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First Drive: 2016 Fiat 500c Abarth


There are two things you must know as a future Abarth owner: First, sneaking home at 2 o’clock in the morning after doing hood rat things, you’re bound to get caught unless you park three blocks away. And second, if you drive like a teenager who just got their license like we did – the gas station will be your second home.

On the contrary to our sampler’s hefty $33,315 price tag, the 500c Abarth boosted performance chassis with anti-roll bars, stiffened dampers, huge red brakes, and fat sticky summer tires wrapped over $1400 17-inch Bronze Forged wheels, are just some of the key elements to its hard to swallow price. The problem with our nearly 33-grand two door cabriolet is that you do end up with some 17-grand attributes like the cheapen interior plastics and features – like not including navigation or a back-up camera to its new 7-inch touch screen infotainments system, the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, and as we look at its chunky exterior, the “stick-on” sporty side skirts were starting to pop off.

Against its will, the 500c Abarth comes with an optional Aisin six-speed automatic over the preferred five-speed manual – it’ll cost you an extra $1350. Paired to its MultiAir turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the automatic isn’t as bad as it sounds. While we’d still prefer more control over a third pedal, the automatic version has been slightly tuned differently than the manual producing 157-horsepower, verses the usual 160. Yet somehow still manages to accelerate to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds in a very flamboyant manner.

Snap, crackle, pop goes the wessel – which is what we’ve been doing every time the revs hit 5,000 rpms. Like an angry Pitbull, the 500c Abarth’s exhaust can terrify some wondering pedestrians to a point they’re flipping you off – little do they know it only encourages us even more. With sport mode engaged, we’re finding the most enjoyment out of every revolution and sharper transmission responsiveness if chosen to leave in ‘D’ – manual mode is the most desired and still provides a nice alternative when we feel the need to use our hands to shift. A nice touch to the 500 Abarth is that when we go to slow down, the rev-matching downshifts prepares the next gear before entering a corner and creates a ear pleasing bark with every downshift.

With such a stocky wheelbase, the 500 is like a rabbit being chased by that angry Pitbull with the ability to change direction at any given demand. The chassis hold up its end of the bargin with stiffer support beams and more aggressive dampers in the suspension. Because there isn’t a whole lot of structural support in the roof due to there not being one, Fiat did some clever engineering that in the end really pays off.

Because the Abarth rides on a harder suspension it can make daily driving a little less comfortable. Its not hard to live with per say – but let’s just say, keep your hot latte in the cup holder until you reach your destination… Which could be a gas station. A small car should equal efficiency – but because we couldn’t get enough its animalistic demeanor – we found our foot planted more to the floor. This of course gave our average fuel consumption of 18 mpg verses the EPA rated 27 – ouch! This also allocated 250 miles of range meaning more stops at the pump for its precious premium liquid juice.

For a small car everything was cozy from inside the cabin. The sport seats, while manual adjustable were comfortable and lateral support – something we could enjoy on a longer than usual drive to the office. The thick, leather wrapped, flat bottom steering wheel felt good in our hands. And your mother-in-law will absolutely love the back seat…. Lets just hope however you never have to do a Costco run.

The thing is, there are far more superior cars on the market that’s, cheaper, practical, and even quicker. Like the Ford Fiesta ST or the Mini Cooper S Hard Top or even the VW Golf GTI. But none of them are as theatrical or entraining as the 500c Abarth. And in just a matter of a few seconds you can drop the top, open up to some blue skies and let that exhaust rip a hole in your underwear – try getting that out of a Golf.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Fiat 500c Abarth: $26,695
Destination: $995
Performance Specs:
1.4-liter MultiAir Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 157-horsepower/183lb-ft of torque – 0-60MPH: ±7.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 24/32/27 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average:  18 MPG’s – Fuel Range: 250 Miles
Featured Options:
Nero (Black) Trimmed Lights: $250
Nero (black) Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe: $450
Giallo Moderna Peria Modern Yellow Paint: $500
Beats Audio: $700
Comfort/Convenience Package: $975
Aisin Heavy-Duty Six-Speed Automatic Transmissions: $1,650
17-inch Bronze Forged Wheels: $1,400
Grand Total: $33,615


  1. It’s too bad I didn’t get to hear the bark when we took this naughty little thing for a drive over the weekend. But it got us through the haboob safely. That yellow color is the ultimate in visibility. Safety first!

  2. Glad you liked it… shame that America does not get the 180bhp T-jet like I have in mine (and yes, you do need the manual gearbox). The noise that comes from the Monza exhaust will sell the car to you before you’ve even driven it….. and it only gets better with every (s)mile you drive thereafter. I love mine!

  3. Great review. I could buy and enjoy a used heavily depreciated Abarth and have a fun bargain car for sure.I think in the FWD world, the cars you mention could have similar theatre levels with after market help and still be near that $33k mark. Look at what Matt Farah did with Cobb parts and tune with an ST (though I think he sailed above the 33k level).

    $33k will also net a well optioned WRX, or even going RWD, you could get a 86/BRZ or Miata of any trim level. At least with an Abarth 500c though, you are not going to meet yourself or anything like yourself at the stop lights.

    • All of those are good options, but you really have to ask yourself what you want – do you want something that stands out, that nobody else has or just another car that somebody said looked cool on the lot so they bought one.

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