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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Examining the Fiat 500's Suspension

The Fiat 500 is built on the Fiat Panda's chassis and shares its suspension. The 500 has the same wheelbase as the Panda but employs wider tracks and a lower roof to improve handling.

The 500 has a "McPherson strut" front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle designed by Magnetti Marelli. This tried and tested configuration has been around for many years but has been refined for use in the 500.

Let's explore some of the details of the 500's suspension. Please note this describes the European version, but the US model is expected to use the same type with some slight tuning changes.

The Fiat Strut
As mentioned above, the front suspension is the type commonly referred to as the MacPherson strut, named after a Ford engineer who popularized the design in the late 1940's early 1950's.

However, Fiat engineers had patented this type of strut suspension in 1927. The only difference between the Fiat design and the MacPherson design was Ford's use of the sway bar to provide some degree of horizontal compliance, in conjunction with an I-shaped lower control arm.

The Fiat design used a separate sway bar and an A-shaped lower control arm.

The Fiat way of anchoring the control arm actually offers a more precise way of locating the wheels during suspension movement.

The Fiat 500 has a refined version of "The Fiat Strut" with the main difference being the use of an L-shaped lower control arm.

Details that bring this suspension into the 21st century

The Fiat 500 features a coil spring design that increases the absorption of minor surface roughness. These offset coil springs reduce side load forces acting on the strut with resulting improved absorption of slight unevenness in the road surface.

The Fiat 500 uses ductile iron control arms

Also featured are lower control arms made from ductile iron (not cheap stamped steel) with a new style bushing fitted on a vertical axis at the rear to improve the absorption of vibrations and increase road holding when cornering.

The Toyota Yaris uses cheaper stamped steel control arms typical of inexpensive cars

In contrast. the above is a control arm from a Toyota Yaris (a car that some may compare to the Fiat 500, but although similar in size, is not in the same league as the 500). Not a bad car, but the Yaris is a typical econo-car which features the usual cost cutting engineering such as cheap stamped steel control arms. Engineering details like this separate the 500 from common sub-compact cars most Americans are used to.
Sub-frame mount on left. Special control arm mount on right

The suspension sub-frame is attached to the body of the car without the use of rubber isolators. This crossmember is made from galvanized steel to guarantee improved resistance to structural corrosion and has been strengthened with box sections where it attaches to the body to ensure better filtration of the noise entering the passenger compartment.

The telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers are dual-acting and...

Upper strut mount tuned for ride comfort

...the upper strut mount has optimized axial rigidity to improve comfort.

To improve cornering, the wheel strut's geometry has been designed to maintain a better camber angle during turns. This keeps the wheel closer to perpendicular to the road.

Lower mount for the front sway bar endlink uses ball jointed sockets...

Notable on the front suspension is the way the anti roll bar end link is attached to the strut with ball jointed sockets. does the upper mount for the sway bar end link. Typical of more expensive cars.

This type of end link is usually reserved for higher priced cars and boasts a greater ability to filter out vibrations when driving over rough roads.

Looking at the rear
Left side view of the rear torsion beam axle. Notice the orange elastomer bump stop. More expensive and higher tech than a traditional rubber bump stop, the elastomer bump stop is used as a spring medium and allows the springs to be softer for a better ride when lightly loaded.. They come into play when the car is heavily loaded or hits a large bump, progressively cushioning the impact and again helping the ride.

In the rear, the compact, torsion beam axle functions both as wheel locating arm and as an anti-roll bar to resist lateral motion of the wheels as the body leans in turns.

Other characteristics of the rear suspension are:

Greater comfort because the level of noise and vibration entering the passenger compartment is lower due to single (metal and rubber) bushings attaching the rear axle to the body.

On the rear of the Fiat 500. Notice how the shock absorber leans forward and not straight up. This keeps the shock from intruding into the trunk area and limiting the trunks width.

An optimized underfloor shock absorber angle that locates the shock beneath the floor to improve comfort without detracting from trunk space.

