The Fiat 500 Abarth maybe the cheapest way to get the Italian flare that you desire; but is it worth the consideration?
The 1.4-liter multi-air turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out 160hp (157hp with auto gearbox) and well it does the job good enough. It does make a lot of racket and is very flamboyant the way an Italian Sports car should be. We do love the boy racer exhaust note and how quick it is when you really put your foot down. Our tester car came equipped with the manual gearbox and is the only way to have this piece of kit. You’ll want to row your own gears because there are slight hints of turbo lag at lower revs and well the torque seemingly disappears higher up the rpm band. It’s not the most refined power train compared with the Mini Cooper S and Ford Fiesta ST, but it certainly can hold its own considering that the 500 is smaller than both the Cooper S and Fiesta St. You’ll either love or hate the 500 charm because it does so in a way that makes you think long and hard about the sporting credentials that it is trying to pass off with the exterior styling. Ride comfort is a little firm but it’s far from uncomfortable while steering feedback is good but could offer a little more feedback, it does handle corners and bends well. The seating position is the biggest let down here; it feels like you’re sitting on top of the car rather inside of it.
Despite the front seats being a letdown and the rear seats being completely and utterly useless, the infotainment screen in our tester car was quite fiddly to navigate through. Many of the menus are very confusing and the tiny screen made it very hard to see some commands. Fit and finish of the interior is also on the iffy side as well. Visibility is pretty good except out of the back due to the fact that our tester car was a convertible which with the top down creates a massive blind spot that makes parking more irritating than it should be. Luckily for us our tester car came equipped with parking sensors, not that you need parking sensors for such small car. But it does come in handy when you have the top down. The boot space is pretty much on par with the Smart Fortwo, it’s very small but it does have some useful space for two people. The coupe version has a nifty hatch that is more spacious but not by much.
Our tester car came equipped with U-connect 5-inch touch screen display with Alpine premium audio system. Performance tuned suspension with sport mode and dual exhaust, as well as race-inspired bucket seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. 17-inch alloy wheels and black trimmed lights were added as optional extras.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is loud and flamboyant the way an Italian Sports car should be. The engine does a good job and the overall impression of the vehicle is mostly good. We just wish that the Abarth were more comfortable to live with like the Mini Cooper S. We also wish that reliability record were much better. It’s a great little car with so much fun to be had behind the wheel but the tradeoffs make it so hard to justify.
Likes: Punchy turbo engine that’s loud and flamboyant, it really is fun to drive. It’s cheaper than the Mini Cooper S.
Dislikes: Build quality and reliability are iffy. The boy racer exhaust can get tiresome after a while. You can hear it a block away when you starting it up – driving it casually.
Our pick: Ditch the coupe and go right for the convertible. It may not be as practical but it is just as fun to drive and is the cheapest convertible with this much speed you can buy.