2014 Fiat 500 Abarth

Those who enjoy the style of the Fiat 500 but want increased power and more precise handling should look no further than the Abarth model. Along with a tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and a more aggressive look, this diminutive hot hatch boasts a turbocharged motor with nearly 60 percent more horsepower than the standard 500.

Much attention went to tuning the 500 Abarth's suspension: the front and rear springs are stiffer by 40 and 20 percent, respectively, ride height is lowered by 0.7 inches and Koni shocks have been installed up front. The front brakes have also grown an inch in diameter to 11.1 inches total. The result of all the changes is a car that turns in more eagerly, corners with a minimum of body roll and stops with authority.

The modest output of the normal 500's 1.4-liter four-cylinder (101 horsepower, 98 lb-ft of torque) is increased to a stout 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque thanks to a turbocharger. The only transmission available is a five-speed manual, which sends power to the front wheels and helps the tiny Fiat attain sixty mph from a dead stop in under seven seconds.

To help drivers learn how to make the most of the car, the price of admission includes a track day at the Abarth Driving Experience. The day-long track event is conducted by instructors from the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

Helping the 500 Abarth look the part is a meaner front fascia with dual "nostrils" designed to maximize airflow in and out of twin intercoolers, unique 16-inch wheels (17-inchers are optional), special Abarth badging and a dual-exhaust setup. Around back, the car gets aerodynamic enhancements like a rear spoiler and diffuser.

Inside, the steering wheel is a thick-rimmed, flat bottom Abarth unit with perforated leather trim. Racy touches include aluminum pedals, a black leather-trimmed shift knob and a unique analog turbo-boost gauge with LED shift lights that illuminate during gear changes. Both the front and rear seats feature additional bolstering to keep everyone in place during spirited drives.

The options list includes a TomTom navigation system with a 4.3-inch touchscreen display along with a Safety and Convenience package that bundles automatic climate control, satellite radio and a security alarm.

Occupant Safety
In addition to seven airbags, the 500 Abarth comes with smart pedals that move out of the way during a collision to better protect the driver's feet and legs. Traction and stability control systems are also fitted as standard, as is a tire pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
Alternatives to the 500 Abarth include larger and more powerful (but more expensive) models like the MINI Cooper S, the Volkswagen GTI and the Honda Civic SI Coupe.