By on July 20, 2012

 

Abarth was founded in 1952 as a “one-stop-shop” for Fiat performance gear. What does that have to do with the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth? Nothing. Seriously. In 1971 Abarth was purchased by Fiat, by the 1990s the “brand” had deteriorated to a trim level on questionable hatchbacks and by 2000 it was “dead trim walking.” In 2007 Fiat decided they needed a performance brand once again and resurrected Abarth with the inexplicably named “Fiat Grande Punto Abarth” and (more importantly) a complete line of clothing and accessories. Despite the apparent soft start for the brand in the Euro-zone, Fiat tells us they held nothing back for the launch of Abarth in North America. Our own tame racing driver Jack took the Abarth for a spin on the track back in March but this time we’re pitting Italy’s hot hatch against a bigger challenge: the daily commute.

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Unlike the Mercedes takeover merger with Chrysler last century, the Fiat/Chrysler tie-up seems to be bearing some interesting fruit. No, I’m not talking about Chrysler’s use of MultiAir in the Dart, or the cozy relationship with ZF Friedrichshafen AG (ZF transmissions), I’m talking about Fiat getting Chrysler’s engineers involved in Fiat designs. Say what? You heard that right, the North American Abarth is not the same car as the Euro model and we can thank Chrysler. Because Fiat knew there had to be some changes for North American consumption, they told the SRT group to think outside the “Americanization” box. The result is an Abarth that borrows heavily from the Euro model but has some significant improvements. Yes, improvements.

Exterior

With just over 40,000 Fiat 500s of any description driving around on our shores, the design is unique enough to cause traffic to slow and heads to turn. As you would expect, there are plenty of go-fast tweaks on the outside of the small Italian. Out back we get a larger spoiler, ginormous dual-exhaust tips, rear diffuser and a different bumper cover. Up front the changes are more pronounced. In order to make the engine and intercoolers fit, Fiat stretched the nose of the 500 by 2.7 inches. The result of the rhinoplasty is a peculiar “trouty mouth” side profile caused by the hood stamping remaining the same. Despite this faux pas fopah (I kid, I kid), the rest of the 500′s sheetmetal is cohesive and attractive, in a way the MINI Coupé can only dream of. Rounding out the sport treatment is a 15mm reduced ride height with unique 16-inch wheels standard, and optional 17-inch wheels (the 17s are wrapped in low-profile performance rubber.)

Interior

Fiat and the SRT team tweaked the interior for Abarth duty, but the basics of the base 500′s $15,500 interior are still here. That being said, all the touch surfaces in the Abarth are close to haptic perfection with one of the best steering wheels and shift knobs available in a vehicle under $40,000. I should point out that the Abarth’s most logical competition comes from MINI, a brand known for blending expensive switchgear and steering wheels with cheesy headliners and carpet. With the Abarth’s interior bits only a notch below MINI, the decidedly lower sticker price forgives just about everything in my mind. When it comes to hauling luggage, the 500 somehow trumps the MINI Cooper with 9.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats in place and 26.8 with them folded (vs 5.7 / 24 cubic feet in the Cooper.)

Not all is perfect inside. The American Abarth gets unique front seats that are (oddly enough) more heavily bolstered than the standard Euro seats, but the distinct lack of lumbar support made them uncomfortable for my average sized 6-foot 180lb frame. While the Euro Abarth has optional Recaro-themed sport seats and plenty of after market alternatives, American buyers have somewhat limited options if they choose to replace the seats. This is important if you intend to track you Abarth and need to install a 5-point harness. Still, I keep returning to price. Mini’s JCW seats aren’t more comfortable, and since the Abarth is considerably cheaper, you can more easily afford to fix this deficiency. Like the regular 500, the rear seats are small, but thanks to the 500′s roof profile and the shape of the rear “foot-wells”, it is entirely possible to fit four 6-foot tall adults in the 500.