The rear of the Toyota Yaris. Notice how the shock sticks nearly straight up, encroaching on rear trunk space. Compare the angle to the Fiat's

The above is the rear suspension from the Toyota Yaris. Notice how the rear shock absorber is near vertical. Compare this with the Fiat 500 rear shock angle. The Toyota design intrudes into the trunk, narrowing its width. The Fiat design doesn't intrude into the trunk, maximizes space, and is an example of Fiat's acknowledged small car design leadership.

Rear Axle beam bushing provides toe-in effect during cornering, providing increased stability

Greater driving stability due to the bushings attaching the rear axle to the body. While cornering, they generate a wheel toe-in effect that ensures excellent driving stability even under difficult conditions. They also display great longitudinal flexibility when hitting bumps.

Handling is improved because the folded sheet steel torsion beams torsional rigidity has been tuned to provide balance between front and rear.

Starting in December 2009, all Fiat 500 sedans have a rear sway bar fitted, improving the ride and handling

New Suspension Upgrade with improved ride comfort

From December 2009, all Fiat 500s have a rear antiroll bar installed. With this addition, Fiat has been able to soften the spring rates and improve the ride of the 500. This addresses the one criticism that had been leveled on previous versions of the 500 (keep this in mind when you read older European road tests on the 500. When a review mentions the ride, they are talking about the older car).

Previously, the rear torsion beam axle was tuned to act as an anti-roll bar. The slight increase in weight of the new sway bar is offset by the improved comfort. Handling has, by all accounts, been improved.

It should be noted that the Fiat 500C and the 500 Abarth had the rear anti-roll bar from the start of their production.

Here's an excerpt of the Fiat tech bulletin provided to UK Fiat dealers:

"Starting with the production of the new MultiJet engine, all Fiat 500’s will be fitted with the stabilizer bar which was already introduced with the Fiat 500C. The anti-roll bar is a 21mm diameter solid steel bar, fixed to the crossmember using brackets made from a single piece of steel and part in rubber. This represents a quality intervention designed to improve the comfort and the handling of the car with a far more absorbent ride quality as you’ve experience in the Fiat 500Cs."


Although it is possible to get manual steering in some countries in Europe, most models of the Fiat 500 have electric power steering called DualDrive.

This innovative, speed-sensitive power steering system, comes with two operating modes and uses an electric motor, rather than a hydraulic pump driven by the engine, which results in a considerable reduction in both fuel consumption and noise.

The system offers a choice of two settings via a button on the dash marked "City".

The normal setting (off) ensures maximum feedback and driver involvement.

Pressing the "City" button lightens the steering to minimize effort, and is therefore ideal for urban driving and low speed maneuvering.

To ensure maximum safety under all driving conditions, both settings offer identical power assistance over 44 mph, thus ensuring a steering wheel response suited to high speed driving.

Additionally, the 1.4-liter Sport model has a "Sport" button in place of the "City" button and, when activated, provides increased steering effort and sharpened throttle response.

500 Abarth changes

The Abarth’s suspension is firmer and 15mm lower than the standard 500. A Rear anti-roll bar has always been standard.

The popular 500 Abarth Essesse kit adds the following:

17-inch alloy wheels, stiffer suspension setup, an additional 5 mm lower ride height, cross-drilled brake discs and upgraded pads.

Also featured in the Esseesse kit, the 1.4-liter turbo engine gets higher boost due to revised ECU and a less restricted air filter. Max power has increased by 25hp to 160hp, while max torque is lifted from 152 to 170 lb-ft.

References: The New Fiat Guide by Jan P Norbye 1969, Fiat 500 E Learn Manual, Fiat Group Press

Monday, September 27, 2010

Head of Fiat North America comments on the 500 Prima Edizione

Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America, has commented on the sell out of the Fiat 500 Prima Edizione on Chrysler's blog.

“It’s important that the Fiat enthusiasts and fans are among the first to receive their very own Fiat 500 Prima Edizione special edition vehicles, as they share the same excitement about the brand’s presence in North America. As we begin to introduce Fiat to North America, our goal is to develop a solid relationship with our customers so they are made to feel as part of the brand. Over 1,000 people are on the wait-list for the Prima Edizione, a clear indication of the buzz that the Fiat 500 is generating among our fans.”

You can read more here.

Soave is the executive in charge of Fiat’s return in North America and is responsible for developing the marketing, sales, service and dealer network organizations.

