At the 2004 Geneva International Motor Show, Fiat exhibited a compact concept car with the aim of introducing the public to its future design strategies: it was so successful that the 500 went into production in 2007. The Fiat 500 Coupé Zagato made its first appearance, also at Geneva, in 2011.
Inspired by the form of the 1957 Nuova 500, the Trepiuno was a modern city car just 3.3 metres long, built on an unusual, sophisticated platform with a blend of high-strength steels and aluminium. Like the latest utility cars, it had a front-mounted engine and front-wheel drive.
The name Trepiuno ["Three Plus One"] derived from the versatility of the interior, which offered two comfortable seats in the front row, one rear seat which could be given more space by moving the front passenger seat forward, plus a fourth emergency seat behind the driver.
There were many references to the splendid Nuova 500, but they were reworked in a way which was not just modern but also futuristic, with "multifunction" round front headlights accompanied by two additional lights serving as direction indicators. The rear light clusters consisted of liquid crystal screens which defined the various functions.
The car's success exceeded all expectations and persuaded the Fiat management to evolve the Trepiuno into a production car, thus creating the 500 for the 21st Century.
Therefore the concept car, which the Fiat Design Centre,headed at the time by Roberto Giolito, intended as an aid to developing the new technologies and stylistic features of the Fiats of the future, became the prototype of the FCA's biggest sales success of the 21st Century: the Fiat 500.
The general design concept was the same, especially the external shapes. Inside, the car accommodated four people and the front seats were best-in-class in terms of comfort and sportiness,, while the round dashboard recalled that of the 1957 car but contained the speedometer, rpm counter and on-board computer. The city car was agile, quick and yet also elegant.
Over the years, the 500 - in sedan and convertible versions - has been successfully transformed in a large number of special series and concept cars, continually renewing itself while retaining its timeless, iconic status. One of the most fascinating versions was the original concept car built by Zagato in partnership with the Fiat Design Centre in 2011, with the distinctive humps in the roof referencing one of the Milan coachbuilder's keynote stylistic features. Under the bonnet was the 0.9 litre, two cylinder, turbocharged TwinAir engine, with a special turbo that boosted its power from 85 to 105 horsepower. This solution was to be introduced on the sedan and convertible from 2013.