Infotainment

Like base 500 models, all Abarths are equipped with “Blue & Me.” This system combines Bluetooth integration and rudimentary voice commands. If you were expecting SYNC-like iDevice or USB control, you’ll be disappointed with the 2007-era interface. It’s too complicated to explain in print, so if you’d like to know more, check out our TTAC Quick Clips video of the base 500C. Also standard on the Abarth is Fiat’s seven speaker Bose audio system which uses a compact subwoofer under the passenger seat. Sound quality is excellent, not just for the price class the Abarth plays in, but for vehicles twice the Abarth’s $22,000 base price ($25,000 as equipped.) While the audio system’s balance is very good, with such a small driver in the sub, if you are into big bass, install your own beatbox.

Because 6 years is an eternity in the electronics world, you can’t get a fancy integrated navigation system like MINI (and just about everyone else) offers. Fiat’s solution to this problem is an oddly integrated TomTom navigation unit. I say oddly integrated both in terms of the look of the odd dashboard “docking connector” (checkout the video above for more information) as well as the unique way it integrates with the vehicle. Yep, that’s right it integrates with the car in a way your Garmin won’t. Once you pair the TomTom (with the custom Blue & Me software installed) to the 500 you can use the steering wheel buttons to command the TomTom. In addition to remote controls the TomTom will also display trip computer and media player information. While this approach is novel, it is also seriously kludgy.

Drivetrain

As with the rest of the 500, the engine isn’t an Italian transplant. Say what? The 1.4L four-clinder turbo engine is built in Michigan. Building a new assembly line in Michigan afforded Fiat the opportunity to make some improvements under the hood. While the basics remain the same with twin intercoolers and MultiAir VVT on tap, the IHI turbo has been swapped for a larger Garrett GT1446 that bumps performance in an important way. Power increases to 160HP from 158 and peaks at a lower 5,500RPM instead of 5,750. The big deal is the torque curve which drops from a sharpish peak at 3,000RPM to a 170lb-ft plateau that stretches from 2,500-4,000RPM (150lb-ft when not in “sport” mode). Thanks to the MultiAir system, the turbo’s 18psi (maximum) of boost can still be enjoyed with 87 octane gasoline (although Fiat is quick to remind us that 91 is recommended if you plan on tracking your Abarth or running in hot climates.) In an interesting nod to performance junkies (as well as those that want their turbo to last a lifetime) Fiat incorporates an “after run” electric water pump to cool the turbo after the car is shut off. Sadly Fiat missed the opportunity to add an extra cog to the 500′s transmission, instead using a heavy-duty version of the same 5-speed manual as the regular 500. Unlike the Euro Abarth models, there is no “automated” version available so working knowledge of a clutch pedal is required.

Drive

The Abarth is a flat-out blast to drive. This is not only thanks to the 60% increase in power and 70% increase in torque, but also to the low-profile tires, 40% stiffer springs, and lowered chassis.The Abarth may look like a tall vehicle, but with a curb weight of only 2,512lbs “chuckable” is the best way to describe the handling. As you would expect, Fiat tossed in a quicker 15.1:1 steering ratio and tweaked the power assist for a sportier feel. While the ratio is “no big deal” to me, the tweaked electric power steering is more important. It is still numb, but hints of feedback can now be felt through the tiller. Despite having a less fancy “elegant” suspension setup than the MINI, the little Italian is remarkably planted on poorly paved mountain roads inspiring an unexpected level of confidence.

While all these changes make the Abarth an absolute blast in the corners, they take a serious toll on ride quality for your daily commute. Unless you live in some hitherto-unknown pavement-nirvana, potholes and broken pavement are a way of life in the “land of the free.” After a week with the Abarth, I may still have had a smile on my face, but my back and kidneys had a different opinion. That being said, the Abarth is no harsher than the MINI JCW models and actually handles broken pavement with more finesse.

I’ve saved the final change made for our market for last: the exhaust note. This is perhaps the most controversial facet of the Abarth, since Fiat tuned the system to be louder than the Euro hatch. I found the drone on a long highway commute to be annoying, but passengers and our Facebook fans thought it was pure sex. Go figure.