If the Prima Edizione is any indication, I would say she's doing a great job!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Fiat dealers must be up by Feb 28...

Here's the latest Fiat dealer news; All Fiat dealers are expected to be up and running by February 28, 2011. Then in March, a full scale marketing campaign will ensue.

Fiat 500 production will begin in December with some cars making their way to dealers already able to handle the new cars before the February date. This time frame will enable Fiat to build up inventory and supply the growing dealer body.

Deadline Near

Back on August 30, Fiat NA met with about 400 Chrysler dealers to outline the requirements to become a Fiat dealer in the United States. Prospective Fiat dealers must submit a competitive proposal for a Fiat franchise by Sept. 22.

These plans must include a detailed facility proposal including a letter of intent to meet Fiat's facility expectations, construction site plans, a budget and a construction time line.

As posted here before, dealers can start off with a showroom, but must have plans for a separate facility. This will be warranted as new Fiat models, such as the 500c and Abarth, will be coming shortly.

The Fiat Studio

Showrooms will be called The Fiat Studio and will be "inspired by modern Italian design." Each store is expected to have 20-37 Fiat specialists, with a service area between 5 -11 stalls.

Fiat NA believes its clients will be individuals with a strong appreciation of design, style and fashion and a strong appreciation of Italy and Italian culture. (I think they're correct, don't you?)

In October, the company expects to name about 165 dealers, mainly located in metropolitan areas chosen for their high concentration of small-car registrations.

Sources: Compiled from Internet, Chrysler Media

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reserving a Fiat 500 Prima Edizione: My Story

One of the most highly anticipated pre-launch auto sales took place Thursday night, September 16, 2010.

Fiat USA opened up the order books Thursday night and, in less than an hour, sold the remaining 470+ Fiat 500 Prima Edizione not sold during the Fiat Lancia Unlimited car club's national convention this past July.

Back in July, Fiat, in appreciation for all the years of support, gave members of the club the first opportunity to purchase the Fiat 500 Prima Edizione (First Edition) model. A total of five-hundred of these collector-edition Fiat 500 models, the first to roll of the assembly line, would be made.

The Prima Edizione featured a sequentially numbered vehicle identification number (VIN) and unique numbered matching badge. Also, owners would be able to select their model build number .

An undisclosed number were sold during the convention (estimated at two dozen) and the rest were held in reserve for a future offering that would be announced via the official fiatusa website and through email notification.

That announcement happened Thursday night, at 8:42 pm. By 9:23pm all were gone.

I thought I would share my experience of reserving one of the Prima Edizione with everyone...

A late night or early morning?

I normally stay up late working on this blog, checking sources, reading endless press reports and combing the internet for tidbits of information. At around 1:00am on Thursday morning, I stopped by, the official Fiat USA website, to see what was new. Clicking on the reserve a Prima Edizione button, to my surprise, it said there was 1 car available! Intrigued, I clicked on on the reserve now/generate a random number, car number 90 was picked. Not ready to purchase, I hit the back arrow and closed out the page.

In the morning I emailed a fellow Fiat enthusiast and told him what happened, He emailed me back that he couldn't get on the page and noticed it went to https, a secured web server, so something was up....

The right day

Screen shot taken at approx 8:50pm*

I happened to be off Thursday (unlike Tuesday, when the NA Fiat 500 Sport came out and I had 10 minutes to post a story before going to work), so while working on my blog, I kept checking into several times an hour, the site was still down for a good part of the day. By 6:30pm, the site was up, but I had to step out to a meeting; there were no cars available.

Screen shot taken approx 9:10pm

I came home from the meeting around 8:15 - 8:20pm, I refreshed the page and there were 450 cars available! I checked my email and there were no messages. Figuring this is it, it's now or never, I started to plug numbers into the site to see what was available. Excitement was building, as I entered numbers in, sequentially, with each one rejected, I wondered how many I would have to put in until I found an available car. Would I have to repeat this tedious process 20-30-50 or more times? Should I let the site generate a number for me or maybe pick a number that would have some significance to me? I was convinced that others, by now, were flocking to the site and that added to the whirlwind of thoughts going through my mind.

