I was not very kind to the first Fiat 500 I reviewed. I just didn’t like it to be honest, and I thought it was overpriced. Let me be truthful and say the odds of me ever liking a 101-horsepower car are either slim or none, you choose.
I am now reviewing the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. My expectations were somewhat low after driving the base model, and I can say I was surprised by the difference in this car. It is amazing what an extra 59-horses will do for a 2500-pound car.
Those extra horses come courtesy of the Abarth’s in-line 4-cylinder 1.4-liter engine that is turbocharged. It comes with a 5-speed manual transmission that shifts smoothly and allows you to maximize the power of the turbo as you breeze through the gears. The Abarth is surprising in terms of acceleration, something I had a real problem with when I had the other 500.
Inside, the car is cool. There’s no other way to describe the seats, the dash, the steering wheel, the pedals, and the door panels. The seats are a mix of red and black leather, as are the door panels. Much of the dash is a glossy white, and you put it all together and it really works. The front seats are nicely contoured, the back seat is there, but you better be under 3-feet tall to sit back there. Head room is actually very good.
Outside the Abarth is pretty cool, too. My test vehicle is white with a red stripe that runs between the wheels and fades out toward the rear wheels, which are 17” forged aluminum wheels that are also white. A rear spoiler looks terrific. The stance on this car looks great. It is lowered from the normal Fiat and that gives the overall appearance on the outside a beefy, fast look.
Equipment –wise, the car is very well-appointed. It has all power, including a power driver’s seat, keyless entry, Bluetooth, and a great stereo. The dash is very well laid out and gauges look great at night in red.
The handling is just so-so for me. It does pretty well in tight, sharp, lower speed turns but feels a little unstable heading into a turn at over 40-miles per hour. This car comes with a subtly different suspension system and larger brakes. It also has an exceptional exhaust system that sounds better than any I have heard on a 4-cylinder car.
One thing about this car that is really cool is a TomTom 4.3-inch touchscreen portable navigation system unit that docks on top of the instrument panel and is integrated into the vehicle with controllability of the system through the vehicle’s steering-wheel-mounted controls, which is a $400 option and well worth it.
I like this Fiat a lot more than the base model. My problem with it is the price. If you are a car reviewer, you can’t help but make the comparison between the 500 Abarth and the Mini Cooper. They are roughly the same price. An even worse comparison for the Abarth is against the Mazdaspeed 3, which has 100 more horses and completely loaded is only $1000 more than my test car.
This is a huge improvement in the Abarth from the regular 500, but to spend $26000 on a tiny, unproven car doesn’t work for me, at least at this time.
What I liked most: The interior really works on this little ride.
What I would change: Give me a six-speed manual for better mileage.
MSRP: Base price, $22,000. As equipped $26,050.
Fuel Economy: According to my tests, 27 in town, 31 on the highway.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth in a few words: Fun car, but not a Mini.