Much like the MINI competition, straight-line performance isn’t what the Abarth is about. As you would expect with 0nly 160 horses under the hood, the Abarth scooted to 60 in just over 7 seconds. With the right driver I have little doubt a further two tenths could be cut from the time, but managing front wheel spin and traction would be essential to reducing your time. To deal with the increased weight of the North American Abarth, the SRT team cranked up the front camber to a -1.5 degrees up front. Thankfully for those interested in tire life beyond 5,000 miles Fiat has an alignment spec which allows for a decent amount of personal preference.

The Abarth is destined to make Fiat fans very happy. It’s also destined to give MINI shoppers that are willing to look at another brand a serious dilemma: is a comparable MINI worth an $8,000-$10,000 premium? Being the cheap bastard that I am, my answer is no. Consider that the MINI Cooper S scoots to 60 in 6.6 but doesn’t handle quite as well, and the MINI JCW models may get to 60 faster and handle as well as the Abarth, but they cost nearly 50% more. While I find the Abarth just a bit to extreme for my soft-suspension-loving backside, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is one hot little hatch. Fiat: you have my number, call me when you stuff this engine into the 500c with some softer springs.

 

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Fiat provided the vehicle, one tank of gas, and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.63 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds (6.8 sounds plausible with a professional driver)

1/4 Mile: 15.3 Seconds @ 91 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 26.71  MPG over 541 miles

 

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80 Comments on “Review: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth – Take Two...”


  • avatar
    racingmaniac

    Last month at a local autocross in SE MI the Abarth club was on hand(and nearly doubled the participant for that particular event hosted by the Alfa club). Those cars have the nicest exhaust note for a stock car this side of a Mustang GT…Looked plenty fun to drive. Though I don’t know if its a Michigan thing or not, the 17″ tire model have performance all seasons on, not really summer tires….I had the same type of tire from the factory on the GTI and I cannot say they are really that performance oriented as the limit is low and ESP hates them…

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      I heard the exh note from an Abarth the other day, and I almost couldn’t believe it was a factory car. It sounded like an aftermarket exhaust. For that matter- it didn’t sound like a turbo car at all. Normally- the turbo muffles a lot of the exhaust noise. This car sounds like a NA car.

      • 0 avatar

        The Dodge Dart with the Multiair Turbo is a better buy. Fully loaded – with the manual for less than $24,000. I couldn’t believe my ears either – sounded like a tuned exhaust. The reviewers who attack it are mostly attacking the automatic transmission paired to the 2.0-L because it skips to high gears as quickly as possible and doesn’t like to dial down. The Dart manual is awesome and works way better in real life. The auto is only good if you have the Multiair.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Love this car but it is overpriced IMHO. I could only make a case for this over a similar VW GTI if you really want or need a tiny car. The GTI is easy to live with as a daily driver, it doesn’t seem like that would be a very pleasant proposition with the 500 Abarth.

    P.S. – I believe it is pronounced A-bart with the tongue touching the back of the teeth for a soft “t” sound.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but in Canada a base 3-door GTI is $5000 more than a base Abarth 500 ($24k vs $29.4k, fees and taxes not included).

      That’s a big gap. I’m sure the GTI does many things better, but the 500 is shorter, sharper, cuter, and cheaper.

      (For comparison a Mini Cooper S starts at $29k; the poverty-spec Cooper Classic starts at $22k).

      I don’t know if there’s enough childless city mice like me to make the Abarth a success in North America, but it looks like it would be a fun car. I’m too much of a cheapskate to buy a new car right now (used slushbox Versa woo hoo), but when I’m playing with the “build and price” widgets, specifying a stripper Abarth comes the closest of those cars to making me go “I would like to buy that, and could pretend it was worthwhile!”

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        A base 3-door GTI is about $24k in the U.S. For $2K more you get a lot more car but similar performance in the GTI which actually may be unappealing to someone who wants a very small car.

