The Fiat Seicento is a city car produced by the Italian company Fiat, introduced in late 1997 as a replacement for the Fiat Cinquecento. The Seicento did not differ much from its predecessor, retaining the same engines, chassis and general dimensions, although it did gain a minor 9 cm in length (total length of 3.34 m). The design was similar too, in which the Seicento kept the same 3-door hatchback body, instead of the 5-door mini MPV look seen on many Korean city cars. Like its predecessors, the Cinquecento and Polski Fiat 126, the Seicento is built in Fiat’s factory in Bielsko-Biala, Poland. From 1998 to April 2004, 1.1 million examples of the Seicento had been produced.
The Seicento name was intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fiat 600, Seicento being the Italian word for this number.
In EuroNCAP crash tests, the Fiat Seicento was only awarded a 1.5 star rating, and fractionally beat the worst contenders in the history of EuroNCAP, namely the Rover 100 and the original Chrysler Voyager MPV . This is not so surprising, as the car has an extremely short front-end and keeps many components from its predecessor, originally conceived in 1991.
In comparison, another small car, the Smart Fortwo (which has a shorter front end), earned three stars in the crash test.
Fiat Seicento Sporting with optional full length electric canvas hood.
At launch, the Seicento was available with three trim levels; a basic ‘S’ with black bumpers and spartan equipment and initially the 899 cc engine; an ‘SX’ model, a slight upgrade over the ‘S’ with colour coded bumpers, electric windows, central locking and a sunroof – which was also available as a ‘Citymatic’ with a clutchless manual gearchange – and a ‘Sporting‘ with the larger FIRE engine mated to a close-ratio gearbox, and anti-roll bars added. Cosmetically, this version gained 14″ alloy wheels, sports seats and bodykit with optional Abarth 14″ wheels and side skirts also available.
In 1999, the FIRE engine was used in the special ‘Suite’ version, which came with air-conditioning. A special edition ‘Soleil’ model was available in some markets, which was based on the ‘SX’ model but came with a full-length electrically-folding fabric roof.
After the 2001 update, all cars were given clear indicator lenses, with the Sporting model getting a restyled bodykit. Cars built from this period also come with an anti-lock braking system. A ‘Michael Schumacher’ edition of the Sporting, with the Abarth styling kit, was also launched at this time to celebrate the Ferrari driver’s Formula 1 success.
In 2004 the model was withdrawn from the UK market and production of right hand drive models ceased. The left hand drive model was facelifted gaining a new shape of wheel rims and the introduction of the new Fiat logo in the rear.
Then, in 2005 the name seicento was replaced by 500 (in occasion of the 50 anniversary of the glorious first edition, in 1955) together with some changes in the front and in versions dotations: now the name Fiat is written on the seats. The new versions now are named “Class” and “50 annivesary”, thus reminding the strict relationship between this model and the previous one.
The Seicento is available with two engines: the old 899 cc OHV (29 kW / 40 hp) engine used in early base S and SX models (which was removed from West European markets due to emissions regulations), and the 1108 cc FIRE (40 kW / 54 hp and used in the Sporting version since launch), was fitted universally with multi-point fuel injection from 2001, replacing the old pushrod units. There was also a version with an electric engine (30 kW / 41 hp).
German tuner Novitec created a special edition of the Fiat Seicento, adding a turbocharger and six-speed gearbox to the little car. The German tuner is able to extract 101 hp (74 kW) from the 1242 cc FIRE engine.
No official replacement plans are known at the moment. The Seicento will continue to be produced alongside the Fiat Nuova 500, which was officially presented to the press in July 2007.