First Look: 2012 Fiat 500 Stinger

What’s small, yellow, and vaguely looks like a 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth? That would be the new 2012 Fiat 500 Mopar Stinger, which is available by way of two dealer-installed packages offered through Chrysler’s Mopar parts and service brand.

We know what you’re thinking: another sporty take on the 500? Fiat’s small North American portfolio already incorporates the 500 Sport, which adds some exterior flair, a stiffer suspension, and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Later this year, the new 2012 500 Abarth -- packing a 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4, along with a number of performance goodies -- will also be in showrooms nationwide come fall. Regardless, Mopar thinks there’s room for a third model; one for customers who want something a little flashier than a 500 Sport, but aren’t quite ready to take the full Abarth leap.

The first step -- what Mopar calls the Stage One package -- primarily focuses infusing a bit of the Abarth’s visual attitude inside and out. Buyers start with a giallo 500 Sport, which gives the Stinger the Sport’s unique flared rocker sills and roof spoiler. Mopar’s touches are quite dependent on dark chrome: it’s used on the front fascia’s whiskers, on emblems, mirror caps, tailgate trim, door handles, and even the headlamp projectors themselves. Lenses for head-, fog-, and taillamps are all smoked to match. 17-inch wheels are cribbed from the Abarth, while a thick side stripe fades to a checkerboard pattern above the rear fenders.

The Stinger’s cabin is dressed to match its exterior. Leather seat covers sourced from Katzkin boast Alcantara inserts, along with bright yellow bolsters and embroidered 500 logos. Interior revisions are otherwise constrained to a new shift knob and a carbon fiber dash applique.

Mopar promises its Stage Two kit to add a little more power underhood, but the specifics are still a bit foggy. The Stinger retains the 500 Sport’s 1.4-liter I-4 with Fiat’s Multiair valve actuation system. In stock form, that engine produces about 101 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. Along with cross-drilled brake rotors, the Stage Two package also adds a cold air intake and a less restrictive exhaust system Mopar says the latter pair should provide a bump in both horsepower and torque, although it’s shying away from specific figures at this point. We’d expect those gains to be mild, at best, and far short of the power provided by the 500 Abarth.

Pricing will be the key to the Stinger’s success -- if any -- in Fiat showrooms. Mopar officials acknowledge as much, while also admitting they have a relatively small window in which to play. Obviously, adding the Stinger packages will drive up the $18,000 MSRP of the 500 Sport. Price it too high, however, and you run the risk of bumping into the $22,000 base price of the more potent 500 Abarth. Official pricing won’t be revealed until later this fall and a completed Stinger needs to strike right between those price points in order to remain competitive.

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