2016 Fiat 500 1957 Edition
The 1957 Edition of the Fiat 500 is even more retro than retro, yet hardly retrograde.
The 1957 Edition is the be-all and end-all of retro, and I couldn’t help falling head over heals for this lovely little powder blue modern-day classic. Celeste Blu (light blue) isn’t the only color, though; it’s also available in pastel Verde Chiaro (light green) and Latte Menta (milky mint green), while the interior is finished in Avorio (ivory) and Retro Marrone (brown) for the seats and trim. Typical of the era, ivory covers much of the steering wheel, although it’s now wrapped in leather, while this model gets a brown leather insert to spiff it up a bit. The gearshift knob is finished in chrome, whereas the boot is brown leather. Most of the instrument panel is ivory, while attractive ivory door inserts surround brown leather-wrapped door armrests; the same brown leather used for the individual seat-mounted flip-down inner armrests. Lastly, brown leather seat upholstery gets ivory stitching to match the ivory headrests for a look that’s 100-percent classic.
The exterior, incidentally, gets classic “FIAT” badging, some nice chrome detailing up front, in back and on the near-solid alloy rims, these painted body-color or Bianco (white) with chromed hubcaps sporting big Fiat logos as well, while the side mirror housings and rooftop get standard bianco paint.
At $20,600 plus freight and dealer fees, which is $3,755 more than the $16,845 base Pop model and just $1,900 more than the 500 Lounge that it sits above in pecking order, the 1957 Edition represents a lot of style for the money, while along with all of its eyeball grabbing idiosyncrasies it comes with a few more features than that already well-equipped version just below. For instance, those unique wheels are 16 inches in diameter instead of 15 and wrapped in sportier 195/45R16 rubber, and the front seatbacks get map pockets, while Fiat even finishes the car’s switchblade-style key fob with unique brown coloring and a “1957” graphic.
Along with these special details the 1957 Edition gets almost everything the Lounge-trimmed version receives including fog lamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, a seven-inch customizable high-resolution color multi-information display within the large single-dial primary instrument cluster, automatic single-zone HVAC, satellite radio, rear parking sonar, a security alarm and more, while items pulled up from base Pop trim include bifunctional halogen projector headlamps, powered side mirrors, powered windows, remote powered locks, a tilt steering column, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, USB and aux inputs, 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks, a rear cargo shelf, tire pressure monitoring, four-wheel discs with ABS, and all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver’s knee blocker airbag (it gets a 4-star NHTSA crash rating, by the way, with 5 stars for side-impact safety).
The leather-wrapped steering wheel looks and feels great, and there’s no shortage of ivory plastic. If your take on automotive luxury requires soft-touch surfaces you’ll be pleased with the nicely padded leather armrests, but other than the leather shifter boot and fabulous leather seats (which are incredibly comfortable and very supportive), there’s not a trace of pliable plastic anywhere. Personally, I don’t care one iota as the original Nuova was about as spartan as four-wheeled appliances came.
Then again the 500’s primary instrument display is a cut above anything else in this class. The single circular cluster features a gorgeous TFT display at center, a large digital speedometer readout being the default graphic other than the back end of a nicely animated 500 that acts as more of a distraction than anything helpful (but I like it), while the tachometer is a racing graph-style digital gauge to the left and the regular speedometer (if you can call it that) an identically digitized strip numbered from 0 to 100 opposite the tach on the right. A narrow temperature gauge sits just right of the tachometer next to the inner chrome ring, whereas the opposite right side is filled with an equally small fuel gauge. It’s a visual delight that I’m sure most will like.
The center dash-mounted infotainment system is small at five inches and simple, including relatively good graphics and the BeatsAudio system is very good. The excellent TomTom navigation system was also optional and priced at $700 on its own or $1,800 when bundled with the sunroof, but the ability to hook up your phone and feed media via Bluetooth is standard. The single-zone auto HVAC system was easy to figure out, while the seat heaters warmed up more than adequately despite being one-temperature on and off.
OK, the rear seats are pretty small, but that should be expected in a city car. They’re certainly more accommodating than those in a Scion iQ (RIP) or the lack of any at all in a Smart ForTwo, but they’re best kept for smaller adults and kids. This said even the smaller set can find the protruding headrests uncomfortable, so I simply remove them when required.
The little 500 certainly put a smile on my face every time I get behind the wheel, especially with the five-speed manual gearbox—after all, there’s only 101 horsepower going down to the front wheels (88 more than the original ’57). Still, it’s one of the lightest cars on today’s roads so it’s even spirited with its optional six-speed automatic, albeit all 98 lb-ft of torque is needed with Sport mode engaged to make the most of it. You’ll want to turn Sport mode off and apply the throttle more gently if you want to achieve the car’s EPA fuel economy rating, however, but once you do you should be pleased with 31 mpg city, 40 highway and 34 combined as-tested, or 27, 34 and 30 with the automatic.
The wee little 1.4-liter four pulls well from the nether regions, but it really loves to rev, and when you get it up into the spin cycle it produces a nice high tenor ring, and the resulting acceleration feels quicker than it probably is thanks to its diminutive size. The 500 loves to be flung into corners, while it remains stable and steady even at high speeds, inspiring much more confidence than you’d expect in a small and somewhat tall car.
This modern-day classic immediately pulls eyeballs from passersby and leaves most of them pointing and grinning, as if it’s a magnet for positive energy, while I found myself smiling most of the time anyway, whether reacting to onlookers or just motoring around on my own; it’s such a fun car to live with. How do you put a price on that? Fiat has, of course, but the 500 1957 Edition’s overall value seems much greater.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press