For the first time in nearly 30 years, Fiat has unveiled a production model for the United States. It is significantly different than the European version, but the charm is still there.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Fiat has unveiled a production model for the United States.

While the watershed moment isn't much of a surprise - since the company has been showing the European version to build up publicity - it is no less significant.

Built in Mexico, the U.S.-spec 500 has a reinforced body structure, a retuned suspension (sadly, it sounds "dumbed down"), a new anti-lock braking system, a larger fuel tank, and various modifications to reduce noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH). Besides the chassis tweaks, there's a new steering wheel, redesigned seats, and an improved HVAC system.

Three trim levels (Pop, Sport and Lounge) will be available, but they will all be powered by a 1.4-liter MultiAir engine with 101 hp (75 kW / 102 PS) and 98 lb-ft (133 Nm) of torque. It is connected to a five-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic (a U.S. exclusive) is optional.

Available this spring, the 500 will be priced from $15,500 which is $4,600 less than the MINI Cooper.

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