Fiat’s tiny 500 “bambino” is transformed by an Abarth badge writes Hannah Gordon
What is it? Imagine a Fiat 500 with a serious gym and protein addiction and you will have an image of the Abarth 500. Based on the Fiat 500 but repackaged by the tuning sector at Abarth, this Abarth 500 includes a turbo petrol engine, a sporty looking exterior all with a splashing of drama and noise.
Who is it aimed at? The Abarth 500 Custom is the entry level model and aims itself at someone who wants a bit of fun in a small package. Not the best daily driver but it does provide you with a cheeky pocket rocket.
What about the Styling? A striking set of exterior features adorn the Abarth 500 that sets it apart from the regular Fiat 500. The caricature styling isn’t just for aesthetic pleasure, the deep and vented front end is designed to accommodate the larger 1.4 turbo engine and to also provide adequate cooling for it. Theres a rear spoiler, twin exhausts and side skirts whilst the wheel arches are filled with 16inch alloys as standard.
Under the bonnet? Across all the ranges the same 1.4 turbo petrol engine is used, with the Custom spec it produces 135 bhp and has a top speed of 127mph, the highest spec Abarth 695 Biposto has an incredible 190 bhp. To get the best out of the Abarth’s zippy little engine it needs to hit the higher rev ranges, the peak power output is at around 6000rpm, but there is a bit of turbo lag at lower rev ranges. The Abarth has an extremely capable engine and coupled with that infectious sporty exhaust note means driving it hard is where the most fun can be had.
What about inside? There is no mistaking the inside of the Abarth has been taken from the Fiat 500, there are some differences though that do highlight the sporting pedigree of this car. The steering wheel now has a flat bottom and there is a body coloured stripe of plastic across the dashboard. Front sport seats are available for a £1750 extra, the standard seats are small and don’t offer much support, due to its size the area around the pedals is cramped and could result in a large foot pressing two pedals at once. The Abarth comes with a turbo boost gauge that looks like an after thought and a cheap addition.
On the road? Unsurprisingly the Abarth’s ride is firm, and this means that body roll is minimal when driven hard around corners. The problem comes when going down less than perfect roads, the harsh suspension means that the Abarth becomes fidgety and uncomfortable. The Sports button improves throttle response and makes the steering heavier which leads to more engaging driving experience. The sports exhaust sounds awesome on acceleration but constant road noise on motorways is a nuisance.
And Safety? The regular Fiat 500 scored 5 stars on its Euro NCap and the Abarth would be much the same, it also comes with 7 airbags as standard.
What are my Options? Plenty of options are available, whether you want larger wheels 17” are a £320 extra, painted brake callipers cost £185 whilst rear parking sensors will add an extra £270 to your Abarth. To really add to the sporty feel a set of Sabelt Corsa front seats will set you back an extra £1750.
Will it break the bank? If you purchase an Abarth the last thing you’re really going to worry about is economy. The combined mpg is 43.5, but due to the revvy little engine these figures will rarely be achieved. The emissions amount to 155 g/km of CO2 which puts it in band G and £180 per year. The Abarth is insurance group 26 so expect a pricey premium, but to counteract this the residual values should be good.
So the Verdict? The Abarth 500 is a strikingly likeable car, the exterior styling and fun drive make it an instant hit. It would be difficult to live with it as a daily driver due to the lack of space, the impeding road nose within the cabin and the extremely harsh ride. As a pocket rocket it provides bundles of fun moments when driven with plenty of enthusiasm and should you purchase one be safe in the knowledge that they’re more of a rarity on the roads than the Fiat 500, just be aware that trips to the petrol station will become annoyingly regular due to its minuscule 35 litre fuel tank.
Why you will buy one? Styling; Driving Dynamics; Fun
Why you wont ?Fuel Economy; Harsh ride; Noisy Cabin
Abarth 500 1.4Tjet
Max speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 7.9 seconds
Emissions: 155 g/km
Model price range: from £14,660
No of Doors: 3
Euro NCAP : 5
Fuel type: Petrol
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 43.5 mpg
Boot Capacity Seats up: 185 litres
Length: 3657 mm
Width: 1627 mm
Height: 1485 mm
Wheelbase: 2300 mm
1st December, 2015