Festa Italiana: Fiat's 500 is Here! Page 2

Under the hood, there's a Michigan-built 1.4 liter, 101 hp, 16-valve, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine.  This proprietary MultiAir mill improves efficiency (about 10 percent); the intake valves open and close via computer-controlled solenoids that route high-pressure oil to their lifters.  It controls valve timing and engine speed independently of a camshaft lobe or a throttle plate.  That reduces an internal combustion engine's pumping losses; also lowers tailpipe pollutants.  Premium fuel: recommended, but not required.

Impressive crash protection

Impressive crash protection

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MPG estimates: 30 mpg city, 38 highway (five-speed manual).

Fiat began shipping 500s February 18th.  Early orders, Soave says, skew toward Sport.  She claims, "It resonates with the American consumer."  Di Muro thinks the Sport's wider tires, revised suspension tuning and exterior embellishments appeal to drivers.  And with a tight turning radius and quick steering, it's an ideal urban runabout.  Seating is pillow soft; the steering wheel only tilts.  Overall fit:  pretty good. It's not the traditional simian long-arm, short-leg Italian setup .

Unibody's reinforced

Unibody's reinforced

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Basic warranty:  four years, 50,000 miles; three years, 36,000-mile no-bill maintenance (includes oil changes).

Soave says this "A segment" vehicle is slightly longer than the Mini; "It offers more for the money."  In contrast, the 500 costs more than Toyota's Yaris but you also get more.

According to Soave, Fiat's world-class manufacturing ups quality.  She asserts it's better than earlier Fiats. (No comment, Ed)

To keep the Cinquecento rolling, certified technicians staff Fiat Studios.  And Fiat's Studios offer car pick up and delivery services should a distant customer need assistance.

Marketing Manifesto:  "Life is best when driven"

Fiat, according to Soave, doesn't plan a nationwide advertising blitz.  Such a scheme doesn't make sense; the car is sold in 37 states.  Only Fiat Studios are authorized to sell and service 500s.  Thus, despite Fiat's Chrysler connection (it uses Mopar's Michigan based customer service facilities),  the 500's U.S. network is exclusive.

Expect promotions that are artful exploring creative themes such as "impulse."

Fiat plans continuous new product introductions:  a Cabrio this year and a performance enhanced Abarth next year.  An electric vehicle using Chrysler technology: planned.  A four-door model is possible.  The idea:  keep the 500 ‘nuovo.'

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