The international jury presiding over the Car of the Year award, made up of 58 specialist journalists from 22 European countries, has elected the Fiat 500 Car of the Year 2008 with 385 votes, ahead of the Mazda 2 (325 votes) and the Ford Mondeo (202).

In addition to winning the Car of the Year 2008 award outright, the super-compact Fiat distinguished itself by obtaining votes from most members of the jury: 57 out of 58 included it in their short-list, and 33 made it top in their personal rankings.

This is the second time – the first was the Fiat Panda in 2004 – that an A-segment model has won the most prestigious award in the world car industry. This extraordinary record brings total Fiat Group Automobiles wins to twelve: the Fiat 124 (1967), Fiat 128 (1970), Fiat 127 (1972), Lancia Delta (1980), Fiat Uno (1984), Fiat Tipo (1989), Fiat Punto (1995), Fiat Bravo/Brava (1996), Alfa 156 (1998), Alfa 147 (2001), Fiat Panda (2004) and the Fiat 500 (2008).

Launched on 4 July this year, the new Fiat 500 immediately aroused huge interest and very favourable comments made by more than 7,000 people from 63 countries (more than 1,000 journalists were accredited) who homed in on Turin for its début: institutional authorities, financial analysts, businessmen and celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, fashion and sport.

Critical acclaim was immediately confirmed by intense customer interest. More than 105,000 orders were taken in just four months in only two countries (Italy and France), while interest continues to grow in the rest of Europe, (for example: 6,300 orders have already been placed in Germany where the car went on sale just a few weeks ago). As of today, in Europe, the Fiat 500 stands second in the A-segment with a share of 14.1% (behind the Fiat Panda with a 21.2% share).

The Fiat 500 is the manifesto of ‘new Fiat’, a model that is in all respects the physical demonstration of the company’s new approach, the renewed strategies of the brand, a different way of interpreting the car. That is why the Fiat 500 has set new benchmarks in its segment. For example, this is the first time that a car barely 3.55 metres long has been awarded a 5 star crash safety rating by Euro NCAP, and this is the first time that a car in this segment has seven airbags fitted as standard (it is also the only super-compact to fit a knee-bag), with the advanced ESP available on all models (standard on the 1.4 16v 100 bhp).

In addition, this is the first time that a model has been launched with the entire range of power units (1.2 69 bhp, 1.3 MultiJet 75 bhp with DPF and 1.4 16v 100 bhp), built to respect emissions limits set by Euro 5, and all this more than two years in advance of the legislative deadline.

This is also the first time that a ‘small’ car like the Fiat 500 has been able to boast such a broad range, which is made possible by choosing from: four trim levels, three engines and 12 colours (among these are six vintage colours that evoke memories of the ’50s and ’60s, and the three-layer white, a sophisticated paint process that up to now has only been adopted on supercars).

Customers can also choose from 15 interiors including the prestigious Cordura and Frau Leather, nine types of road wheel, and 19 sticker treatments, for a total of more than 500,000 variations.

In addition, 100 original accessories have been designed for the Fiat 500 – among which the most surprising are an electric aroma diffuser and colour-coded key fobs – along with the most advanced infotelematic systems: for example a multifunctional portable navigator from the Blue&MeTM platform.

The Car of the Year award started in 1964. To enter, new cars must go on sale in at least five different European markets in the course of the year. Judgments are expressed on the following parameters: design, comfort, safety, economic operation, driveability, performance, practicality, respect for the environment, price and value for money. A first selection is made from all the new models marketed in the course of the year (this year 33 cars were involved) and seven are shortlisted. Each member of the jury has 25 points to distribute among the seven cars, with a maximum of 10 points going to their first choice.

The award ceremony for Car of the Year 2008, organised by the German magazine Stern, will take place in Berlin on 28 January 2008.