Getting its start in Europe, the Fiat 500 marked the Fiat brand’s return to the United States by offering an inexpensive, Italian-designed small car. In Italy, where the roads are narrow, a small car makes sense. But Fiat promised that they would take all the versions of 500 they sell and make them available in the United States. That includes the Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio. We take a drive in the 2014 Abarth Cabrio to see if the little scorpion stings with excitement.
Built on the standard Fiat 500 body style, the Abarth has an upgraded turbocharged engine. On top of having a little extra grunt, the car sits a little bit lower on larger wheels. In our opinion, the Fiat 500 already looks good. The Abarth treatment makes it look a bit more sinister, but doesn’t take away from the key 500 attributes.
Covered in red and black leather, the interior looks the part. A big shift light to the left of the speedometer reminds you when you need to change gears. The flat-bottomed steering wheel fits well in your hands. The 5-speed manual shifter (an automatic is coming next model year) is easy to grab.
We sit higher up in the air than we’d like. We feel like we’re sitting on top of the car than inside the car. But it’s easy to get a comfortable driving position.
The car isn’t a true convertible. The roof folds away, but the roof structure stays in place. It’s probably better to describe it as a giant sunroof instead of a convertible. But with the top down, it’s easier to hear the noises that the car makes.
We like Italian cars because there is a sense of theater driving them. The 160 hp engine accelerates the car fine, but the noises that it makes are special. The exhaust pops and crackles when driving. Shift from 2nd to 3rd with the accelerator to the floor and the car will backfire. It’s a car that you can drive everyday and it’ll make you smile.
You can only get the 500 in a two-door configuration. With four people in the car, the back seat is definitely cramped. But we could tolerate it for short journeys. For being such a small car, there is a decent amount of storage space. With the top down, the folded roof does block rearward vision, and if you try to open the trunk with the top down, the car will raise the top before opening the hatch.
The Abarth Cabrio comes well equipped standard. Both front seats are power with memory. Rear parking sensors make it easy to backup, especially with the top down. Bluetooth also comes standard.
Our sample vehicle included a premium audio system powered by Beats Audio. Also, we had automatic temperature control for the air conditioning and TomTom-based navigation.
Unfortunately, such a small vehicle doesn’t do well in crash testing. The Abarth Cabrio received a 4-star overall safety rating from the government, but received a Poor rating in the small overlap test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Small cars can do well in this test. We recently reviewed the Chevy Spark that does much better in the same test.
Despite that, we can’t help but like the little Fiat. It’s a fun car that gets 34 mpg on the highway. It makes great noises and looks great. When we climb in we want to start speaking Italian (don’t worry, we already know Italian hand gestures). It puts a smile on our face. It’s hard to find a small car that does that as easily as the entire Fiat 500. For that reason, the Abarth holds a special place in our heart.
|Motor Review Fast Facts:|
|Fuel Economy:||28mpg city / 34mpg highway / 32mpg combined|
|Engine:||1.4L I4 MultiAir Turbo|
|Horsepower and Torque:||160hp and 170lbs/ft|
|Price as Tested:||$31,645|
|Pros:||Great noises. Italian style.|
|Cons:||Crash test score. A bit pricey for such a small car.|
|Final Thoughts:||A small Italian car that makes us smile.|
|Vehicle provided by manufacturer for review.|