The Fiats Are Coming, The Fiats Are Coming!!!

Say Hello to my little friend…The Fiat 500 (North America Model).

New Fiat 500 Sport (North American model)

If you’ve ever been to Cobo Center in Detroit and and parked on the roof then you’ll recognize the tube and buildings behind this Fiat 500 as part of the Detroit skyline.

New Fiat 500 Sport (North American model)

And this one looks like the tunnel under Cobo.

Though the real details are still a little sketchy, we can rest assured that sometime in the next six months or so we will begin seeing Fiat dealers and cars in the US.

Here’s what I found on Chrysler’s 2011 product information website:

The Fiat 500 Sport – Arriving Soon to America

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.

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-in. aluminum wheels with Mineral Gray painted pockets, the Cinquecento incorporates new bodyside 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 sunroof for an ultra-open view of the world. The Fiat 500 also will be available in the Pop and Lounge models with unique exterior cues and different equipment options.

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.

Watch out Ochocinco, here comes Cinquecento (pronounced cheen-kay-CHEN-toh in Italian)…

New Fiat 500 Sport (North American model)

This cute little car should give the Mini Cooper a run for its money.

Here is a Fiat overview for your reading pleasure:

The Fiat Brand Arrives into the U.S. with the Iconic Fiat Cinquecento

The Fiat brand is synonymous with modern, simple “Italian” design, and its models offer unique world-class technological solutions. The brand is known for the development of environmentally- friendly cars, and its wide product range in Europe includes agile city cars, compact and midsize vehicles, station wagons, and has been the source of many success stories such as the Fiat 500 (Cinquecento). For the last three years, Fiat was the lowest CO2 producer among Europe’s best-selling automotive brands, and the Fiat 1.4-liter MultiAir™ turbo engine was named “Best New Engine of the Year” in 2010.

The reintroduction of the Fiat brand in North America will be led by the modern generation of the Fiat 500, which will be available at the end of 2010 and followed by the Fiat 500C (cabrio) in 2011.

“The modern version of the Fiat 500 is the symbol of true Italian design and is a perfect expression of what the world expects of Italian cars,” said Laura Soave, Head of Fiat Brand North America. “The unique character of the Cinquecento, along with class-leading safety, fuel economy, quality and a focus to offer a unique experience to our customers, will help us to reestablish the Fiat brand in the North American market.”

The North American version of the Fiat 500 will be equipped with Fiat’s 1.4-liter, in-line four-cylinder Fully Integrated Robotized Engine (FIRE) featuring the MultiAir system. MultiAir is a sophisticated technology that delivers an increase in power up to 10 percent and a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions up to
10 percent when compared to similar engines. The Fiat 500 also will feature advanced technology intelligently adapted for the North American market.

Prima Edizione

In July, Fiat fans attending the Club Fiat-Lancia Unlimited annual convention in North Carolina were given the opportunity to place reservations and select their vehicle build number for the unique Fiat Cinquecento ‘Prima Edizione’ (First Edition) model.

“The Fiat Cinquecento Prima Edizione was developed especially with the Fiat fans in mind,” said Soave, who personally presented the opportunity to the Fiat club aficionados. “For over a quarter of a century, the members of this Club have kept the spirit of the Fiat and Lancia brands alive in North America through their unique and passionate support for true Italian design. We really value their loyalty, and the Prima Edizione is our gift of appreciation to these fans on behalf of Fiat North America.”

The Fiat 500 Prima Edizione will be exclusively available in three colors: Bianco (White), Rosso (Red) and Grigio (Gray). These limited-edition Fiat 500 models will be equipped with a manual transmission and will feature an exclusive Prima Edizione badge. Each of the 500 Prima Edizione vehicles will feature a sequential VIN and badge according to production order.

Worldwide Success

The modern generation of the Fiat 500 was launched on July 4, 2007, and since its introduction, it sold more than 500,000 units in more than 80 countries around the world.

This sales success and the model’s unquestionable popularity are the result of the Fiat 500’s ability to generate new versions. This was demonstrated by the debut of the Fiat 500C, the original cabriolet version of the Fiat 500 that pays homage to the 1957 soft-top but comes packed with advanced solutions in terms of quality, engines and passenger comfort.

In addition to success on the sales front, the Fiat 500 has already won 40 international awards, including being named the 2008 European Car of the Year and 2009 World Car Design of the Year. Also, the Fiat MultiAir technology was recognized as the “single most innovative engine technology” of 2010 by the International Engine of the Year Awards panel.

In the latest stage of its global growth, the Fiat 500 and 500C will be built in Toluca, Mexico, for distribution in the United States, Canada, Mexico and key markets in South America.

New Fiat 500 Sport (North American model)

Pricing should be announced soon, but don’t expect it before the 2011 North American International Auto Show.

For more info and lively commentary, check out the Fiat 500 USA blog (to which I have no affiliation).

