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What to Fix: Fiat Edition

© Illustrations by Ben Summerell-Youde/Fox Syndication - Car and Driver   We can't solve our own problems, so what makes us think we can fix an automaker's? Our armchair-product-development strategy opens with killing the homely 500L.

By John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver


The Problem

Fiat returned to the U.S. market in 2011 on the strength of the adorable 500. Things got off to an encouraging start, with sales surpassing 43,000 in 2012. Sales peaked at 46,121 units in 2014 and then rolled over into a nosedive. In 2018, Fiat's entire aging and unloved lineup—500, 500L, 500X, and 124 Spider—managed a meager 15,521 sales, fewer than the number of F-150s that Ford sells per week.

What to Fix: Fiat Edition

The Fix

It's Ave Maria time at Fiat. Our armchair-product-development strategy opens with killing the homely 500L and then looking into the little red light on this here neuralyzer and [blinding flash]. In the mid-'60s, Fiat introduced the simple, affordable, rear-drive 124 sedan (which then spawned the original 124 Spider). Start by building a modern version of that car on the Mazda-based bones of the current Spider. It would return to Fiat's roots by being a poor man's BMW 3-series—rugged, affordable, fun to drive, and designed to give buyers the same "Damn, I look good" confidence that comes from wearing Italian leather loafers.

© Car and Driver   What to Fix: Fiat Edition

While enthusiasts may want the sedan, we recognize the market's needs and would also have Fiat build two strong sellers off the new platform: a compact crossover and a pint-size off-roader that would bring back the Campagnola name (the Campagnola was Fiat's postwar answer to the Jeep CJ). A longitudinal engine will provide the right proportions, a premium feel, and balanced handling. Optional all-wheel drive will ensure more sales. For the sedan and crossover, think rear-drive Mazda 3 and Kia Soul from Italy. The Campagnola would be a unibody Wrangler rendered in seven-eighths scale.

© Car and Driver   What to Fix: Fiat Edition

All versions would get a snorty but reliable and unstressed 175-hp 2.0-liter four backed by a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. High-performance Abarth, hybrid, and electric versions could hit later. Keep the tech straightforward and overbuild it so it's reliable. With starting prices under $25,000 and an upper limit in the low $30,000s, these Fiats would be useful, sporty, and just the right amount of offbeat. After all, who doesn't want the romance of an Italian vacation in their garage?



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