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by Tim Beissmann

The 2012 Fiat 500 is now on sale in Australia, offering a new, highly efficient two-cylinder petrol engine, a sporty exterior styling package and lower prices across the range.

The entry-level Fiat 500 five-speed manual hatch is now priced from $22,990 before on-road costs, making it $2000 cheaper than the 1.4-litre model it replaces. The five-speed semi-automatic Dualogic transmission is also $2000 cheaper, now priced from $24,990.

The Fiat 500C soft-top is $3000 less than before, starting at $25,990 for the manual and $27,990 for the auto.

 

The new TwinAir engine has a capacity of 875cc (0.875 litres), making it little more than half the size of the old powerplant. Power is down from 74kW to 63kW, although torque has increased from 131Nm to 145Nm. It may be half a second slower from 0-100km/h (11.0 seconds vs 10.5), but the improved fuel efficiency more than makes up for the drop in pace.

Automatic models use just 3.9 litres of fuel per 100km – a figure that matches the Toyota Prius and makes the Fiat 500 the most efficient non-hybrid petrol-powered car in the country. The manual model is almost as sharp at 4.0L/100km combined.

 

Standard features include 16-inch black matt alloy wheels, fog lights, climate control, leather gear knob and steering wheel with audio controls, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, USB port and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

The ANCAP-rated five-star safety package includes electronic stability control, hill holder, ABS with EBD and seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee).

Fiat Australia sold 299 Bambinos last year, down from 344 in 2010. The sales dip can be accounted for by the introduction of the high-performance Fiat-based Abarth 500 Esseesse, however, which achieved 233 sales in its first year down under.

2012 Fiat 500 manufacturer’s list prices (excluding government and dealer charges):

  • 500 manual – $22,990
  • 500 automatic – $24,990
  • 500C manual – $25,990
  • 500C automatic – $27,990

 

Options:

  • Leather upholstery – $1450
  • Sunroof (hatch only) – $1950
  • Metallic/pastel paint – $850
  • Pearlescent paint – $1450

Note: UK-spec 500C pictured