What Is It?
The 2015 FIAT 500 is an updated version of the tiny, subcompact FIAT 500 that first went on sale in the U.S. for the 2012 model year. But since the car isn't due for a full redesign, updates are fairly minor. In fact, they're limited to some new features and a new transmission for the high-performance 500 Abarth.
The biggest news is that new transmission for the Abarth. While last year's standard 5-speed manual is still available, FIAT is also adding an optional 6-speed automatic. FIAT says the new transmission will open up the Abarth to a whole new customer base, and we happen to agree, though we'd still opt for the slick-shifting manual. According to FIAT, the new transmission will be included on both hatchback and soft-top 500C convertible models.
Beyond the new transmission, the 500 is also adding some new interior technology. The car's gauge cluster is gaining a 7-inch, thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen, which will provide information such as speed, fuel economy and other data. There's also newly available Bluetooth streaming audio, a new USB port and an extra cupholder in the center console.
FIAT hasn't announced pricing, but we wouldn't expect a huge increase over today's base price of around $17,000 with shipping.
When Can You Get It?
Add It to Your Shopping List Because...
If you were already interested in the 500, changes for 2015 are likely to make you want it even more. Bluetooth streaming audio is nice, as is the all-new TFT instrument cluster that replaces last year's unusual gauge pod. But we're especially excited that the 2015 FIAT 500 Abarth now offers an automatic transmission, since we suspect that the Abarth offers the ideal combination of performance and equipment for many drivers -- even ones who don't want to learn to drive a manual.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Fiesta -- If you're looking for a practical hatchback that offers an enjoyable driving experience, the Ford Fiesta should certainly be near the top of your list. Offered in several trim levels, base-level Fiesta models start around the same price as a base-level 500, and drivers who want even more power can upgrade to the sporty Fiesta ST.
MINI Cooper -- The compact MINI Cooper offers a larger interior and better driving dynamics than the 500, but it also costs far more, especially if you want the Abarth-rivaling Cooper S.
Volkswagen Beetle -- The newly redesigned Volkswagen Beetle offers an impressive array of high-end equipment to go along with its surprisingly upscale interior. And while it's more expensive than the 500, it also offers more power and a larger interior.