Fiat 500 Abarth Test Drive Review
The Fiat 500 Abarth may be small in size but it’s big on performance, with its 1.4-litre turbocharged heart

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

Car Tested: 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth (with esseesse kit)

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 28 lakhs (est.)

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a true performance hatchback, which thrills in every way.

Retro cars have become an instant hit the world over, popular models like the MINI and Volkswagen Beetle have become a fantasy of those who want a piece of history. But among these two retro vehicles, there is another automobile which deserves as much applaud, the Fiat 500. This baby Italian vehicle was already sold in India a few years back but did not taste any success. Now Fiat is bringing back the highly popular 500 but not in its normal avatar, instead the company has chosen to get the Abarth version of this hatchback. Showcased at the 2014 Auto Expo and set for a September launch, the Fiat 500 Abarth is a car which can immediately set your pulse racing. We witness it with the esseesse kit and here’s are first impressions after getting wowed over by driving this 3-door beauty.

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth Review2014 Fiat 500 Abarth Test Drive

Cute and compact, the 500 Abarth doesn’t have a single Fiat logo on it, instead there are Scorpion badges

The original Fiat 500 was designed in the 1950s and the modern iteration of this city car stays true to the original. We all know that the Fiat 500 is one helluva looker but in Abarth form, it’s even more scintillating. Our test car had the esseesse kit, which gives a bit of a boost to the overall performance of the car but more on that later. The 500 Abarth comes with 16-inch wheels as standard and 17-inch rubber is optional while the esseesse kit adds 205/40/17 Pirelli PZero tyres with ET36 alloy wheels (finished in white or titanium, the one on our test car was the latter). Surprisingly, the car we drove had Michelin tyres and not Pirellis. There are absolutely no Fiat badges on the car as everywhere you get the Abarth logo (even behind the front doors).

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The Fiat 500 Abarth is compact and thus it doesn’t weigh much at all

The wing mirrors are finished in white and a racing stripe with Abarth written on it runs on the side. The rear is very tasteful, a big rear spoiler sits on the top, twin exhausts sit on the bottom and esseesse is written below the Abarth logo, the only place on the outside where you will find its mention. The attention to detail on the exterior is massive, you just can’t miss the detailing on the front and rear bumpers, the subtle chrome touch on the front (near the grille), side (door handles) and rear (tail garnish), and the red brake callipers. The Fiat 500 Abarth is a car which looks cute, sporty, fast and exquisite, all at once. Everything, right from the round headlights to the rectangle tail lights and that compact body, just can’t be missed.

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Tastefully done interiors have a sporty flair to it, quality is fab with nothing to fault

Open the relatively longer doors to get inside and you will continue to be amazed in a good way. The cabin of the Fiat 500 Abarth carries over all the wow factors you witness on the outside. The dashboard is a two-tone unit with one tone being black and the other (in the middle) being of the body colour. In spite of the cabin being quite small, there is good space for two people at the front while children can sit at the rear as a full sized adult just doesn’t fit in there, headroom is at a premium. Some cubbyholes inside the cabin help in boosting the practicality of the car while quality is top notch in every way.

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Boost gauge with a gear shift indicator is a very neat touch on the 500 Abarth

However, the Fiat 500 Abarth is lacking in the equipment department, the power window controls are placed on the centre console and there is no auto up feature. There is the same flip key you get in other Fiats, we expected a push button start to wake up all those Italian horses from their slumber. Still, you do get fantastic bucket seats, having integrated headrests. The instrument cluster is small and has a dial in dial arrangement, with a LCD screen to show you multi-information display. The boost gauge is a classy part and is very tastefully done. The boot has decent space for a car of this size but there is no spare tyre, only a puncture sealant kit.

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esseesse kit not only boosts exterior appeal, it also improves braking and handling

Before we dwell into the performance of the Fiat 500 Abarth, let’s quickly look into the esseesse kit and what it has to offer. Besides the bigger wheels and esseesse badging on the tail gate and engine cover, this particular kit (which comes in a wooden crate) also boosts the performance of the vehicle with high performance brake pads, perforated front and rear discs, high performance springs which lower the car and a BMC air filter. So the already hardware rich 500 Abarth gets even better with the esseesse kit, which Fiat is likely to offer as an aftermarket add-on for the car in India.

