When I first heard that Fiat is going to make an invasion with their tiny 500, and once I found my closest dealership, I had to see what’s what. This little car has many varieties to choose from, but I am a man and I went for the top of the range Turbo and the racing heritage infused Abarth.
The 500 Turbo starts at a bargain price of just $20K, coming with 7 exterior colors but is only black on the inside. If you think the all black is a little dull for your taste, you can opt for the leather-trimmed bucket seats that do come in Rosso Red instead of the sport cloth bucket seats, at a cost of an extra $1.2K. Top spec for the Turbo costs $24K, but it does not include the $600 TomTom navigator, because what you get for that price is a stand stuck on the dashboard with a removable toy that you can just get at Best Buy. On the other hand, the Abarth and its convertible brother will require you to have near $30K in your wallet for everything, including the nice 17” alloy wheels.
So let’s get down to how it drives! Be warned, if you are planning on driving the Turbo or the Abarth, make sure to learn how to drive a manual because there is no option for an automatic for these models, but I bet a person willing to play with these monsters of a toy will know how to handle a stick. The gear knob is quite big compared to others that I have used, but this is not bad at all. I can get a very good grip and makes the shifting more about feel than thought. The clutch is hard enough for thrashing around a track and soft enough to be stuck in traffic, so you will not start cramping after sitting in in traffic for an hour during rush hour. The Turbo has 135 hp from the 1.4L turbocharged I4 engine, which makes getting to places nice and quick with very decent fuel economy at 28 and 34 miles per gallon on city or highway roads, respectively. What is even better is the way it gets off the line with its 150 lb-ft of torque. With the ECU Fiat has included, there is minimal torque steer, ensuring you get away from people as the light turns green. But I implore you to keep racing to the track. If you do want to have maximum fun on the track, the Abarth and its 160 hp for only a little over two-ton shoebox will make you running for the bathroom! The roar from the exhaust is loud enough to go with the thrust of the car, and nothing beats a guy driving pass and sticking a thumbs-up at me when I roared out of the dealership in the Abarth. The steering is as responsive as you would expect, and cornering is very sharp for a FF with that much power and so little weight. Like I said before, the Abarth is made so you can have fun on track days.
Despite the Abarth being a track car, it is nice on urban roads. Compared to the Turbo or lower models, it is still harder, so bumps in the road make themselves felt in your back, but it’s expected. The grip on the steering for both the Turbo and Abarth is very comfortable so feel free to get tense with the speed without your hands hurting. The cloth bucket seats are snug enough to hold you in fast corners but not so snug that you can’t move. It was comfortable in those front seats, but don’t try fitting into the back seats. I am neither tall nor chubby, but I still felt claustrophobic seating in those rear seats. Fold those rear seats down and you will have a decent size trunk enough for a German Shepard and not consider it being animal cruelty. All in all, in terms of the interior of these two models, it doesn’t exceed expectations for a car that small.
The Fiat 500 is a great car and driving one allows you to feel that you are driving a Ferrari, because Ferrari is in part Fiat! The Abarth will make you have the Ferrari refined driving experience but sad to say, I would prefer the Turbo as a daily drive. The Abarth is too loud to be comfortable and the Turbo is certainly fast enough. For the track, get the Abarth; otherwise, just get the Turbo. Most importantly, remember to get the Beats Audio system for the best drive experience.