February 21, 2008 51 years ago, the Fiat 500 was first launched. A rear-engined mimic of the hugely popular Volkswagen Beetle, the 500 was one of a small stable of cars designed to be perfect for city driving. Small, economical, practical, fun and manoeverable, it struck a chord with European drivers, selling nearly 4 million units and surviving until 1977 when it was replaced by the far less popular Fiat 126.

After the recent success of Volkswagen's reinvented upper-class Beetle and the retro Mini Cooper, Fiat chose to announce the relaunch of its quintessential towncar again in 2007 with retro looks but a focus on practicality, safety, fun and economy rather than the upmarket style of the Beetle and Mini.