2011 Fiat 500 Sport: First Look

As the rebirth of Fiat in North America nears with the introduction of the Fiat 500, we’re getting more information about how the subcompact hatch will be equipped and marketed when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this year.

The Fiat 500 will be available in Sport, Pop and Lounge trims, each with unique exterior cues and different levels of interior amenities. Fiat officials didn’t state in which order of expense these trim names go, but in other countries where the Fiat 500 is sold the Pop is typically most affordable and the Lounge is most expensive. A Fiat 500C (Cabrio) model will become available in spring 2011.

Fiat provided photos of the U.S. spec Sport trim, which features red-painted brake calipers, a chrome exhaust tip, 16-inch aluminum wheels, lowed sills and a larger front air dam. No word if we’re seeing standard features on the Fiat 500 Sport or not. There will also be an available panoramic sunroof.

Fiat has made some minor aesthetic changes to the front and rear of the U.S. model. Fiat has already taken reservations for a special edition Fiat 500 Prima Edizione for U.S. Fiat enthusiasts. The model features a manual transmission, unique badging and three exclusive colors. There are no reservation spots left, according to Fiat’s U.S. retail site .

The 500 will mark the debut of Fiat’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder with MultiAir technology. MultiAir is a more sophisticated version of the variable intake valve timing and lift that has spread around the industry in the past 10 years. Unlike conventional valvetrains, which control all the valves in unison, MultiAir can adjust separate valve positions individually over a broad range using electronically controlled hydraulic valve lifters. It’s similar to BMW’s Valvetronic, which uses a small electric motor at each cylinder to achieve similar ends. Both systems do away with a conventional throttle valve in the air intake stream. The claimed advantages are lower emissions, higher efficiency and higher power compared with conventional engines. According to Fiat, MultiAir improves fuel economy and power delivery by up to 10 percent when compared to similar engines.

No word on specific horsepower ratings, but according to Chrysler’s official powertrain strategy, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder is rated at 100 horsepower and 95 pounds-feet of torque, and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with MultiAir gets 170 hp and 170 pounds-feet of torque.

We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments, such as pricing and power specs, when Fiat makes them available.

Senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder contributed to this report.

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