The FIAT 500 - the Quintessential Italian car

Posted on May 24 2018

Fiat 500 the quintessential Italian carThe Fiat 500, known in Italian as the Cinquecento, is possibly one of the most recognisable European car designs. Evolving throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, and then being resurrected for a new market in 2007, the Fiat 500 continues to be an extremely favoured design, synonymous with compact Italian style on an affordable budget. 


Fiat is Italy’s largest automobile manufacturer. Founded in 1899 in Turin, Fiat continue to be based in the area, with their headquarters remaining in the industrial city to this day. Fiat vehicles regularly rank as having the lowest CO2 emissions in Europe, and the brand continues to be beloved worldwide, in large part to its stylish and instantly-recognisable vehicles. Fiat are even known for their association with cremini chocolates: the ‘Il Cremino’, also known as the Fiat Cremino, was created in honour of the Fiat Tipo 4 in 1911. 


The Fiat 500 was designed by Dante Giacosa and launched in July 1957. Derived partly from the Fiat 500 Topolino (‘little mouse’ in English), the Fiat 500 was designed to expertly navigate the tight and narrow streets of Italy. Measuring at just over nine feet in length, it was quickly considered to be a true city car, and earned the nickname ‘the people’s car’ for its simple design, affordable price point and ability to take Italians through precarious city streets with fluid ease. The car also featured heavily in the classic film 'The Italian Job' starring Michael Cane.


The car went through eight different variations during its original 18-year period of manufacture. Its eye-catching rounded design, along with efficient fuel economy and low maintenance costs ensured continued popularity, however, the car wasn’t without difficulties. Earlier designs had rear-hinged doors, often known as suicide doors, infamous due to their lack of safety. These were replaced with front-hinging doors from the 1965 model onwards.  


Even after production ceased, it was not unusual to see multiple Fiat 500s scattered over Italian streets; the enduring popularity of the model no doubt led Fiat to bring it back in 2007, with a design that recalls the original 500 model from 50 years prior. The car continues to be an icon of the Italian automobile industry; 2017 saw a 60th anniversary celebration with an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The car also received a Corporate Art Award at a ceremony hosted by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella. 


The retro feel of the current incarnation is just one of the many reasons why the Fiat 500 is still spotted on so many European streets today: the attention to detail and economical features are just two more. Whatever the reason, it is no surprise that this compact, classic and charming vehicle continues to represent Italy’s renowned sense of style. 

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