      • 0 avatar
        racingmaniac

        As the first reply to this said, GTI is actually quite well priced in US. The car is well equipped at that price point too(I have one, base model, no option). In Canada the car is quite expensive by comparison, although it is even more loaded than the US base car(dual zone climate, HID, multifunction steering wheel…etc).

        Focus ST is in the bracket too, basically matching GTI’s price now but with more power. The Abarth though occupies a much closer market to the Mini in that there is some boutique value that a Golf/Focus doesn’t really have…

  • avatar
    dan1malk

    I’m not embarrassed to say I’m seriously considering this car over a BRZ.

    It’s just as fun but in different ways.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting you should mention this. Having not yet driven either car, I’ve been pondering an Abarth / FR-S comparison. But I’m more likely to end up comparing the FR-S with the late, lamented (by me) RX-8, and then compare the Abarth with something else that’s not a MINI. What other cars are being cross-shopped?

      • 0 avatar
        Tinker

        It took me reading to the end to realize that JCW was NOT “JC Whitney” but “John Cooper Works”. Talk about confusing…

      • 0 avatar
        dan1malk

        Yeah, I totally see that the two are difficult to compare on any rational level since they are so different.

        But for my next car, my criteria is simply ‘something fun’ in about this price range. The time is right for me to get it now, so I’m taking it. Married to a wife who supports whatever my next car is (though leans toward the Abarth,) no kids, wife drives an Equinox (so I can get something awesomely impractical) I have never bought a new car and can finally afford to. :) Also fyi, this will be my daily driver though it’s a shorter commute, and I have no intention on tracking it so real road fun takes priority over any lap times or comparing fractions of numbers silly business.

        My brain has more fun in the technical, precise BRZ, but the Abarth is all heart and soul. High seating position and all. Just can’t decide.

        I know… it’s a good problem to have. ;)

        I’ve checked out everything. The GTI and MS3 were fast and did everything great, but ultimately felt a little too big and dull compared to the sports car feel of the BRZ and tiny rally-car experience of the Abarth. The Focus ST looks cool too, but will probably feel too big like the GTI/MS3. The Mini offered a good fight, but I came to the same conclusion as Alex, that the value part falls through against the similar Italian.

        For RWD, I’ve tried and simply don’t fit in a Miata (6’3″ 210 lb) and was father by a Corvette owner, so the V6 Mustang’s blue oval simply won’t match my gold bow-tie. Just kidding, but not really. Still going to check out the Genesis. There’s a used 2003 Z06 down the street from me that’s caught my eye too. The price is right there, but I question driving it everyday. Not new either.

        I guess this just shows how good it is to be an auto enthusiast right now. :)

      • 0 avatar
        Boff

        Interestingly, I currently own an RX-8 and a 500 Sport, and am considering replacing both with an Abarth, FR-S/BRZ, or Focus ST. The 500 actually is a totally usable daily driver as long as you have a small family of small people. The three of us used it for a 3-day, 1200 km trip to MI’s UP, and not a complaint was levelled. We didn’t even have to fold one of the rear seats as our soft luggage was easily accommodated in the cargo area. I’d be very interested in such a comparo, especially from someone who truly does appreciate the RX-8.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Compare no more… I had both vehicles nearly back to back.

        The Fiat is surprisingly decent for kids in the back. Although every time the family got out of it, the ‘clown car’ scenario came to mind.

        You could use a Fiat 500 Abarth as a family car in a pinch if your kids are big enough to not need child seats or small enough to be shorter than most adults.

        The FR-S is a classic three seater in the spirit of most late-80′s to mid-90′s sport coupes. To date it’s the only car my kids ever complained about.

      • 0 avatar
        spinjack

        How about a 4-way: Abarth, MINI, Miata, FR-S.

  • avatar

    No doubts about FIAT reliability in the comments yet? I certainly had mine, but so far in TrueDelta’s car reliability survey owners are reporting virtually no problems with the cars.

