“Why don’t you stop in and drive an Abarth?” That was the invitation we got from our friends at Armory Fiat not long ago, and we instantly decided to take them up on that. Should you ever receive such an invitation, don’t pass it up. This is one little Fiat that will put a huge smile on your face.
We’ve already driven Fiat 500 Sport and 500C Lounge, both powered by the same 1.4L MultiAir engine making 101 horsepower. They’re not powerful by today’s standards, but its a small enough package to still bring enjoyment. For the 500 Abarth however, Fiat bolted a turbocharger to the four-banger and managed to extract 160hp and 170 ft-lbs torque from the tiny unit. This turns the dial up to 11. And “elevens” might be what you leave behind, because all that power is routed through a 5-speed manual transmission to the front wheels.
Sitting in the Abarth is basically like sitting in any other 500, but there’s just more; more bolstering to the seats, more diameter to the flat-bottomed steering wheel, and more gauges for the driver. The latter, a new boost gauge, has an extra trick up its sleeve. It also acts as a shift light, illuminating a friendly reminder to shift up as the engine approaches its 6,500RPM redline. You’re going to need that reminder, because when the turbo hits its 18psi maximum, the car takes off. There’s one more think that you get more of when sitting in the Abarth. Sound.
The Fiat’s sportier exhaust buzzes, barks, and pops as you drop in and out of the boost. It adds to the overall driving experience when you want to have fun. This biggest problem with all of this extra exhaust noise is that there isn’t any escape. Even cruising along the highway out of Sport mode, the exhaust note continues its noticeable drone in the cabin. The optional Beats Audio system helps to distract from it, but there is no escape.
Throwing the Abarth around is an absolute blast. It nimbly darts from one point to another with reckless abandonment. Pushing the Sport button on the dash removes the power limit in 1st and 2nd gear, adding to the overall “attack” experience. Stiffer suspension keeps body roll to a minimum, but ride quality is noticeably choppier. When it comes to stopping the Abarth’s 2500lbs, we could find no faults.
The Abarth we drove was Rosso red, the best of the four color choices available in my opinion. The lack of any stripes or added colors kept the Fiat rather classic looking. With only the optional $700 Beats Audio upgrade, it rang in at an astoundingly reasonable $23,400. I could forgo that upgrade and go with the $1,200 17″ wheel upgrade. To each his own. And if you want your own, Armory Fiat recently found themselves with a showroom full of Abarths. Stop in, say hi to Jim, and see if you can’t get an invite to get behind the wheel of one. You’ll be happy that you did.