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Friday, November 19, 2010

Fiat 500 Preview Event: A Reader's Perspective

A fan of my site has sent me a note with his impressions of the Fiat 500 Preview Event held Tuesday night, November 16, 2010. I was so impressed with his report, I asked if I could publish it. Along with his candid comments, he has taken 100 pictures of the event and has generously allowed me to share them with you. He has requested to remain anonymous, but we all owe him our thanks:


First off, thanks for the great site. I check in almost daily for all the latest news on all things Fiat 500 related. Your tireless efforts are much appreciated by all of us who are starved for info.

I live in Orange County, about 40 minutes south of L.A., and drove up tonight for the party. I am a FLU member and have a reservation for the Prima Edizione, car #**, and thus got an invite to attend tonight's event. I was hoping to get some definitive info about the Prima tonight but unfortunately came away not knowing much more than before (more on that later).

I have owned a MINI Cooper S (2002) and currently own a John Cooper Works GP (2006) (in addition to a 2005 Boxster S). I'm a die-hard MINI fan and have visited the factory in Oxford. Because the 500 will obviously be competing head to head with MINI for sales, I was very anxious to evaluate the Fiat and compare it to MINI at least with respect to fit and finish.

I couldn't get a straight answer whether the cars at the preview were U.S. spec. I was told that the cars had certain features and options which may or may not be offered on the U.S. cars. The door jam contained no manufacturer info as is customary so I could not tell where these cars were built or when. So the comments which follow may pertain to features or qualities that won't apply to U.S. cars. (These appear to be pre-production models-Chris)

I took 100 photos which can be found here .

The lighting was less than ideal and I am hopeless as a photographer so apologies in advance for the mediocre (at best) shots.
(These are some great shots-Chris)

I snapped pics of the dealership, the car color sample, the various wheel options, and of course the cars.

The colors that will be available are as follows:
Rame (an orangish/bronze color)
Bianco (bright white)
Rosso (red)
Giallo (yellow)
Bianco Perla (pearlescent white)
Nero (black)
Azzurro (blue)
Grigio (dark grey)
Mocha Latte (light chocolate)
Verde Chiaro (sage green)
Argento (silver)
Verde Oliva (dark green/olive)
Expresso (dark chocolate)
Rosso Brillante (more of a maroon red)

They had cars representing all three trim lines - Pop, Sport and Lounge. In the photos you can see the variations between these three lines with respect to wheels, chrome accents, door inserts, front and rear grill/facia, seats, etc.

(This report was sent immediately after the event and the day before the official announcement, so pricing and equipment content was not released yet-Chris)

Regarding the Prima, I was able to speak to a high level Fiat rep. I posed the following questions regarding the Prima:

1. What is the price?

She couldn't say. She did indicate that tomorrow after the unveiling, all Prima owners would be sent an email with additional info about the Prima. She said the email had already been drafted and was ready to be sent but not until the official unveiling. So Prima owners should definitely check their email tomorrow for what hopefully will be some detailed and specific info regarding the car. She also said an ad would be appearing in tomorrow's USA Today listing all the U.S. Fiat dealers.

2. To what extent can we option the car other than what has already been indicated (e.g., sunroof)?

She didn't know.

3. What color interior will each of the three colored cars come with? If you ordered white, could you get a red interior?

She didn't know.

4. Will Prima owners have to sign a contract in December as originally indicated?

She said the cars will not be here until after the start of the year so she didn't think a contract commitment would be required prior to the end of the year. When I told her I would be hesitant to sign a contract without first having a chance to drive the car, she totally sympathized and thought that dealers would probably be willing to work with customers and not bind them to anything until they had a chance to see the car and drive it. She said that Fiat wanted to make sure that Prima owners were serious about purchasing as opposed to looking to "flip" the cars for a profit.

5. Will Prima owners have a chance to drive a car before having to commit to a contract?

See above.

6. Will the Prima be on display at the LA Auto Show?

It's not clear but there is a chance a Prima will be displayed.

Miscellaneous Observations:

The round headrests are a hard plastic. I could never tell from pictures if they are padded but they aren't.

The fit and finish on all the cars appeared very high. Definitely up to MINI standards.

The seats in the Sport model were excellent. High grade cloth with vertical panel inserts in the seat and seat backs. The full leather seats in the Lounge were very plush and luxurious and felt very similar to the full leather seats found in the MINI (the leather seats even resemble the leather seats in the MINI). There is great fore/aft adjustment on the seats which can also be lowered and raised. I'm 6'0" tall and had plenty of legroom and headroom.

The telescopic steering wheel has considerable range of motion up and down.

The turn signal and wiper stalks felt a bit chintzy but otherwise the plastics throughout the cabin appeared and felt high grade.

The cabin is definitely smaller than the MINI's but didn't feel claustrophobic by any stretch.

Woe unto those relegated to the back seats!

The engine compartment is extremely tiny but tidy. Very short distance between the base of the windshield and the front of the car which makes for a very small hood.

One of the windshield wipers has a long elbow shape which is sort of strange.

The glass sunroof tilts up or lifts up and moves back over the roof. Inside, there is a mesh screen you can pull across the sunroof opening to reduce sun from beating in, very similar to the MINI's shade.

The stick shift feels great. Not a short snickety throw though. I would say a normal throw very similar to the MINI.

The steering wheel was thick and felt substantial. Great wheel.

The rear trunk lid release is nice but once the hatch is up there is only a small strap to pull the rear hatch back down. An indent on the inside of the trunk lid which you could grasp to pull the hatch down would have been preferable.

The doors closed with a great thud. Felt very good.

Getting in and out is very easy.

No literature was available except for a small flip booklet which shows the three cars in the various colors offered. No specs listed.

There are red brake calipers on the sport model.

The Bose stereo system has round tweeters up near both A-pillars and what is probably a bass speaker in the rear cargo area.

All cars I believe had a rear window wiper which may or may not be standard.
(it is standard-Chris)

That's all I can think of. I came away very impressed but I'm frankly struggling with the Prima decision because the Abarth is, in many ways, a more appealing package IMO that will be here in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps as more info becomes available on the Prima (hopefully tomorrow) it will help me make up my mind.

Continued success with the site!


Source: With thanks to a fan of this site


C.C. said...

Very thorough. I got better answers than that but I have a feeling they were not correct. lol I was told they were actuall NA production cars but have since noticed some were 5 sp manual and some 6. The headrest in the back seat I felt was not hard plastic it was like a heavy foam but was def squishy. Your pics are awesome! I was stuck taking pics with my phone.

Laura in New England said...

Thanks so much to your reader for this report! Now, if only we could get a sneak peek here on the East Coast...

Anonymous said...

Fiat USA desk at chrysler HQ told me today that abarth would be launched about six months after bev according to the following schedule;
Fiat 500... early 2010
Fiat 500C... late 2010
Fiat 500 BEV... early 2011
Fiat 500 abarth SS... late 2011