2014 Fiat 500 1957 Edition Review: The fun, fabulous ’50s are back!

Fiat 500 LeadA

October 1957 was an extremely busy month in the United States, with lots of big news being made. On the 4th, the Soviet Union sent Sputnik into orbit, launching the Space Age. On the 8th, the Dodgers confirmed that they were leaving Brooklyn and heading to Los Angeles, and on the 30th, a Buzzardette was being born in Queen of Angels Hospital in Hollywood, California. If those weren’t enough, Leave it to Beaver premiered on televisions across the country, and The Everly Brothers were trying to Wake Up Little Susie on the radio. Just a few months earlier, however, on July 4th, another milestone occurred across the sea: the birth of the Fiat Nuova Cinquecento (500), the first city car designed to be both attainable and adorable for post-war Italians who needed transportation.

Let's take our new 1957 Fiat Nuova to the shore for an afternoon of fun!

Let’s take our  1957 Fiat Nuova to the shore for an afternoon of fun!

Fast forward 57 years. The Fiat 500 is in the U.S. and thriving, and the two original objectives of the 500 — to be both attainable and adorable — are alive and well. Fiat felt what better way to celebrate a successful run of 57 years than to bring to market the 2014 Fiat 500 1957 Edition.

Before we move forward, we need to step back and look at the Cinquecento’s history. The Fiat Nuova 500 was designed to restart Fiat after World War II, and to provide Italians with a way to move around without having to spend molti lira to do it. The Nuova featured seating for due persone (two in front and a rear bench), but eventually evolved into a four-seater.

As far as size, the rear-drive Nuova 500 was 116 inches long, 52 inches wide, and 52 inches tall. The wheelbase was 72.5 inches, and it weighed 1,036 pounds unladen. Basically the same size as a Great Dane (the dog, not a large Danish person). Motive force came from a rear-mounted two-cylinder gas engine that made an abundant 13 horsepower. The Nuova 500 featured a four-speed transmission, independent suspension all around, and a 4.4-gallon fuel tank located in front, as there wasn’t anywhere else to put it.

The wheels are a throwback to the early model, which had no hubcaps but pressed metal wheels painted a light color.

The wheels are a throwback to the early model, which had no hubcaps but pressed metal wheels painted a light color.

The 1957 model featured painted pressed metal wheels without hubcaps, and a fold-back canvas room that had a transparent plastic rear window. Light touches of chrome, recessed headlamps, and rear-hinged doors were design elements that actually helped the Nuova win an award for industrial design in 1959, if you can believe that.

Here's an ad that talk about the new city car. For those who don't read Italian, the key ideas here are that Fiat realized the need for a small, utilitarian car to forward social and economic progress in post-WWII Italy. And that it's a two-seater, but with room in back. It's modern and really embodies all that is the famous Fiat name.

Here’s an ad that talk about the new city car. For those who don’t read Italian, the key ideas here are that Fiat realized the need for a small, utilitarian car to forward social and economic progress in post-WWII Italy. And that it’s a two-seater, but with room in back. It’s modern and really embodies all that is the famous Fiat name.

The 1957 Nuova 500 didn’t exactly win over Italian hearts immediately. Customers didn’t like the basic look and feel, and wanted more seating. They also thought it was a step down from the 600 model it replaced. So Fiat made some changes just three months after its launch in order to make the little car more appealing to buyers. While the changes were minor (bump in horsepower to 15, seating for four, more equipment, and a better price), it was enough of a difference to win their cash. (For a humorous look at the Nuevo 500 advertising, check out this video here.)

The 1957 Edition comes in three colors: Bianco, or White, Celeste, which is a light blue, or Verde Chiaro, a light green as seen here.

The 1957 Edition comes in three colors: Bianco, or White, Celeste, which is a light blue, or Verde Chiaro, a light green as seen here.

Now, 57 years later, the 1957 Special Edition’s looks are quite reminiscent of the original Nuova. It is available in three colors: Bianco, Celeste and Verde Chiaro (white, light blue, and light green). While the exterior of the 1957 Edition is the same as the Fiat 500 Lounge edition, retro touches such as the 16-inch wheels with body-color inserts, wide chrome lip, throwback badging, and two-tone look with a white roof on the blue and green versions really make it look as if it stepped out of the 1957 time capsule.

Once you get used to the close space, the 1957 actually provides decent comfort for extended trips.

Once you get used to the close space, the 1957  provides decent comfort for extended trips.

Inside, the 1957 Edition offers a pleasant surprise: two-tone leather seats and trim in Avorio and Marrone, or white and brown when translated. It delivers an upscale feel that is unexpected in a vehicle that’s priced at $21,900 out the door. The breakdown is $18,500 for the Lounge model, and $1,900 for the 1957 Edition (Customer Preferred Package 21F). Even the steering wheel is leather wrapped and hand stitched, showing off leather work as only the Italians can craft. The dash panels are a gloss white that really set off the interior leather colors nicely. For an additional $700, the Premium Group offered heated front seats, rear park assist, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a good value for features everyone will want. Even the keyfob features the heritage look and its own 1957 identification. Nicely done, Fiat.

The interior of the 1957 Edition looks great, with two-tone Avorio and Marrone (white and brown) seats and accents.

The interior of the 1957 Edition looks great, with two-tone Avorio and Marrone (white and brown) seats and accents.

Other features inside include what’s found on the Lounge trim for regular 500s, including AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio, USB port in the glovebox area, automatic air conditioning, armrests, steering wheel audio controls, dual cupholders, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.