Fiat 500 Abarth review

Our Rating: 
2008 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Fiat 500 Abarth is a racy hot hatchback with the sweet looks of the iconic city car - but a firm ride lets it down

Sporty styling, strong performance, responsive steering
Rock-hard suspension, expensive, limited interior space

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The Fiat 500 Abarth (badged as Abarth 500) is a more powerful version of the chic Fiat 500 city car, offering a racy drive in a tiny package.

An aggressive bodykit, stiffer suspension and plenty of extra horsepower. It rivals the Ford Fiesta ST, MINI Cooper S and Peugeot 208 GTi, and features a 133bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine that can take it from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. Then there's the 595 Abarth, with a 160bhp engine, and a top-spec limited edition 695 version with 180bhp.

The Fiat 500 Abarth gets a leather steering wheel, parking sensors, Blueotth, bucket seats, a metal gear shifter and metal pedals as standard.

Our choice: Abarth 500 1.4 T-Jet 135HP

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Engines, performance and drive


The Fiat 500 Abarth is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, but it doesn't feel like it's lacking any power - when the turbo kicks in it feels pretty fast on the road, and it's a fun engine to drive with.

The Abarth gets lower suspension and bigger brakes, meaning the ride is really firm. On a twisty road, however, it's a heap of fun - but the engine need to be on boost before you can really get going, as when you change gear sometimes it takes far too long to get into the power band. Tyre and wind noise are very intrusive, but the tuned exhaust sounds great.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


The standard Abarth 500 has an official fuel consumption figure of 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km. It qualifies for insurance group 26, so expect a hefty premium, too. The Abarth 500 is very expensive for such a small car, but because of the limited number available, residual values are very good.

Interior, design and technology


The Fiat 500 Abarth might still be a Fiat 500 underneath, but thanks to the aggressive bodykit, go-faster stripes, big alloy wheels and Abarth's famous scorpion badges, it's hard to mistake it for the standard car.

Bucket seats, aluminium and rubber pedals and red stitching make the interior stand out too. The dash is similar to the standard 500 with the high-set gearstick, but the materials feel a bit too cheap for a car that costs this much more than the standard 500.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


The rear seats in the Fiat 500 Abarth are very small - the roof is low so headroom is poor, and the legroom is not suited to adults on any sort of long journey.

The 185-litre boot is much smaller than that of the Citroen DS3, which offers 285 litres and 980 litres with the rear seats down. In fact, folding rear seats are only available as an option on the Abarth 500, and even then it can only manage 550 litres.

However, the Abarth 500's compact dimensions means its easy to manoeuvre and park (although the bigger wheels and heavier steering mean it's not as good as the normal 500).

Reliability and Safety


The Fiat 500 has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and the Abarth is pretty much identical - so it should be just as safe. It comes with decent safety kit too, with hill-hold assist and Torque Transfer Control (TTC), which is designed to improve power delivery to the front wheels on corners. There's driver, passenger, side, curtain and knee airbags, too.

Fiat came in the bottom two of the 2013 Driver Power survey, which is disappointing for the brand, and this Abarth version isn't exempt from that reputation. There is a dedicated Abarth dealer network on hand to help solve any issues that do arise. The interior feels pretty cheap, however, and for a car that costs this much we would expect better quality.

Last updated: 27 Feb, 2014