Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 29, 2016
The Fiat 500 Abarth is a small car with some very big dreams. Many have said that it punches above its weight class, and I’m inclined to agree. The Abarth sounds like a baby Ferrari in the way it growls, and it drives like a sticky all-wheel drive Subaru WRX around the bends. It has charisma, a bucket full of character, and a raucous soundtrack that puts some of the best V8s on the market to shame. It’s a phenomenal little hatch, one that I would gladly put in my garage if I had the extra money. Turns out that great (and loud) things really do come in small packages.
What is a 500 Abarth? Well Fiat takes a standard 500 Turbo and cranks up the boost to a power rating of 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft (the automatic gets 157 hp and 183 lb-ft). The Abarth also gets a stiffer suspension, better brakes, and rides a few millimetres lower.
Outside, the Abarth receives a few extra air inlets, scorpion badges, and evil looking 17-inch black wheels ($995). The Celeste Blue paint on our tester makes it look like an angry jellybean and frankly, I want my Abarth to be an angry jellybean.
The interior stays unchanged for 2016 except for the new 5.0-inch UConnect touchscreen borrowed from its FCA cousins. It makes scrolling for entertainment options ten times easier, whereas the old screen bar from before made it quite 1950s, if you know what I mean.
Don’t opt for the integrated Navigation ($495) system either, it’s terrible. Though, the optional slap-on Tom-Tom from last year wasn’t much better. Best to just mount your own smartphone with its own data plan and save a couple bucks.
An unchanged interior means that the seating position is still frustrating. I finally found an acceptable and somewhat cozy setup after several attempts in vain – it’s quite hard when the steering wheel cannot telescope fore and aft. However, the flat-bottom wheel does make a huge difference in knee space and ease of ingress and egress.
Okay, so say I did have the money to buy an Abarth – how would I spec it?
Well there are two big decisions to be made: manual or automatic transmission, and hardtop or convertible? We had the golden opportunity to actually test both variants of each, so here are our thoughts
The first question: manual or automatic?
The manual is wonderful. The center stack mounted gear shifter feels great and is placed at the perfect distance from the driver – you can rest your forearm on the armrest while your wrist flicks the gears into place. The throws are soft and long, but defined and rewarding. The clutch is also surprisingly lenient, giving beginners an easy time with broad clutch grabs and easy rev matching.
The manual feels a touch faster than the automatic even though it receive 13 less lb-ft of torque. Being able to rev it right out to the redline and swap gears at a controlled rate rather than having to wait and rely on a torque converter to do your dirty work attributes to that quicker feeling.
The manual is more enjoyable to operate than the automatic and for that reason, it is the one I would choose. But it’s nice to know that you aren’t missing much if you do happen to lack the skills to #savethemanuals. On the bright side, the automatic does offer a manual shifting mode if you feel so inclined to row the gears yourself.
Next question: hardtop or convertible?
Now before I answer this, I have to talk about the exhaust. The Abarth’s soundtrack is bone chilling, so much so that I would say it sounds better than the BMW M4, Cadillac ATS-V, and even the Ford Mustang GT. It evokes auditory memories of the triple-the-price Alfa Romeo 4C that we had a few months back. Though the noise is not as raw or as focused as the 4C, the mantra is the same: pure, unadulterated noise. And the fact that the Abarth doesn’t even have a muffler says it all.
Everything coming out of the exhaust is there to entertain. The snorts, the gnarls, the mini-Ferrari noises make every penny worth it. The hardtop does mute out some of that noise though, which is why I prefer the convertible option. It allows you to get up close and personal with those dual pipes, and it also gives the cabin a feeling of airiness whereas the hardtop may feel claustrophobic, especially to rear passengers. The convertible is fairly rigid too, failing to hinder the Abarth in any dynamic way possible.
So there we have it, the most fun you can have for $30,000 is a convertible Abarth with a manual transmission. But I get asked all the time, is the Abarth usable as a daily driver? It sure is. Yes your will spill your coffee, your hair will get messed on the headliner, and your rear passengers might vomit, but messy and uncomfortable have never felt so exhilarating.
The Abarth delivers a harsh ride – there’s no denying it. Its short wheelbase doesn’t help the cause either. Holy body roll! Trunk volume is laughable too, but I guess that's what the cramped rear seats are for. Still, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun in a small hatch in quite some time.
Get the convertible and opt for the manual. Life gets better one Abarth at a time.
型号 Model: 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
顏色 Paint Type: Celeste Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $27,995
試車售價 Price as Tested: $32,625
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,300
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,667 / 1,627 / 1,490
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,142
引擎 Engine: 1.4L MultiAir 16V Turbo I-4 engine
最大馬力 Horsepower: 160 hp @ 5,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 5-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.5 / 6.9 / 7.8
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 205/40R17XL