The test driveway has been treated to a couple of hot little Italians in the form of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and, most recently, the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio. They both reside under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles umbrella, both feature a cloth top that opens, and they both have turbocharged, four-cylinder engines.
For the purpose of comparison, the Alfa, to me, is akin to the Mach 5 where the 500c is more the “Trixie Racer.” And for those on a budget, the Fiat 500 Abarth models will provide plenty of driving fun at less than half the cost of the hot little Alfa Romeo 4C. The Abarth package is available on both hardtop and Cabrio (rollback softtop) models.
Since our last visit with the Abarth performance edition 500, Fiat has updated the model line and added a sporty automatic gearbox to the list of options. We recently tested the 2016 Fiat 500c that was outfitted with this transmission and found it every bit as enjoyable as the manual car. Abarth refers to Karl Abarth who, in the late 1950s, came up with the idea that performance cars could be derived from small, everyday drivers including the Fiat Cinquecento (500). Basically, you take an ordinary production unit, beef up the powertrain, performance tune the suspension, add some aerodynamics, tune the chassis and a few other components, and voila – the Fiat 500 Abarth.
At the heart of the little two-door, roll-top 500 is a turbocharged version of the 1.4-liter I-4 MultiAir engine that generates 160hp and 170 lb. ft. of torque with the standard five-speed manual tranny or 157hp and 183 lb. ft. of torque when mated to the six-speed automatic gearbox with Sport mode featuring corner gear hold, fast-off gear hold, rev-matching downshifts, and more aggressive throttle tuning.
The Abarth package beefs up suspension components and tuning both front and rear in the 500s while still managing to offer a very smooth on-road ride. These cars also see sportier steering ratio as well as enhanced electronic power steering tuning when in Sport mode. Brake components are upgraded with ventilated rotors at all four corners and the 500c rides on 16-inch sport wheels and tires standard or, as our tester arrived with, unique 17-inch forged aluminum hyper black wheels with sport tires. The Abarth package also allows drivers to select one of three electronic stability control modes to tailor the system response to the driving situation: On, Partial Off, or Full Off.
Inside the 500 Abarth, Fiat has updated infotainment technologies to the new Uconnect 5.0 system with touchscreen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and voice command. There is also a media hub with auxiliary jack and USB port as well as SiriusXM radio and navigation. Our tester arrived with the upgraded Beats premium audio system with subwoofer and digital signal processing.
Despite its size I was able to easily get a child seat in and out of the rear seat area and although the trunk is very tiny the rear seats fold down to add more cargo space and for really large items just roll back the roof and travel al fresco.
Pricing for the 2016 Fiat 500c Abarth begins at $26,695 with our tester rolling in at $33,315. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
The Fiat was a fun car to drive and was much easier to drive than the Alfa. The Alfa is built to take immediately to the track whereas the Fiat 500c Abarth will have you enjoying the ride on your way to and from the track. This Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio is an everyday, all-day fun little sports car.