Mark Phelan, of the Detroit Free Press, welcomes the return of Italian Automaker FIAT, to America!



I want to sing along with Dean Martin.  “Volare,” “Arrivederci Roma,” “Mambo Italiano,” “That’s Amore.”

I’m feeling it.  I’m awash with Italian romance, besotted by the FIAT 500, ready to toss three coins in the fountain and hurry back to Sorrento.

The little 500 borrows its name from a string of historic small FIATS that date to 1936, but the 2012 model that just went on sale is strictly 21st century.  It has the latest electronic, voice-recognition, safety and engine technology.

Prices for the 2012 FIAT 500 start at $15,500.  All 500s come with a 101 horsepower 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine that features MultiAir, FIAT’s award-winning valve-timing system that boasts power and reduces fuel consumption.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard.  Stepping up to a six-speed automatic raises the base price to $16,500. I tested a well-equipped FIAT 500 Sport with the manual transmission, a power sunroof, Bose sound system and other features.  It stickered at $19,400.  All prices exclude destination charges.

The FIAT 500 competes with small cars like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper and Smart Fortwo. The 500 is smaller than the Fiesta, Fit and Mini, but it offers loads of space for two and the ability to carry four when absolutely necessary.

The 500’s voice-recognition system to control phones, iPods, etc., is terrific.  Fiat developed it with Microsoft, as Ford did with its equally excellent Sync system.  Fiat had Blue & Me on the road in Europe a couple of years before Sync debuted in America.  The 500 is the first car with Blue & Me in America, but you can expect to see it on every Fiat and Alfa, and probably future Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models.

The light and maneuverable 500 rewards enthusiastic driving.  I got more Italian with every minute behind the wheel, revving the engine to the redline, shifting fast and frequently, passing with abandon and slipping into gaps in traffic that were as thin as a lira.

I’m smitten.  I drove the 500 down the street with a cloud at my feet.  That’s amore, Dino.

by Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press


3 thoughts on “Mark Phelan, of the Detroit Free Press, welcomes the return of Italian Automaker FIAT, to America!

  1. I love the style of the car and the six speed auto transmission
    For the money I don’t think there is a better car!

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