Screen shot taken approx 9:15pm

Then it all stopped... I got to number 29 and it was available! Filling out the forms, there was a timer counting down the minutes and seconds left to finish the process. I finished it within the 15 minutes alloted. It was 8:35pm

Screen shot taken approx 9:23pm

Now I wondered what happened, did I just stumble onto this before others knew? I checked my email again and saw my buddy had sent a message at 8:29 saying it looked like Prima' was open. We both wondered, separately, if it the cars were inadvertently posted as we didn't see an email.

Screen taken a moment later

I refreshed the ciaofiat site the 450 cars were now 350! 100 cars sold in 10-15 minutes. This was big, and I knew I had to get this out to my readers! Frantically, I took a screen shot (it shows 329 cars) and posted this on my site and Twitter. This was at about 8:58pm, with a revised posting at 9:01pm.

I got the email!

Emails were sent to Fiat Lancia Unlimited members and then to folks who signed up on for updates. These emails were sent in batches due to email limitations; some people received them at slightly different times. I received mine at 8:42pm. With this, the cars started flying.

All gone...**

Thanks, Dad...

I was definitely lucky Thursday because I work a lot at night. Coming home after the meeting and checking ciaofiat was also pure luck. I like to think that my dad, who passed away July 21, had a hand in guiding me to this. Thanks, dad...

**There is a waiting list available, so you still may be able to get your Prima Edizione. Sign up at Fiat USA here!

*Times are approximate.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The truth about the "truth"

A reader of this blog left the following post and asked me to comment on it:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Fiat 500 Blackjack special edition":

Hello, I noticed on another blog, the truth about cars, that the interior shot posted above is from the Mexican built 500 for the American market. Notice the HVAC manual controls. Just wondering. Maybe you could comment on this:

Click to see The Truth About Cars

My comment is that this IS NOT a US Fiat 500. It is a photo of a European car with optional equipment (someone please tell TTAC it is possible to configure a European Fiat 500 in 500,000 different option combinations). By the way, this picture has been on Chrysler's site for many months. The grey car is equipped with manual climate control, Frua leather interior, the Sports styled instrument panel and the Blue&Me hands free system.

This is also a European Fiat 500 interior, It is equipped with automatic climate control, Hi-Fi 'Interscope Sound System', Blue&Me hands free system, comfort instrument panel and cloth interior.

European Fiat 500 with manual climate air conditioning

European Fiat 500 with automatic climate control

European Fiat 500 has two different instrument panel options

Thank you to anonymous (whoever you are) for posting that comment. Hope that clears things up.

Best regards, Chris

Photos courtesy of Fiat Group Press/Chrysler Media

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiat Cinquecento ‘Prima Edizione' Registry announced

Fiat 500 Prima Edizione Registry
This site, Fiat500USA, will host the Fiat Cinquecento ‘Prima Edizione’ registry. This registry will document each individually numbered Fiat Cinquecento ‘Prima Edizione’. Its purpose is to safeguard, document and help tell the story of this unique, collector-edition Fiat 500 models.

I've been reading all the great stories of people reserving their car. These great stories need to be saved, too. We'll have to combine this with the registry.

This is in its preliminary stages and I'll keep you updated as it gets closer to launching. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment with any suggestions and questions so we can make this useful but still keep it safe.


My Fiat 500 Prima Edizione confirmation (#29)

The Fiat 500 Prima Edizione is sold out. The 500 Prima Edizione are the first five hundred Fiat 500's made for the North American market.

On Thursday night, emails went out to folks who registered online at Fiat USA's website, and within less than an hour, all 500 cars were gone!

Looks like Fiat has a hit on its hand!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Hurry, head over to and reserve your Fiat Prima Edizione now!!!
They are going Fast! click here!

North American Fiat 500 Pop and Lounge bumper spotted?

Here are a couple of pictures of a Fiat 500 undergoing evaluations somewhere in the US. What is notable are the bumpers appear to be European with added US side markers from the US 500 Sport.

This raises the question; does the US 500 Sport use a different bumper design than the upcoming Pop and Lounge versions? On the other hand, the side marker could just be grafted into the Euro bumper to test its function.

Something to ponder, we'll have to wait and see...

With thanks to anonymous;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stay tuned...

