Fiat has confirmed that it will unveil a “new” 500 hatch in July, although reports in the European press suggest we could instead see a facelift for the current model.
Describing a styling and technology update as a ‘new’ model is nothing unusual for marketing-savvy carmakers, but, with the current 500 now into its eighth year, an all-new replacement is indeed due.
According to the UK’s Autocar, however, the 500 hatch scheduled to be revealed on July 4 - the anniversary dates of both the original 1957 500 and the current model’s 2007 unveiling - will introduce nothing more than a light makeover.
For its part, Fiat has said it will not offer any details before the 2016 500’s debut.
If next month’s unveiling is revealed to be a facelift, we can likely expect to see re-shaped headlights inspired by the new 500X compact SUV, along with updates to the winged Fiat badge garnish and new bumpers at both ends.
We might see Fiat focus the bulk of its makeover budget on the 500’s interior, adding more soft-touch surfaces, new highlights and the 500X’s integrated dash-top infotainment display.
But, if an all-new model appears next month, it’s unlikely to stray far from the look of the current model, which saw the 500 badge appear on a new model for the first time since 1975.
The new 500X would again be likely to provide the main source of inspiration for a new 500 hatch, building on the styling that has made the tiny Fiat a design icon.
More interior space would also be likely, making the new 500 larger on the outside too.
The 500’s last round of updates came last year, when it was given a new digital instrument cluster, engine improvements and interior trim/technology changes.
Whether the 2016 model is all-new or an update is unlikely to faze buyers, with the current model still selling remarkably well for its age.
In Australia, the 500 range is sitting on 1111 year-to-date sales, making it the second most popular model in the ‘micro’ segment, behind the Mirage’s 3679 YTD sales.
The 500’s success is beginning to taper off, however, with current sales down on the 1204 achieved in the same period last year. Likewise, its 184 sales for May were down on the 236 recorded in May last year.
With new looks and the right pricing, a refreshed first-gen ‘nuovo 500’ may continue to impress, but an all-new model would likely do better.
Watch for the ‘new’ 500 to appear on July 4.