Born on the Track
To create the sportiest of 500s, Fiat paid a great deal of attention to the minicar's suspension: the front and rear springs are stiffer than the standard 500's and the ride height is lower. The front brakes are bigger, too. 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 500 Abarth uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque when it's bolted to a five-speed manual transmission. Selecting the optional six-speed automatic yields 157 horses and 183 pound-feet of twist. Front-wheel drive is the only configuration offered.
Fuel economy checks in at 28 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in a combined cycle for the five-speed manual. The automatic returns 24, 32, and 27.
Helping the 500c 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.
Standard and Optional Features
The 500c Abarth comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, an Alpine AM/FM/CD stereo with AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, "performance cloth" high-back bucket seats, aluminum pedal covers, heated and power-adjustable exterior mirrors, cruise control and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Options include leather upholstery, a six-speaker Beats audio system and a Comfort and Convenience Group package that bundles automatic climate control, heated seats and SiriusXM satellite radio.
All 500c Abarth models are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems.
There are relatively few convertibles available around the 500c Abarth's price point. Buyers can also look at the MINI Convertible Cooper S, though it's bigger and more expensive. For those seeking the fun of a vintage British roadster with Japanese reliability, the Mazda MX-5 Miata remains an attractive option.