New Fiat 500 due before 2019 with 48-volt hybrid tech

The new Fiat 500 will stick to a tried-and-tested retro design formula, but is expected to employ radical hybrid tech

The venerable Fiat 500 is expected to ditch its 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel engine in favour of cleaner 48-volt hybrid technology when the new model is revealed before the end of the decade.

In an effort to reduce harmful NOx emissions, Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne is looking at cleaner and more fuel efficient powertrain options for vehicles across the range. While these will include plug-in hybrids on high-end luxury models from Alfa Romeo and Maserati, the Group’s smallest cars will adopt a more cost-effective approach.

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“We will have to play with a variety of solutions,” Marchionne told us. “There are very few things that are certain in this market - apart from one, and that is that small displacement diesels are dead. I think everything else is fair play, so we’ll experiment.”

However, while Marchionne insisted the cost would have to come down before plug-in superminis were a reality, he conceived that mild hybrids were a logical next step.

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“I think hybrids are inevitable,” he said. “We’re all moving in the right direction. The question is not the technology, it’s a question of the cost and whether the consumer will pay.

“We still make a very large number of small cars like the [Fiat] Panda and Fiat 500. Putting full hybrids into a car in that segment is going to kill you. We need to find other solutions, and that’s why I think we need to embrace 48 volt systems in a more realistic way.”

Fitting such a system should ensure the next-generation Fiat 500 is both faster and cheaper to run than the current car, while doing little to affect list prices or PCP monthly payments. However, with the MINI rival updated last year with a series of late-life nips and tucks, it’s unlikely we’ll see an all-new 500 before 2019.

What do you think of Fiat's plans for the next 500? Let us know in the comments...

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