The Fiat Cinquecento was a city car that was initially designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and was launched in the winter of 1991, effectively replacing the Fiat 126. This vehicle was the first Fiat model to be manufactured only in the FSM plant which was located in Tychy, Poland. The Cinquecento could only be purchased in one body style, and its small angular 3-door hatchback design was efficient yet not the most attractive thing available to consumers at the time. There were a few things that set this city car apart from some of the others in this time period though, such as its independent suspension in both the front and rear.
This car was particularly popular in Italy, though it did enjoy massive success in other countries throughout Europe, including Poland. Despite the low manufacturing costs, the Cinquecento was a very efficient and innovative car, especially for its time. Some of the different safety equipment this car had include side impact bars as well as crumple zones, making it a very safe vehicle to drive and very popular with people who had families. This car’s appearance in the famous movie “The Inbetweeners” definitely helped its sales, launching it to a level of success that nobody had anticipated.
The steering for this car was rack and pinion, and while power steering was never an option with it, there were many other features that were optional, including the power windows, central locking, air conditioning, and a sunroof (either full length or retractable canvas roof). One of the things that set this car apart from the 126 model was the fact that it was front-wheel drive. The 126 came with a rear-mounted engine, but the Cinquecento had a front-mounted one.
In 1994 the Cinquecento Sporting was released on to the market and it featured a 1108 cc SOHC Fire 54 PS engine which was capable of 53 horsepower. There were a few differences between the original vehicle and this one, including the riding height which had been lowered significantly as well as anti-roll bars and 13” allow wheels. The interior of the car also changed with the addition of a tachometer as well as sport seats and a leather steering wheel. The Sporting Model eventually lead to the creation of the Group A Kit-Car version.
In 1992 Fiat manufactured and sold the Elettra, which was a variant of the Cinquecento with a similar design as well as common features, though there were plenty of differences as well. The Elettra uses two battery packs, one of which was located in the engine bay and the other which was under the seats in the back. This car cost a total of 140,000 francs and was fairly popular throughout Italy, Switzerland, and France. There were also a number of extras offered for the Cinquecento, though they were under the “Abarth” name and were purely cosmetic. Some of these options included a front apron complete with fitted fog lights, side skirts, and a rear spoiler that was fitted with a third brake light.
There were multiple concept cars that were based on the basic design of the Cinquecento, one of which had only half of the car’s interior. Although many of these cars were never actually manufactured or sold, it was definitely an important innovation in the automobile industry, the effects of which we can still see today. Giorgetto Giugaro, the man behind the design of this vehicle, was years ahead of his time and ultimately created a car that experienced widespread success throughout Europe. This car has appeared in popular culture numerous times over the years and is still viewed as a very important car in automobile history.