    We’ll have updated stats next month that cover through the end of June, and it’s not looking like this is going to change.

    http://www.truedelta.com/FIAT-500/reliability-1014

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I eagerly await the updated figures; having experienced Fiat’s woes secondhand from friends who purchased new and used throughout the 80s and early 90s, I’m tickled to see its early reliability reports turning it into a shining star on dealer lots.

      Having examined the engine cutaways for their MultiAir system, I’m especially excited for its unique ability to provide both valve-by-valve and cylinder-by-cylinder control over intake timing events, which is something you just can’t do with a sliding camshaft gear.

      • 0 avatar

        If you’re a member, we now start previewing the updated results very soon after the initial email for the survey goes out. These are raw results, though, so they change as I review responses for errors and additional responses are submitted. Changes are usually in the downward (better) direction.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Michael!

      This isn’t your granddad’s Fiat anymore. Glad to see your statistics is showing what I’ve experienced my whole car-shopping life.

    • 0 avatar
      GoesLikeStink

      Having owned my 500c for several moths now I have been spending a lot of time on the Fiat owners sites and everyone is very happy with their cars so far. The largest problem so far is a slow clock in the dash.

    • 0 avatar
      Polar Bear

      A reliable Fiat would be a miracle. I remember one Italian who said “Fiat is a good car. But only for three years. Then you have to buy a new one.”

      Italian cars are supposed to be charming, fun and unreliable. Fits with the national character.

      To be fair, part of the problem seemed to be that Fiats appealed to the sort of owners who just drove and never changed the oil. A number of those owners were female.

      My uncle owned a Fiat 500. The original one back in the 1970s. It was red and had the biggest engine available, a 600 cc. My uncle used to curse the car every time he walked past it outside his house, permanently parked as it was waiting to be towed to the crusher. It wasn’t that old either.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        I had 6 years of near-flawless service (approx 100K miles) with a ’74 Fiat that I bought new. I had nothing but problems with a’78 Buick Regal, an ’87 Dodge Caravan and a ’97 Ford Windstar, all bought new. My problems with the Big Three automakers transcended decades and have informed my purchase decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      william442

      I guess I’ll go look. My 2003 Audi A4 was flawless for four years, with the exception of a battery, and the coal-cart suspension.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Stuff it into the 500C? Screw that; I want to see this engine option as a checkbox on a 500L order form.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    One big difference between the Abarth and Mini: seating position. In the Mini, you sit LOW. In the Abarth, you sit HIGH. It’s a tall car.

    That position can be disconcerting for some, and take away from the sportiness, since you’re physically and psychologically further from the surface of the road.

    Glad Fiats are doing well reliability-wise so far. Bad reputations die hard, but they CAN die; just ask Audi.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Dollar for dollar, you should compare the Abarth to the Cooper S, not the JCW. That seems more fair.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “Power increases to 160HP from 158 and peaks at a lower 5,500RPM instead of 5,750.”

    Surely this must be a misprint? A whopping TWO more horsepower? Are you kidding me?

  • avatar
    threeer

    Drove the Abarth a few weeks back while on a work detail in Dallas (thanks to McKinney Fiat..you guys ROCK! Knowing I wasn’t in a position to buy, you guys STILL took some serious time out of your Friday to let me play). While I’m on a very serious American-made kick with what I buy these days, I just. can’t. get. this. out. of. my. head. Cars for me are very emotional. Yes, I know…there are about a dozen different cars out there that are faster, handle better, spread butter on toast faster, etc…than the Abarth…but an hour after spinning it around the Texas countryside I came back with a smile that wouldn’t leave my face for the rest of the day. There’s nothing else like it for me (yep..driven the Mini, great car…still prefer the Abarth). Can I claim that the engine being built in MI gives it enough US content to get me over the hump to consider this? Maybe as a rather astute South American told me a few days ago here on TTAC, if Fiat does well, then perhaps it bleeds over into Chrysler doing well…and a lot of those guys work here in America, right?

    Oh, and for me (at least…opinions are like rear-ends…) the exhaust note is damn-near automotive nirvana. Coming off throttle and listening to the burble and pop just made me want to do it all over again.

