2014 Fiat 500C Abarth Review
An absolute blast, despite itself.No Comments
The sound that comes from the exhaust is otherworldly.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the 'slow car fast' mentality, it works like this: It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than drive a fast car slow. More often than not, drivers of high-horsepower cars on the road (the Hellcats and AMGs out there) are really only experiencing a sliver of the car's capabilities; if you really want to explore the limits of cars like this, you need to go to the track. With a slow car, you can barely eclipse the speed limit, but you're so much closer to the car's capabilities that it provides for a better driving experience on the whole.
That's the whole idea behind the Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio, and it works. It's not perfect - far from it, actually - but it's really tough to dwell on the negatives once you turn the key.
The climate and infotainment controls are laid out in a sensible manner, but the radio's design is also its downfall. Yes, it's refreshing to see a car without a screen; however, when you buy the 'navigation system,' you get just that - a TomTom that you plug into a dedicated slot on the dashboard. It blocks a good deal of your short-range vision around the hood area, and it's a bit of a cop-out option. You'd be better off buying a windshield-mounted phone cradle. Why Fiat didn't rework the stereo's look to accommodate the phenomenal Uconnect system, we'll never understand.
The rear seats are, well, difficult at best for adults. Tall individuals in general might have some problems up front, as well; your author is six feet tall, and he didn't have much leftover space with the cabrio all sealed up.
The power-operated soft top (it operates more like a giant sunroof than a proper convertible top) is an excellent addition, and it doesn't unnecessarily stand out from the car in any way. It even looks somewhat attractive when you open it; soft little curls of fabric let other drivers know that you've probably got plenty of wind noise going on. The top can go further back, but it folds down the glass rear windshield and does little more than block the driver's rearward vision.
However, between idle and redline, the sound that comes from the exhaust is otherworldly. It's low and guttural, with a familiar Italian twang that shouts Ferrari more than Fiat. Chrysler went through more than two dozen different exhaust designs before settling on this one, and that's reflected in the quality of sound that comes from the MultiAir turbocharged four. It makes you want to wallop on the car at all times ...
... And the Abarth won't have a single problem with that. Since it's so small, it's skittish enough to make things interesting at low speeds. Catch enough boost mid-corner, and you can feel the torque steer gently nudge the car towards the outside of the turn. The suspension, while not entirely bone-shattering on public roads, is on the stiff side, but that's a major contribution to this car's go-kart handling. It's a really trite way of describing it, but with a car this small and this low, it's a sensible comparison.
However, once the key is turned and you hear nothing but the exhaust, those problems will head to the back of your mind. Despite its problems, it's still an infinitely fun little egg of a car, and it begs to be driven as often as possible. It's got some weird, hard-to-pinpoint charm. Must be all the Abarth decals.
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 160 hp / 170 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 28 city / 34 highway
Base Price: $26,195
As Tested: $31,645
Comfort and Convenience Package: Automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio
Beats Premium Audio Package: Beats Audio six-speaker premium sound system, satellite radio
Individual Options: In-car wi-fi, performance leather-trimmed bucket seats, navigation