Most Asian rivals seem like punishment compared with the 500. Parallels with the MINI Cooper (a re-imagining of a former small car that symbolized an era in each home country’s culture) brings an inevitable comparison, but the MINI has more space and power for a higher price.

Whether American drivers like it or not, there will be a greater number of small cars on sale in the future as companies try to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets. The 500 will help Chrysler’s efforts. Fiat took the reins of this beleaguered domestic company in 2010, so perhaps the new 500 will do for Chrysler what the old one did for Italy.

2012 Fiat 500

Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

1.4-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve

Five-speed manual

MacPherson struts (f), twist beam (r)

Single-piston calipers, 10.1-in. rotors (f); single-piston, 9.4-in. rotors (r)

Length/Width/Height (in.):
Wheelbase: 90.6 in.
Curb Weight: 2,350 lb

MSRP: $15,500

Peak Power: 101 hp @ 6500 rpm
Peak Torque: 98 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-62 mph: 10 sec.
Top Speed: 106 mph

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