Arriving in Turin this week, the less car-minded visitor could have been forgiven for believing there was a major Hollywood premiere in town. But despite the colossal size of the festivities being set up all over the city the star of the show was the decidedly pint sized new Fiat 500.
Of course, despite its compact proportions it’s by no means a small car for Fiat, representing the beginning of a new era for the once stricken carmaker. The 500 may have been celebrating its 50th birthday on Tuesday, but for Fiat’s top brass there must have been a large sigh of relief to still be around as its iconic baby completed its half century.
The Italian carmaker is developing a reputation for extravagant events - the recent Grande Punto and Bravo launch evenings have been nothing less than over the top - but as I took my seat beside the river Po, staring at the huge stadium lights and floating stage and surrounded by 250,000 revellers, there was no doubt that they were aiming for something even bigger this time.
What followed was the most spectacular display of music, dance, and lights I have ever seen, mixed with awe-inspiring fireworks displays that left my ears ringing for an hour or so afterwards. No expense spared, and a clear and very extravagant message that Fiat was back on form, and glad to be there.
The car takes centre stage
Just two examples of the theatrics that accompanied the launch
I was lucky enough to spend two and a half hours with the new 500 the following day, and while I’m going to reserve my full judgement for the pages of a future issue of AM I think it’s fair to say Fiat are onto a winner with this car. It looks great, it’s fun to drive, well built and you get bucket loads of all-round driving pleasure for a very attractive price. Something this desirable and attainable is a monumental achievement, and if this is the shape of Fiat’s future I can’t see their recent run of good fortune changing.
Image gallery - click on the thumbnails to enlarge