Repeat after me; the Fiat 500 is the next Mini Cooper. Also known as the "cinquecento" (Italian for 500), this little go-getter of a car has been stealing hearts of Europeans since 2007, and is poised to storm American shores thanks to Fiat's purchase of a minority stake in Chrysler last year. A combustion version will be arriving later in 2010, while an EV electric version was announced last week and is due in 2012.
Tiny and full of character much like its successful retro competitors from VW (Beetle) and BMW (Mini), the new Fiat is a huge hit in Europe, where all 58,000 of its initial production run sold out within three weeks - largely in Italy of course. Compared to the hugely successful Mini, the Fiat 500 is six inches shorter, two inches narrower but with only around 20 fewer horsepower the gas engine version should get up and go much like a stock Cooper.
And where Mini has been testing an electric version that uses up the car's back seats for batteries, Fiat's announcement of an electric version (seen here rendered in gray) will hopefully be something easier to live with, but could easily also be a two-seater. “The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology," said Scott Kunselman, Senior Vice President Engineering—Chrysler Group LLC.
No word on pricing yet, although Chrysler says it will be "competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market." Of course the Nissan Leaf is as of right now the only car that fits that bill, but we get their drift. And they'll have Chevy Volt sales figures to mull over as they decide on pricing. Meanwhile we can all look forward to the gas version of the 500 coming later this year - hopefully without the waiting lists that the Mini inspired when it debuted.