    Sigh…maybe after my deployment I’ll weigh out the option again and decide…

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    The Abarth looks nice but is way overpriced. Why would anyone want to buy this over a base WRX which lists for $25.5? The only 2 reasons I can think of are city parking and gas mileage. And then there is about 100 reasons why WRX is so much better. More power, better handling, much more tunability, more space all around, awd, etc. And then there is the BRZ which is still better in most ways for a few more bucks.

    • 0 avatar
      dts187

      I agree with you on the WRX. If I had to choose between the two I’d pick the WRX every time. However, I just can’t see someone making a list of prospective cars for their upcoming purchase that includes an Abarth and WRX. It’s like how when the Audi TT RS was reviewed recently someone popped up saying to just buy a Mustang GT. They’re two different animals and aren’t likely to be cross-shopped. Or how when ANY car is mentioned someone will bring up a V6 Mustang.

      I like the category JB put the Abarth in: “Little Retro Cars That Feel Sporty”

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      My wife, for one. She loves the 500 but wouldn’t consider a WRX…thinks they are ugly. Some people buy a certain car because they like it better than the rest, not because a spreadsheet told them to.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        +100

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        It’s not all about the spreadsheet. WRX is faster and better in real life too. Of course I’m yet to drive the Abarth but something tells me that after my WRX it will feel like a silly joke.

        And when it comes to long term reliability I’ll trust Subaru waaaay before I’ll even consider trusting Fiat. Don’t think Fiat would make even top 20 in that regard.

    • 0 avatar
      word is bond

      Yep – size is the only reason, but a perfectly valid one. I love both cars, but I really love how tiny the Abarth is.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Much better gas mileage for starters.

      Is there even a 2013 WRX?

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      The Abarth has personality. The Subie is just another ricer. I also own an ’81 X19 with 197K miles. I’ve read that some years of WRX have engines that self-destruct at 150K… true?

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      @Synchro: “faster” and “more reliable” don’t say anything about how a person feels when they see a car in the driveway or slide behind the wheel. I guess that’s my point…there is stuff that isn’t measureable.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Because the WRX is ugly.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    MK, while the fan bases may be quite different, if I was still in the market for a new car, I would be cross shopping this, the V6 Mustang, ST Focus, FR-S, and Genesis 2.Ot. While very different cars with different personalities and characters, they are all excellent choices for enthusiasts looking for the most fun, practicality, and affordability available around $25k (and who need more space than a Miata). If you’re like me and more eclectic in your automotive tastes, you’d have to do like I would and spend a lot of serious time making the rounds at the dealerships to test drive them all before I could ever make up my mind.

  • avatar

    I wonder what Herr Schmauss will think of it

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I am certain that if you bought an Abarth, there would be plenty of standard 500 owners willing to swap out suspension and rims for you. They would probably even do the work for you.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    It looks like the version you drove has the 17″ wheels. Would the slightly higher profile 16″ wheel/tire combo make a noticeable improvement in ride comfort?

    Has anyone driven both back to back to compare? The dealers out here in Northern CA seem to order all of the cars with the larger wheels. Plus, unlike the experience in TX, they aren’t even allowing test drives in the Abarth since their inventory is essentially all pre-sold.

    • 0 avatar
      Buzz Killington

      That’s what I’m wondering. Now that I have a “Dad car,” my wife is going to be trading her CX-9 for something she likes more, and the Fiat is at the top of her list. She won’t be able to take the base model’s lack of power, but won’t like the Abarth’s harshness. If 16″ wheels provide some more compliance, it might be the winning combo. If they fit over the brakes, a set of 15x8s might be even better.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      haven’t driven one with 17″ wheels, I own one with the 16′s and I have no complaints about the ride… it’s firm but not unduly harsh. Bought mine in Sacramento. I’ve heard it said that Fiat was zealously guarding against dealer mark-up, but you’d never know it dealing with the Sacramento dealer.