Yesterday, we had a preview of the North American Fiat 500 Sport. This was very preliminary, but definitely whetted the appetite.

Coming up will be more photos of the interior of the car, so hang in there.

While you're waiting, make sure you go to the official Fiat USA website and sign up to receive updates (click here). Also, don't forget to checkout Fiat USA's Facebook page here, where there is always something going on.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NEWS FLASH: North American Fiat 500 unveiled

September 14, 2010 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - The reborn and re-imagined Fiat 500 is arriving soon to America. Born in Italy, perfectly tailored for America, the Cinquecento is as vibrant and engaging as it is fit and nimble. The Sport model, featured in these images, illustrates Fiat’s smart and stylish design aesthetic. Like the original Fiat 500 a half-century ago, the new Cinquecento continues its timeless value while embracing individual expression and opportunity – all infused with world-class craftsmanship.

Click on the slideshow to bring you to an image gallery

The Cinquecento offers unique adaptations for the North American market and is designed for individuals who demand that style and fashion can coexist with practicality and functionality. Matching its sport-tuned suspension, the Fiat 500 Sport features athletically styled front and rear fascias with a larger grille and flared aerodynamic treatment. Between its unique 16-inch aluminum wheels with Mineral Gray painted pockets, the Cinquecento incorporates new body-side sill cladding for an enhanced sport appearance.

Completing this athletic vehicle's appearance are Performance Red painted brake calipers, a chromed exhaust tip and gloss black shadow-line window trim. The Fiat 500 Sport also features an available SkyDome power sun roof for an ultra-open view of the world. The Fiat 500 will be also available in the Pop and Lounge models with unique exterior cues and different equipment options.

Click on the slideshow to bring you to an image gallery

The world-class 1.4-liter engine with Fiat’s state-of-the-art MultiAir™ technology powers the Fiat 500 Sport. MultiAir significantly reduces emissions while improving fuel economy and power delivery by up to 10 percent when compared to similar engines.

The Fiat 500’s technology, driving dynamics and interior features have been intelligently adapted for the North American market, and it will offer small-car buyers a stylish, high-value alternative. The all-new Fiat 500 will be available for ordering later this year in the Sport, Pop and Lounge models, followed by the all-new Fiat 500C (cabrio) in the spring of 2011.

Just announced: Esseesse kit for the Abarth 500C

Abarth has just announced the much anticipated esseesse kit for the Abarth 500C. This kit bumps the 1.4 liter Turbocharged engine from 135hp to 160hp and also consists of high performance brake pads, drilled brake rotors (front and rear), lowering springs and special Koni shocks all the way around. Ultra-high performance 205/40 ZR17 tires mounted on 17x7 Abarth esseesse alloy wheels with tire pressure monitors and a high performance air filter round out the package. The esseesse kit is delivered in a special Abarth wooden crate, which by itself, is valued as a collectors item.

Click for Abarth 500C esseesse specs

Below is Abarth's description of the Abarth 500C esseesse:

The kit for the Abarth 500C tunes the 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet power unit to achieve a maximum power of 160 HP (117 kW) at 5750 rpm and in Sport mode, a maximum torque of 230 Nm at 3000 rpm with the performance of an out-and-out sports car: top speed is 209 km/h with acceleration from 0-100 km/h in just 7.6 seconds. As with the Punto Evo, the 500C maintains its Euro 5 compliance even once the kit has been installed, with CO2 emissions equal to 151 g/km.

Safety is always the focus with Abarth tuning, as evidenced by the upgrading of the braking system and adjusted ride: the esseesse kit for the 500C includes perforated, ventilated front disc brakes (diameter 284 mm x 22 mm), perforated rear disc brakes (diameter 240 mm x 11 mm), high performance front brake pads, front and rear Koni shock absorbers with FSD valve, specific red springs set lower than those on the original car, Abarth esseesse 7” x 17” ET35 alloy wheels painted white or titanium, combined with 205/40 ZR17 tyres.

The conversion kit for the Abarth 500C also includes four sensors to record correct tyre pressure, a special “powered by BMC” air filter and esseesse badges for the engine cover and tailgate.

The esseesse kit for the Abarth 500C is due to go on sale from October in all European markets.

Courtesy Fiat Group Press