smartie exterior, ladies (and a few men) can now choose from 13 colours, or hues, including six pastel shades, five metallics and one tri-coat finish.
The Fiat 500 is the kind of car you’ll see in expensive suburbs with L and P plates on it, because it’s what rich mums in BMW X6s buy their daughters to learn in, and they’re very much attracted by the expected five-star safety and seven airbags. If the airbags actually all go off in a car this size, they’ll blow the bloody doors off.
Some buyers will also be impressed by the 4.8 litres per 100km fuel figure, but then if they’re willing to pay $20,000 or more for this much car, they’re obviously not too worried about money.