  • avatar

    I like the scorpion logo more than the Fiat one.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    This car, base or ABarth_Simpson version, simply disgusts me, while other like-sized competitors of similar size do not. And to give Jennifer Lopez millions to shill it is so apropos, it’s scary.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Care to explain why you find it disgusting? Is it the actual car or the marketing?

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Good question; hard to put into words. Essentially the Fiat brand and marketing to me is a turnoff, in part because of the past, failed Fiat history in the US (all those poor customers dumped on), and the slovenly Fiat CEO. Then there’s the “we’ll bring you a tiny car for the US market” deal with the US government to get the bailout—thing; ugh. The J-Lo thing. The audacity to say it would sell 50,000 units per year. While I like small cars, and have owned lots of small cars (when gas was much cheaper), the inner me finds this car, in the US market, a rolling statement of humiliation on many levels.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Fair enough, some food for thought there, thanks for the reply

      • 0 avatar
        belfagor

        Actually the 500 is selling at a monthly rate of 4,800 units , counting US & Canada. That’s more than 50,000 cars/year. The initial projection was off due to the ramp up of both dealership network and brand image. You can take that reason off your list.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        belfagor: I’m speaking of the US only in sales and otherwise. I saved a screen print last January of a story (not sure from where) on the first-year, 2011 sales (which include the ‘first on the block’ sales bump). It says:
        > Fiat’s original 2011 US sales goal: 50,000
        > 7/2/2011 Car and Driver said sales falling woefully short of target
        > 8/24/2011 CEO says “sales are still on track”
        > 1/9/2012 CEO says “US sales target was incredibly niave.”
        > Fiat 500 total 2011 sales: 19,769
        We’ll see on 2012 sales, and after. These mini-cars are becoming a crowded segment like compact/mid/full-size sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        belfagor

        Detroit-X, the 500 is selling at a 50k/yr rate. Not sure why you fail to acknowledge that fact and prefer to stay anchored in the past. Take that number to your Fiat-hating bank if you will.
        Cheers!
        B-

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice video work Alex – keep it up!

    I’m relieved to hear that Abarth is still a little bit crazy. Its the sacrifices that Abarth is ready to make to create a crazy emotional vehicle that defines the sub-brand. If it didn’t have a outrageous exhaust note and spine crunching suspension then it just wouldn’t be an Abarth.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Even though this has more measured cargo space, due to its boxy shape, the Mini probably has more useable. I’m just spitballing here.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    One of few new European cars where the stick shift only is available in the US while Europe gets an automatic transmission option .

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Great write-up! I’ve owned my Abarth for a little over 2 months now and am lovin’ it! I have the 16 inch wheels and drive 100 miles RT from home to office in Sacramento three days per week (telecommute the other two) on I-5 and I have no complaints about the ride characteristics… but the car replaced an ’07 350Z, so there’s that. The car is a blast to drive and puts a smile on my face every time. Absolutely no problems to this point, but one thing I have noticed is that I’m putting far fewer miles on my ’81 X1/9.

  • avatar
    bluetick

    This would probably be a fun NASA HPDE car.

    One of these would be in my garage if it weren’t for the seats. The thought of spending that kind of coin and having to replace the seats in order to install 5 point harnesses is a deal killer for me.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I was all set to be excited until I went to the Fiat website to configure one.

    Exterior color options: Black, White, Grey, Red.
    Interior color options: Black, black, black, and black and red (leather only).

    I hate leather interiors, I hate black interiors, and one of the things I liked most about the base 500 is that it was offered with interesting exterior colors, and multiple interior options.

    Fail.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      LOL! Such a typical enthusiast response. Fiat brings an enthusiast model to the states even offering it with a manual only and the enthusiast HAS to find something wrong with it so the limited color options send him packing. Is it any wonder why we get milquetoast cars in the U.S.?

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        So your response to a comment about lack of variety is “this is why we’re offered a lack of variety”. Check.

