Street-Spotted: Fiat Seicento
The Fiat 500’s predecessor was never sold in the States—and still isn’t
The Fiat 500 has been on sale for so long, it predates Fiat’s return to the U.S., which itself took place over a decade ago. In fact, the current Cinquecento has been on sale for so long—since 2007 in Europe and a little later in the U.S.—that few Americans probably know or have seen the car that came before it.
Well, we have seen that car, and it’s likely the sole example in the U.S. It’s called the Fiat Seicento, and it was built from 1998 till 2010, overlapping a bit with the current Cinquecento itself. And it followed yet another model from the early ’90s called the Cinquecento.
What is it doing here and how is such a thing possible? It’s on diplomatic plates, and we spotted it in Washington, D.C. (We’ll give you three guesses as to what country’s diplomatic mission it belongs to, but you’re only going to need one.)
Built in Tychy, Poland (which is not Italy at all), the Seicento was Fiat’s smallest offering for just a little over a decade. And it was powered by a very small engine in the base version, even by European standards: an 899cc inline-four, good for 39 hp, coupled with a five-speed manual gearbox.
In essence, it didn’t stray far from the recipes of the original 500 and 600 hatchbacks. The Seicento, or 600, was designed as a successor of sorts to the Fiat 600 of the 1960s, which in practical terms meant that it was a little larger than the Cinquecento of the 1990s that it replaced. If you wanted to sporty version with a little more power … you could get all of 54 hp courtesy of a 1.1-liter engine. Fiat labeled that model as the Sporting.
You’re probably wondering how much more “sporting” 54 horses are compared to 39 horses, but let’s look at it from a glass-half-full perspective: In terms of percentage, that’s a pretty big gain. Think of it as going from 390 hp to 540 hp in some AMG model. See? It’s a big gain if you look at it that way.
The Seicento was upstaged a bit in 2003 with the arrival of a new Fiat Panda model, but production continued all the way through 2010, with the model being renamed the 600 in 2005 in honor of its old ancestor.
If you’re a Fiat fan and are tempted by the prospect of great fuel economy, you only have five years to wait until the Seicento becomes importable via the 25-year rule. But its immediate predecessor, the Cinquecento, is currently eligible for importation. And what’s more, we’ve spent some time in a 1994 Cinquecento over the summer that just came into the country—stay tuned for that story.