For just $15,500 you can buy yourself a slice of Fiat's proper return to America--provided you're willing to row your own cogs, at least at first.

After the recent salvo of live shots from the Detroit Auto Show, the latest on Fiat's pint-sized 2012 500 is that the first units to show up in the U.S., due late February, will come in manual transmission flavors only. For the 101-horsepower 1.4-liter Multiair engine fitted to North American-spec cars, that means a six-speed manual.

Later in the year, in March or April, the six-speed automatic transmissions will begin to arrive, according to Fiat's North American brand chief Laura Soave.

Once the full Fiat 500 range is here, we'll have a choice of three trim levels, 14 exterior colors, 14 materials combinations for the seats, two interior tones, and a range of Mopar accessories. Yep, Mopar parts on a Fiat.

For the price and what you get, however, the Fiat 500 ought to make buyers looking for the sport and compact size of the Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta think about the possibility of owning Italian.