2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

The Fiat 500 Abarth is an auditory thrill to drive with turbo pops and an exhaust note that is demands more attention than the people you pass in it expect.

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Although the name is very similar to the rest of the Fiat line, when you opt for the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth the only thing it has in common with the rest of the 500 line is the look. Literally everything else is upgraded for performance.

The Fiat 500 Abarth is fun to drive, although it has a few quirks.

The Fiat 500 Abarth is fun to drive, although it has a few quirks.

Available in a five speed manual standard, this is the way to go when you buy a Fiat 500 Abarth. Driving the car hard and shifting with just the right amount of turbo is both thrilling and rewarding.

We spent the week in a Fiat Abarth Cabrio, which cuts some storage space in favor of a retractable soft top. If I were to buy a Fiat 500 Abarth the only thing I would change about this loaner is the color.

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2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Review Summary

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While fun to drive and sure to draw looks in bright yellow, the driver seat is much higher than we like on a car designed for performance. This leads to an interesting position for the driver: it can leave you feeling like there is less connection to the road. Ultimately, though, the car’s wide body and stiff chassis keep it stuck to the road.

Seating aside, we love the ostentatious, raucous exhaust note that pops with fury when you nail an upshift in Sport mode. Yes, Sport mode really does something on the Fiat 500 Abarth — and we kept it in Sport mode for most of our time with the car.

What We Love

  • Fun style
  • Plenty of pep for a small car
  • Significant room for two people

What Needs Work

  • Rearview mirror is useless with the top all the way down
  • A backup camera would be a nice complement to the new touchscreen.

While the rear seat isn’t particularly useful for passengers, it’s not something that Fiat needs to change. We do like that the default convertible retract position leaves the last third in place so you can still see out the rearview mirror, allowing for safer driving.

The Fiat 500 Abarth starts at $22,575 for the hatchback and $26,695 for the Cabrio convertible we drove. Even with ticking all the options you’ll still be right around $30,000 for a new Fiat 500 Abarth.

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I recommend springing for the $975 Comfort and Convenience package that adds auto temp control, heated front seats (for driving with the top down on crisp days) and satellite radio. The Premium Sound package with Beats Audio adds a six speaker system for $700, and frankly I’d rather listen to the Fiat 500 Abarth itself than blast music at full volume.

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Driving & Performance

The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth’s personality comes out when you drive it with spirited acceleration and get that rewarding pop when you execute a perfect shift. Although you sit higher in the 500 Abarth than in a traditional sports car, it is still fun to drive.

The Fiat 500 Abarth demands attention with a ear-grabbing exhaust note especially when shifting.

The Fiat 500 Abarth demands attention with a ear-grabbing exhaust note especially when shifting.

Available in automatic and manual, the only real choice for the Abarth is a manual. The 1.4 liter engine turbocharged engine responds swiftly, but you need to really push the car to enjoy everything it can do. The car responds well to being driven hard.

A Sport button situated on the dash changes the throttle response. The Fiat 500 Abarth shines in Sport mode, it’s really where the car comes alive.

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The ride is stiff, so you will feel bumps while driving. It’s something I could live with every day, but my wife isn’t as forgiving of that level of road-feel.

Small, but fast, there is also a Scorpion under the hood.

Small, but fast, there is also a Scorpion under the hood.

With the purchase of a new Fiat 500 Abarth you get a “Full-Day ABARTH Track Experience with Professional Instructors” so you can learn how to drive the car like a pro.

The Fiat 500 Abarth is rated for 28 MPG city and 34 MPG highway, proving you don’t need a gas guzzler to have fun driving.

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2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Design & Interior

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The Fiat 500 design is something that most people love or hate, and it will draw just as many divided looks from other drivers and pedestrians. In bright yellow, with this exhaust note, there is no avoiding attention.

Our 500 Abarth looks cheery in yellow, but if you switch to gloss black you completely change the personality of the car — from bubbly to menacing.

Inside the yellow color carries over through a spartan dash. There is no light in the visor mirror, which is something my wife checks on every car, but I rarely use. Part of the charm of this car is that the features that are in the car are there for a reason.

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The Cabrio convertible is an excellent option. There are three positions for the power top: open like a sunroof, open to the back top edge and completely open. When the top is completely down the rearview mirror is useless.

This is not a backseat you’ll use for much, but fold it down and you essentially double the trunk space, which is pretty small in the Cabrio due to it being a convertible. A traditional hatch offers more storage if that’s a priority.

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Technology & Safety

The Fiat 500 Abarth we spent the week in includes the Beats Audio upgraded sound system. It sounds okay, but it’s an expensive option for what you get. We preferred to listen to the sound of the car rather than blasting the radio in our time with the Abarth.

UConnect with Sirius XM radio is part of the Comfort and Convenience package. This includes a small touch screen with support for Bluetooth, auxiliary in and line-in connectivity. You can stream music to the car and take calls. We didn’t make a lot of calls on the system as road noise will come through the call.

There is no backup camera, but there is a sensor to let you know if you are close to another car.