        Not all “enthusiasts” have the mentality of a 15 year old boy. Some of us want things different than their priorities. Like appearance options other than “boy racer”. Or this exact car, but offered in color.

        I hate the “million shades of grey and beige + one token color option” paint offereings that have become the norm throughout the auto industry (with some recent signs of improvement). Fiat had shown that they were capable of breaking out of that mold, and then promptly jumped right back into the box with the Abarth. I had hope for the company displaying greater imagination than rote conformity to “enthusiast” stereotypes. They let me down.

    • 0 avatar

      Send your comment to Fiat Steve. I agree with you. The allegation is that only ‘serious’ racers buy this car type of car and (they don’t say it in so many words) that serious enthusiasts are a boring bunch of people who don’t accept any change to the ‘tradition’ and since traditionally race car have always had black interiors and such they can’t deviate from the pre-established paradigms.

      A bunch of crock if you ask me and I think it’s disappointing and stupid to boot, too!

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    again i dont think that that car suits the accepted size for cars in the west

    eg. i dont see a need for a car smaller than a C segment and i get no price cut for a 2,000lb car so why bother

    but i like the lunacy of it and the way Fiatsler are trying to live in this world

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Alex, I’ve actually become very fond of your video reviews. You actually do an excellent job of discussing a car’s strengths and weaknesses in a friendly and informative manner. But actually, you said “actually” ten times between the 6:00 minute and 8:00 minute mark in addition to more than three dozen times over the whole segment. If you can actually resist the temptation to say “actually”, you will certainly find yourself one of the finest video reviewers on the web.

    Just pulling your leg a bit, Alex. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      LeeK,

      Thanks for the input, this is the sort of feedback that is good to hear. With something like 45 minutes of video footage that gets edited down to a 9-12 minute webisode some of the segments may have a problem jiving but this is certainly something we are working on improving.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This guy must be a student of Honest John from the UK, very similar presentation styles.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I Still in for Pop in either Cup or jade.

    Really like the appearance of the cinq but Abarth looks too cluttered for me. Know its the best drive combo but I keep seeing Le car turbo with the black & stripes. I’d prefer dumbed-down secret. A reg aspired Gucci arouses curiosity though the roll back top makes hwy noise.

  • avatar

    Lots of good comments here; I’d cross shopped Turbo Beetle, Abarth 500 and MINI Cooper S. All fwd, “iconic”, hatches with some ability to be fun to drive.

    Fiat wasn’t able to get the Abarth 500 to market in time for me to buy one…I took delivery of a MINI Cooper S in March.

    I enjoyed Alex’s review, and I stay interested in these cars.

    I’d have to comment on this part of the review:

    “The Abarth is destined to make Fiat fans very happy. It’s also destined to give MINI shoppers that are willing to look at another brand a serious dilemma: is a comparable MINI worth an $8,000-$10,000 premium? Being the cheap bastard that I am, my answer is no. Consider that the MINI Cooper S scoots to 60 in 6.6 but doesn’t handle quite as well, and the MINI JCW models may get to 60 faster and handle as well as the Abarth, but they cost nearly 50% more.”

    This is the first comparison review I’ve read that stated the MINI Cooper S “doesn’t handle quite as well” as the Fiat Abarth 500, and I couldn’t discern from the review why the Abarth was preferable. As well, the “dilemma” isn’t as dire as painted. A MINI Cooper S is quicker 0-60, quarter-miles in the 14′s, not 15′s, and has the *very same* suspension as a MINI Cooper JCW. Either can have the factory Sport Suspension option ($500) or the dealer installed JCW Suspension ($1400, plus installation, about $2k all in).

    So: Buy the MINI Cooper S with Sport Suspension for MSRP $24,500 and there’s a comparable MINI that’s very much in the ballpark, NOT “an $8000-$10,000 premium” or “50% more”.

    These two could easily be cross-shopped, and should be. Different flavors, each could deliver a lot of fun-to-drive experiences. You can certainly spend more on a MINI, a lot more, but you needn’t, and at standard equipment levels these cars compare very well.


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