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1.4-litre MultiAir engine belts out 160 HP of power and 230 Nm of torque

The 500 Abarth’s tiny hood hides a 1.4-litre, 16-valve, MultiAir engine which is a turbocharged unit having two intercoolers. This SOHC mill uses an iron block and aluminium head, power output being a modest 160 HP at 5500 RPM while torque output is 230 Nm at 2500 RPM. There is a catch though, the standard torque output is 200 Nm but the Sport mode gives an over boost of 30 Nm. But before you put the Abarth 500 as being decently powerful, remember, this hatchback weighs a tad more than a tonne, which gives it a stellar power to weight ratio. The results are for all to see.

2014 Fiat 500 Abarth Road Test
Performance is pure savage, the 500 Abarth gathers speed with such urgency

Grab first and floor the pedal and you are thrown back into the seat, the Abarth 500 taking off with such velocity it feels almost unreal. 3000 RPM is when the turbo comes into its own and the way this baby Fiat moves can scare much more powerful cars at traffic lights. The engine revs super quickly, the 6500 RPM redline coming in a jiffy. Be aggressive with the throttle and you will see the boost gauge dance around, flashing an upshift warning at 6000 RPM. The 5-speed gearbox itself is smooth shifting, the clutch well weighed and boy all this makes driving the Abarth 500 quite a feast.

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The 500 Abarth rides stiffly but the handling is super sharp and precise

First gear is good enough for 60 km/hr and keep the big pedal pinned to the floor and you will whizz past 100 km/hr in just 7.4 seconds while top speed is 210 km/hr, that’s properly fast for a 4-pot engined front-wheel drive car. In fact, the way the 500 Abarth gathers speed right from standstill is amazing, you see 30 km/hr and then directly 60 km/hr on the speedometer, it’s that quick. Still, the real highlight of the 500 Abarth is the way it sounds. On start-up, it growls angrily and as you accelerate hard, it sounds sweeter, meaner and is definitely pure Italian music to the petrolhead’s soul. In fact, the Abarth 500 sounds so good, it’s something best experienced and only if we could make you hear it, actually we can, so play the short 15 second video below to listen to the sound of the 4-cylinder turbo powerplant.

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However, it’s not all straight line performance where the Fiat 500 Abarth excels, it’s such an involving car to drive with spot on dynamics. The suspension is stiffly set-up and that along with really low profile rubber don’t bode well in the ride quality department but look at the handling and composure of this beast, which truly impress. The car is razor sharp, handling tight corners with such confidence, it simply dives in without any hint of understeer whatsoever. Keep pushing and it’s still difficult to reach near the limit of this car. The Abarth 500 gets a Torque Transfer Control (TTC) with an electronic limited slip differential ensuring optimal grip at all times. The only fly in the otherwise fantastic handling is the steering, while it’s sharp with good feedback, it’s a tad too big (even with that flat bottom), which robs away the ease of quick steering. Braking performance is excellent.

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The Fiat 500 Abarth is the most fun you can have in a hatchback, it’s a hoot to drive

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a gem of a performance car, it’s fast, sharp, fun and the exhaust note itself makes quite a racket. Everything has been thoughtfully done on this vehicle, right from the exterior styling to the interior design and everything in between, no shortcuts have been taken. Unlike souped up performance hatchbacks, the 500 Abarth stays true to its name. It’s the most fun you can have in a front-wheel drive hatchback and there are no two ways about it. To be brought in via the expensive CBU route, if you got the mullah, there is nothing better than to invest it in a timeless piece of machinery, the 500 in Abarth guise.

The Fiat 500 Abarth makes other hatchbacks run for cover, it’s fast in a way which can keep you grinning all day with a soundtrack that can’t be matched. It’s a Fiat, that too an Abarth one, and it stings.

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Those 17-inch wheels are delicious, Fiat knows how to touch your emotional senses

What’s Cool

* Performance
* Handling
* Design
* Engine note

What’s Not So Cool

* CBU price