A few years ago, it appeared that reaching the 40 mpg mark would only be achieved by vehicles equipped by either a hybrid or diesel powertrain, but that has apparently changed. Fiat claims its new-to-America 2012 500 hatchback will just miss the prestigious mark with a still impressive 38 mpg highway rating.
Powered by a tiny 1.4-liter I-4, transmission options for the subcompact 2012 Fiat 500 are either a five-speed manual of six-speed automatic. The automaker says the five-speed will achieve 38 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in the city. The automatic suffers slightly and will reportedly return a fuel economy of 34 on the highway and 30 in the city. The 500’s fuel economy figures appear legitimate, but have yet to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although a $1000 option, Fiat expects most Americans to opt for the six speed auto (an option specifically designed for the North American market).
The small-segment is now more fiercely competitive than ever before. Ford’s 2011 Fiesta returns an EPA-certified fuel economy of 40 mpg when equipped with an automatic transmission. The larger Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze Eco can both hit the big 4-0 on the highway no problem. Not only are all the above models capable of reaching impressive fuel economy numbers, but they all have consumers driving them off of dealer lots.
Fiat’s Toluca, Mexico plant began producing the U.S.-spec 500 early this year, with the manual transmission models first to roll off the line. 500s have begun to arrive at U.S. showrooms for demonstration purposes, but larger volumes aren’t expected to arrive until March. Last year Fiat announced plans to open 130 U.S. dealerships, however just 40 to 50 showrooms are expected to be ready by the March launch. The remainder are said to be operating by the end of 2011.