Abstract trilogy

There was this series of movies called Star Wars – you may have heard of it. The series consisted of two trilogies describing the role of spaceships and glow-in-the-dark swords in the life of a man who buys a black suit to mark his mid-life crisis. Or something like that.

My Fića, however, is not a spaceship, but it does have a trilogy of its own – and just like Episode I, it at first appears to have nothing to do with the main story and the rest of the parts.

Part I
The new 2012 Fiat 500 has arrived! It's the successor to the original 500 like the new Beetle is the successor to the original KDF-Wagen. The Fića (Fiat 600) was the 500's bigger brother, although they both shared the same mission: small, inexpensive transportation for four. As such, the new 500 is effectively the spiritual successor to both.

Truth be told, the new 500 isn't that new, having been around in Europe since 2007; however, decision-makers have now decided that North Americans are ready for the Italian icon, which is being sold via Chrysler dealers as we speak. Fiat bought the Chrysler group two years ago.

"Selling" is exactly what they are doing, as the particular dealer I visited found new homes for ten of them in the first two-and-a-half days!

The aforementioned decision-makers also decided on something else, as told by an enthusiastic salesman: Fiat does not allow dealers to put the 500 in the same showroom as any Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep products, nor does it allow their logos to be placed on the same panel. As such, some lot space will be soon sacrificed for an additional showroom for 500's exclusively.

Although, considering the price, exclusive the cars are not, despite the current dealer markup... The car starts at fifteen thousand dollars for a basic Pop model (at left), and tops out at about twenty-three for a fully-equipped Sport (at top) or Lounge. The features have their own take on exclusivity, as projector headlamps, a leather steering wheel, the most powerful engine offered in all the world's Cinquecentos, and all the airbags come standard on every model for this market.

The interior materials are also quite good – even excellent – given both its starting price and what other 'fifteen-grand vehicles' brandish. It's worth noting that they don't leave such a spectacular impression when your new 500 and its options list end up convincing you to liberate eight thousand dollars more than that. The seats in the Sport, however, are better than many cars with more ambitious price tags.

Further time spent in the interior – besides helping the 'new car haze' abandon your eyes – reveals something more distracting: the steering wheel.

Simply put, it's very reminiscent of the corporate ones seen in almost all of Fiat's other models, in both aesthetics and size.

The issue with this is two-fold: it detracts from the 500's uniqueness – and ultimately, it's retro-factor – and it looks like it doesn't belong in the car. It's more an afterthought that stares you right in the face every day than an always-visible detail that builds the 500's retro character.

Ironically enough, this is something that a car with much less 'retro credentials' does very well: Chrysler's own discontinued PT Cruiser. The PT's wheel was huge, something appropriate for the new 500, given that the old one also flaunted a gigantic tiller. It was also styled like a classic 'automotive roulette,' with thin round spokes and a modest center.

This combination was a successful attempt to combine a fifty-year-old tiller with an airbag module, a combination that Fiat should have emulated better – in turn further boosting the new car's character. Such a wheel would also help you not notice that the wheel doesn't telescope.

So, what does the new 500 have to do with my forty-year-older Fića? Despite the age difference, the new 500 has, with no exaggeration at all, about the same useable passenger space as the Fića. You have similar headroom, similar back-seat space, and only a bit more elbow room and front leg room. It's more, but not nearly as much as forty years would imply...

Not only do you not sacrifice any room with the original, but it has more character to boot.

Part II
One particular day a few short weeks ago, the ignition in my Fića decided to start ignoring me. That day, I was performing the ancient ritual of starting the car up and letting it run. After I satisfied the classic car gods with that day's offering, they communicated to me that I should start the car again.

Something I proceeded to do, but the car did not.

Specifically, despite a successful start only an hour prior, turning the key amounted to nothing more than if one was to turn the key in the air.

Best-case-scenario: a contact let go. Worst-case-scenario: the whole ignition has to be replaced.

Part III
Residential renovation usually takes priority over most everything else. Seeing as we are making one of those happen in our new house, the unveiling of the Fića becomes delayed. The car's veil cannot be lifted while the respective venue is a work-in-progress.

The fact that getting the Fića ready to drive might have just got more expensive – as described in the previous part – is another brick wall erroneously placed on the road to an eye-to-headlight with my perpetually elusive four-wheeled conveyance.

As anxious as the readers are to see the car, the author is more anxious to show it to them!

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