The past, present and future of the Fiat 500

The past, present and future of the Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 continues to be as successful as ever. We take a look at its past, present and future

Whether it’s a classic model or the latest version, the looks of the Fiat 500 are impossible to miss. 

This is a model that has an entire reputation based around the way it looks and the style it brings, and it’s proven a big sales hit – both in Italy and outside of it. Today several million have been produced, and its success shows no signs of slowing. 

But let’s take a look at how it all started, the Fiat 500 today, and also what’s in store for the future. 

The past

The Fiat 500 dates all the way back to 1957 when there was a need for a cheap, functional and affordable city car in a post-war world. 

Also known as the Cinquecento (simply ‘500’ in Italian), it was an ideal model – not least thanks to its small dimensions that made it perfect for Italy’s narrow streets, and would become known as one of the first true ‘city cars’. 

It would go on to spawn several other derivatives –  including vans and estates – and production would continue all the way to 1975 without any huge changes. By the time it was replaced with the 126, nearly four million had been produced. 

The present

While Fiat has always sold little cars, there was certainly a 500-shaped gap in its range from 1975 onwards. But 50 years on from the 500’s first introduction, the model returned, with the Italian marque reviving both the nameplate and the iconic design for the 21st century in 2007. 

Its retro styling, extensive personalisation options and also awards like the 2008 European Car of the Year made it an instant hit for the Italian firm, both in the brand’s native Italy and also in the UK where it became one of the top-selling cars. 

Take a look at the modern-day 500 and you might question what’s changed since 2007, and it's true that Fiat has changed little in the way of design – purely updating it with a more modern face, new LED daytime running lights and more in the way of safety kit and technology. For 2020, Fiat also introduced a new mild-hybrid petrol engine, which enables it to be more efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. 

Fiat has also expanded the ‘500’ line-up hugely since its revival – introducing a 500C convertible, 500L MPV and even a 500X SUV, the latter being especially popular. 

The future

The next decade or so presents huge challenges for the automotive industry as everything has to become electrified and the talk of self-driving cars becomes increasingly louder. 

But Fiat looks as if it's ready for such challenges with its new 500e – an electric 500 that made its debut earlier in 2020. Set to be available from the beginning of 2021, the design has evolved to become even cleaner, while a large 42kWh battery enables an impressive 199 miles of  range.

It’s not just the powertrain that’s modern, though, as Fiat’s also revamped the interior with a large 10-inch touchscreen running on the brand’s most modern software, while Level 2 autonomous driving technologies ensure the new 500 can be safer, too. 

Set to be sold alongside the regular 500 for some time (it’s not known when the petrol city car will bow out of production), it looks as if the 500’s future is guaranteed for some time with this new electric version.

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