Chicago LIVE: Fiat 500 goes all-turbo for 2018

NA 500s are toast.

Fiat is looking to liven up its staple hatchback with an all-turbocharged lineup for 2018, the company announced in Chicago this week. The change comes along with some other performance upgrades and aesthetic updates.

Gone is the old, 101-horsepower base engine. The 135-horsepower 1.4L MultiAir turbo becomes the standard engine across the lineup (with the exception of the Abarth, of course, which gets more power). The existing Pop, Lounge and Abarth trims remain, as does the availability of a five-speed manual transmission. The six-speed automatic remains as an upgrade.

Pop and Lounge models now come standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and a rear-view camera. The Abarth model remains relatively unchanged, but all three models benefit from exterior updates.

The changes will not only breathe a little life into Fiat's struggling subcompact, but will also help position the 500 as a more legitimate MINI competitor. MINI ditched its naturally aspirated engine with the Cooper's redesign, and even base cars have always boasted a sportier, more enthusiast-oriented ride. The Abarth is still down on power compared to the Cooper S, but at least the base models are now more competitive.

The 500 has soldiered on relatively unchanged since it debuted here for 2011. The U.S. model benefited from updates that were made to the global Fiat Panda just before its debut, but that does little to address the fact that it's now entering its eighth model year with no replacement in sight (and that situation is more dire overseas, where it had already been in production for nearly five years before it was exported Stateside).

Live photos by Brian Williams.

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