Photo by Malene Raith "How is ... nah, hey, ops?" I am so hypnotized by the many new cars that, one by one, drive by and up the ramp toward the roof, that I completely forget, to enter one myself. Luckily, there are still two more fine pieces of automobiles left. Racing against a Latvian motor journalist, I go for the one that happens to match my dress, jump behind the wheel and head for the ramp.
I'm in Turin, Italy, the city where Fiat has its headquarters, and they have invited me to test drive their new updated Fiat 500. The update, or facelift if you will, I will return to, first a little about the historical place where I’m located: at the building with the, for car entusiasts, famous top: Lingotto Rooftop Test Track. The huge Lingotto building is a former Fiat factory which began production in 1923. At that time, according to Wikipedia, it was the world's largest car plant, which was impressive with its modern and avant-garde style. The cars started their life cicle at the bottom of the plant where the heavy parts such as chassis and engine was put on. As the carriages moved up through the building, they got more and more lighter parts on in order to end up assembled on the roof with a closing test drive in the designated lane. Over 80 different car models have been built here over the years before the plant was outdated and finally closed in 1982.
Today the Lingotto factory houses a large shopping mall in addition to a hotel in the old warehouse building next door. Fortunately, the old test track on the roof is still more or less intact. And I am very honored to be allowed to drive the new Fiat 500 up the ramp and all the way to the roof, to take a trip down the track (modern safety rules no longer allow you to drive around the track). "Less is more", or "new, but the same", Fiat calls the new update, and perhaps this explains why it can be difficult for the untrained eye to see the changes. But the new Fiat 500 has actually a new front design including a new chrome strip, a more transparent grill at the bottom with chrome dots and new LED lights that resemble the zero in 500. The rear has also been redesigned, most notably are the "hollow" taillights, where the color of the car is in the center, and as an extra touch the lights for reverse driving are integrated at the bottom of the taillights.
There are also new attractive wheels for Fiat 500, new colors, including a highly fashionable coral color, and it’s also possible to style the wagon with "Second Skin," in different factory-fitted designs. Inside, the updates are more apparent with new seats in new materials and designs, and the redesigned dashboard, has, in my opinion, become more sharp and retro in a cool manner. The steering wheel is now round as a circle and a 5" color screen infotainment system is placed in the middle of windshield. The air vents have been reversed, so that the fan blows air sideways instead of upwards. That makes me a mega fan, since I often get snotty with cold air blowing in my face, when the cabin is kept at 21 degrees and it's 32 outside (as it in fact was). The update is not revolutionary, everything is just a little more crisp, elegant and up-to-date.
I still sit high on a kind of throne (and it surprises me every time) behind the wheel, the small car is fresh and happy (the engines have become more efficient) and it is a pleasure to sneak through the morning traffic in Turin with the special traffic rules (or lack thereof) that apply here. I love the sunshine peeping through the open canvas roof, but when it's 32 degrees in the morning, I quickly close it again and let the air conditioner do the work. "If you are going to tamper with An Italian Masterpiece (the Italians, you gotta love them – this is lifeblood), you’d better know what you are doing," explains the chief designer at the presentation. And he is right. The new Fiat 500 facelift has, according to Fiat, changed 1.900 components, but it still looks and feels pretty much like itself. Now just a tad more elegant, fresh and more contemporary. And it's no secret that the devil is in the detail.
See the changes in my little film from Italy here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B6yV5arCVM