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 |  Nov 17 2010, 4:45 PM

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Having been sold overseas for several years now and with a very long lead-up, Fiat has officially announced its return to the U.S. marketplace with the launch of the Fiat 500 (or Cinquecento) at the LA Auto Show today. Touting fuel economy, passion and a highly customizable package, the 500 is the first of many Fiats set to be sold in the U.S., followed closely by a convertible version and then by several Abarth high-performance models.

All Fiat 500 models will come powered by the same 1.4-liter Multiair 4-cylinder engine making roughly 100-hp and 98 ft-lbs of torque. The Multiair system was recently announced as one of the top automotive technologies for 2010 by Popular Science Magazine. It essentially works like a typical variable valve timing system, except it uses hydraulic actuators rather than cams. The result is roughly a 10 to 15 percent improvement in power and fuel economy.

Fiat will offer the 500 in three trim levels: Pop, Sport and Lounge with all models getting cruise control, power windows and locks as well as air conditioning. Sport models come with more aggressive front and rear bumpers as well as a retuned suspension; while Lounge models get chrome accents, leather seats, 15-inch wheels and a new 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode.

Compared to the European models, Fiat USA says the 500 gets a new dash and adds an arm rest, while a more powerful HVAC system is used for the harsher climate.

Standard safety features include stability control and 7 airbags and Fiat is confident the 500 will fare well in crash testing, having already been awarded a 5 star rating in Europe.

All Fiat 500 models will come with a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty with a complimentary 3 year/36,000 mile service plan.

And because Fiat is following in MINI’s tire treads of offering incredible amounts of individualization, the 500 will be offerd in 14 colors, with 14 seat combos and 2 seat layouts. Add in the options and special features and there are over half a million unique combos.

Pricing for the Fiat 500 will start at $15,500.

For more details and to customize your own Fiat 500 visit FiatUSA.com

Get more news and info at Fiat500Owners.com

GALLERY: Fiat 500 Pop

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GALLERY: Fiat 500 Sport

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GALLERY Fiat 500 Lounge

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 |  Sep 14 2010, 2:40 PM

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We’ve been hearing so much about the Fiat 500, that we’ve been feeling a mix of fatigue from the endless hype, and apprehension that our North American spec car would be a watered down version of the European goodness we were so anxiously awaiting.

While we haven’t gotten any specs on the North American car just yet, Fiat revealed the version of the 500 coming stateside, dubbed the 500 Sport, and the car looks…better than the original. It could just be the funky rims or the glossy red paint, but the car looks sharp, and it will be packing a 1.4L MultiAir turbo four-banger, capable of putting out anywhere from 135 to 170 horsepower, putting it right in line with the MINI Cooper.

Gallery: Fiat 500 Sport

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[Source: Fiat]

Hit the jump to see the official press release

Check out the Fiat 500 Owners Forum for more

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