Abarth 500 review
Fiat tuning firm takes the cute Fiat 500 and turns it into a racy hot hatchback - but a firm ride lets it down
The Abarth 500 is a performance version of Fiat's popular city car. Changes over the standard car include an aggressive bodykit, go-faster stripes, stiffer suspension and a hefty dose of added horsepower. A starting price of around £15,000 means its much more expensive than rivals like the Renaultsport Twingo, but the limited number available means you'll get a lot more back when you come to sell it on. That said, design touches like stickers, decals and chrome detailing are all extra, which could push the price dangerously close to £20k.
Our choice: Abarth 500 1.4 T-Jet 135HP
The Abarth 500 does away with the standard car's cutesy styling and adds an aggressive bodykit, go-faster stripes, big alloy wheels and Abarth's famous scorpion badges. On the inside, there's bucket seats, aluminium and rubber pedals and red stitching. The dash is similar to the standard 500 with the high-set gearstick, but the materials feel disappointingly cheap. Esseesse models get perforated front and rear disc brakes, stiffer suspension, stronger brakes and 17-inch alloys in white or titanium. And it's all delivered in a specially designed wooden crate that’s yours to keep.
The Abarth 500 is powered by Fiat's 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, which has been tuned to provide 133bhp and 206Nm of torque. This propels the little car from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph. The optional Esseesse kit boosts power to 160bhp, which is enough for a 0-62mph time of just 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 131mph. It's only offered with a five-speed gearbox, but power is available even at low revs, which means there's no need to keep shifting gears. The suspension is so firm that it's uncomfortable over rough surfaces, but the direct steering means it handles beautifully with little body roll. Tyre and wind noise are very intrusive, but the tuned exhaust sounds great.
The Fiat 500 has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. All Abarth 500s come with ESP, hill-hold assist and Torque Transfer Control (TTC), which is designed to improve power delivery to the front wheels. There's driver, passenger, side, curtain and knee airbags, too. Small Fiats have a poor reputation when it comes to reliability, but there have been no major faults reported on the 500. The quality of the interior is very good, with lots of expensive materials like leather and aluminium. Plus, there's a dedicated Abarth dealer network on hand to help solve any issues that do arise as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The 500 comes with a 185-litre boot, which is 15 litres more than the MINI, but much less than 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. On the flipside, the 500's compact dimensions means its easy to manoeuvre and park, but the Abarth's bigger wheels and heavier steering means that city car rivals are easier to drive.
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.