Fiat is making the most of its biggest moment since returning to Australia, with the new 500 named as car of the Australian Grand Prix Celebrity Challenge. Thirty-two of the instantly recognisable baby cars will be fitted out for the annual novelty event, in which more cars finish in the kitty litter than over the line.
But with the Australian allocation sold out four months beyond the March launch date, the racing 500s will be readapted for road use and sold.
Fiat has released full pricing and specification for its instantly famous 500 baby car three months ahead of its local launch.
Prices start from $22,990 for the 51kW 1.2-litre petrol model with five-speed manual transmission, rising to $29,990 for the 74kW 1.4-litre petrol with the Dualogic robotised manual.
ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution are standard, but not ESP, except on the 1.4-litre cars. These models also get anti-slip regulation, hill holder and brake assist.
Then we get to the three trim levels — Pop, Sport and Lounge — and the 17 main options.
These are combined with a choice of three engines (apart from the petrol units there is a 1.3-litre turbo diesel, all of which meet Euro V emission standards) and three transmissions (the five- and six-speed manual or the five-speed Dualogic).
With such a bewildering array of (mainly cosmetic) embellishments, buyers can personalise their 500s to a Mini Cooper-like degree. Indeed, Fiat has said that it's unlikely any two pieces of this post-modernist motor will be precisely identical.
A sell-out success in Europe, this modernised homage to the original 1957 Fiat 500 combines a light kerb weight of less than 1100kg with modest but willing engines. The 1.2 makes 100km/h from standing in a fairly glacial claimed time of 12.5 seconds, but achieves combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.1 litres per 100km.
The 1.4 petrol is a tad thirstier and does it in 10.5 seconds, using 6.3-litres, while the diesel gets there in 11.5 seconds and uses 4.2 litres.
Despite its air of novelty, a brief drive on a recent European trip showed carsguide the 500 is a proper car and one that promises to be both a practical urban conveyance and fun to drive.
Price: from $22,990
Engines: 1.2L/4-cylinder; 1.4L/4-clyinder petrol; 1.3L/4-cylinder turbo diesel
Economy: 5.1L/100km (1.2); 6.3 (1.4); 4.2 (1.3)
Transmission: 5- or 6-speed manual, or 5-speed Dualogic