Let’s face it, the re-entry of Fiat into the American marketplace in the wake of the Italian company’s post-bankruptcy absorption of Chrysler has not gone as well as CEO Sergio Marchionne had hoped. The diminutive 500 never reached the sales targets expected of it and the larger 500L MPV did even worse. We still have some months to wait before the Miata-derived 124 roadster hits the streets but there is one other Fiat entry that may yet have the potential to be a breakout hit, subcompact crossover 500X.
In general, I like small cars with surprisingly powerful engines and bigger than normal tires and brakes. Mini Coopers, Fiesta STs and GTIs all tend to be a hoot to drive even at less than insane speeds. Chrysler has some good and not so good history in the segment with the old Neon SRT4 and the Caliber SRT4. Now that the team at Auburn Hills are part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they are offering up the Fiat 500 Abarth. Where will it fall on the spectrum?
At the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we got the first concrete results of the commitment that Sergio Marchionne made back in 2009 in exchange for getting a controlling interest in Chrysler. Dodge rolled out the Dart compact sedan, the first new product based on a Fiat platform. Unlike the ungainly, outgoing Caliber hatchback, the Dart was a four-door sedan that looked vaguely like a blend of the late lamented Neon and the recently refreshed Charger.