Here is today’s retro review…a small car that died before its time. RIP Pontiac:

2003 Pontiac Vibe


The Coolest New Kid on the Block since the Cruiser

by James E. Bryson

Every once is a while, the advertising people get it right and produce ads that portray the realness of the product they are selling.

The ads for the Pontiac Vibe showed “real” people on the street that had just gotten a look at the new Vibe up close and personal. Their reactions varied from “That’s cool” to “What an awesome car!” And we wholeheartedly agree.

One of the first things you notice about the Vibe is its wagon-like appearance, not unlike the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Once you get past that, though, the Vibe stands on its own as a newly designed, totally hip people mover with style and panache.

This thing swoops and snarls and can carry you and three close friends and some great tailgating paraphernalia to a game or hiking gear out to the foothills that lead to your favorite trail. And if it’s just you and a close friend, there’s even more room to haul stuff.

The Vibe, at 54.1 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down, doesn’t have enough room as a Ford Escape (69.2 cu ft) or PT Cruiser (64.2cu ft) but that doesn’t matter because the Vibe is more stylish, has more aggressive styling than either and has a 12-volt outlet, for a blender or vacuum or whatever else you can plug in, on the center stack of the dashboard.

Like the PT Cruiser, the Vibe is more wagon than anything else. Unlike the Cruiser, the Vibe was designed as a modern vehicle through and through. Pontiac’s engineers took the basic shape portrayed by the underpinnings (which are shared with the Toyota Matrix) and gave us a rakish design that screams “I am Pontiac” with every curve of the plastic body cladding that, thankfully, will go by the wayside over the next few years thanks to GM “Product Czar” Bob Lutz.

Practicality is a top priority of the Vibe…and it’s one of the most practical vehicles around. We counted three cubbyholes in the center console alone, not taking the two in the armrest into consideration. And all this is from the first five minutes behind the wheel. The rest of the car was as organized…at least, if you like to be organized, it’ll help you out a lot.

What can we say about the look of the Vibe? It isn’t nearly as hideous as the Aztec; it’s downright attractive, really. The lines from the front wheel arches into the rear rise slightly giving the impression of a more rakish design than it really is; it almost looks like the rear glass isn’t as tall as the top of the windshield…a very cool design element. And it works very well. The Vibe looks fast in a boy-racerish sort of way. Think of it as “tasteful” cladding, if we can get a little existential.

The rear cargo area is outfitted with a track system to assist in tying down cargo with metal loops on the walls and floor to give you the ultimate flexibility. It’s more convenient than having a Chinese laundry and restaurant all in one…and that delivers.

Though the Vibe doesn’t have as much cargo space as a regular SUV, it does benefit from its low center of gravity. When you take a corner in the Vibe, it doesn’t tip like the taller SUVs do and you still get the benefit of a tall driving position, it’s truly the best of both worlds.

We had the Vibe during one of our many hot spells this summer and found that the air-conditioning system seemed to falter when we asked for more cold air. It may have been the extreme heat but we really expected more from the Vibe, or any modern vehicle.

The 130 horsepower four-cylinder had enough pep to feel sprightly but wasn’t overbearing, which wasn’t all that bad considering that we were looking good and could haul almost anything we needed to. Of course, we would have preferred the manual transmission to the four-speed automatic, but the transmission shifted cleanly and never felt like it was hunting for the right gear; it choose a gear and stuck with it.

On the braking front, we felt the brakes could have been more helpful in telling us exactly what they were doing. Like most corporate curmudgeons, communication and feedback were not a priority.

We enjoyed driving the Vibe around town and on the highway. The suspension kept most expansion joints quiet (the 200-watt stereo helped as well) and was adept at holding a line in fast corners. Again, the low center of gravity of this SUV made it feel like a smaller, shorter vehicle than what it really is.

On the safety front, the Vibe got five out of five stars on frontal impacts by the National Highway Traffic Administration. In addition to good crash-worthiness, the Vibe comes with dual front airbags and three-point belts for all three rear seat passengers.

Our Vibe came nicely equipped and was just shy of $20,000. The base price for the standard Vibe (There’s the Vibe and Vibe GT with a 180 horsepower engine) is $16,340 with the obligatory destination charge of $560. Our Vibe came optioned with the $1000 power package (power locks/with remote entry, power windows and cruise control); the $800 “Moon & Tunes” package (power moonroof and 200-watt premium stereo); automatic transmission ($800); and 16 inch aluminum wheels ($400). And somebody really liked us because we got $700 off the “Moon & Tunes” package on the sticker, bringing our grand total to $19,200.

Pontiac says the Vibe is a skillful blend of the best attributes of sports cars, sport wagons and SUVs. We think the Vibe is the best all-around car-van-wagon thing going and for the price, versatility and fun-to-drive factor, it can’t be beat.

Thanks for stopping by!!


Published by

James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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