Entry price: $20,495
Price as tested: $28,800
This week, we go back-to-back with the Fiat 500, this time arriving in performance oriented Abarth trim. Abarth debuted in 1957 and won many small-bore road racing and hill-climb events worldwide and to this day is respected for its legendary performance attributes.
Up front we zero in on the future of the Fiat 500 models, as 2019 is the very last year you will be able to order a two-door trim 500. Come 2020, (which is actually happening right now), Fiat 500 will only be available in its larger four-door design, so take heed if you have your heart set on a two-door hatch or Cabrio 500. Your dealer will explain everything when you visit a Fiat store as the current U.S. lineup features the 500L wagon, 500X Crossover and 124 Spider, the latter a sibling of the Mazda Miata.
As for the Abarth we drove this week, it’s way faster than the 500 Pop we drove last week. It’s way louder, too, thanks to a performance exhaust system with dual chrome tips. Featuring flashy exterior colors and stripes (if desired), the short wheelbase Abarth is built in Toluca, Mexico, yet differs from the Pop as the Abarth engine is assembled in the United States as opposed to the lower horsepower Pop engine, which is built in Italy. All of the 500 heavy duty six-speed automatic transmissions are assembled in Japan and out tester featured this option.
Abarth’s legend is that of a respected Italian racing car founded by Italian-Austrian Carlo Abarth back in 1949. Its logo is a shield of a scorpion on a yellow and red background. Although working together for many years prior, Fiat officially joined forces with Abarth in 1952 and throughout the 1950s and 1960s won many races of note. I remember reading of the Abarth abilities in my subscriptions to Road & Track magazine in the later 1950s and especially recall the action photos of the Abarth models with special rear spoilers and air intake setups.
Today, Fiat promotes its two-door Abarth as “The Scorpionship,” and notes that “Carlo Abarth was a man with one mission: Go faster than yesterday, win more.” Fiat says he embodied the spirit of the Abarth Brand, pushing the limits of every second, every edge, every achievement and that his spirit lives on in everything Fiat makes.
Indeed, the Abarth is a special Fiat 500. With an entry of just $20,495, prospective consumers who desire a true sports car with a heritage that is tough to match can enjoy a neat little car that won’t break the monthly budget. Similar to the other sibling 500 two-door hardtops, these vehicles are easy to maneuver especially in city traffic.
However, ease of driving aside, it’s under the hood where Abarth separates from the rest of the 500 family. Its 1.4-liter Multi Air Turbocharged four-cylinder develops up to 25 more horsepower than the Pop we drove, coming in at 154 ponies and 183 lb. ft. of torque for the automatic and 160 horses and 170 lb. ft. of torque for the five-speed manual.
The engine powers our Abarth tester to 60 mph in about seven seconds with a good degree of zip throughout the RPM range. When connected to the heavy duty six-speed automatic and utilizing its Sport mode drive setting, it’s a fun little performance car that delivers in every manner. The aforementioned exhaust is loud, and even louder in Sport mode.
Estimated EPA numbers for the automatic are 24 city and 32 highway, exactly the same as the Pop estimates. The manual comes in at 28 city and 33 highway.
On the road, Abarth delivers very good handling, especially on the secondary roads where sharp curves are the norm. The sport tuned suspension features a MacPherson strut coil-over front that works with a twist beam rear axle design. Brakes are ABS performance disc all around with red calipers.
Our Abarth arrived with several options, one a $1,395 tire and wheel option that is clearly expensive yet affects handling and grip to the positive. Instead of 16-inch standard fare, 17-inch Pirelli run-flat three-season tires come mounted on good looking Hyper Black wheels that impact the Abarth in an affirmative, high performance manner.
Another notable option is a recommended $895 Popular Equipment package that adds SiriusXM, two tone heated seats and automatic climate control.
Rounding out the options are $1,195 leather seating, $295 Nero black trim lights, $695 Beats Premium Audio, $995 automatic transmission, $795 power sunroof, $595 GPS Navigation and $1,495 delivery that pushes the final retail to $28,800.
Abarth exterior badges are notable, as are a performance spoiler. Standard features include UConnect infotainment with a five-inch display, Bluetooth with integrated voice, rearview mirror with microphone, fog lamps, center console media hub with USB, a second USB in the glove box, leather wrapped steering wheel, climate control and more.
On the safety side, a Parkview rear back up camera is standard as is electronic stability control, hill start assist, rear park assist, all the airbags and much more. Check for any current incentives on all of the final year two-door Fiat 500’s when you visit your dealer.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 90.6-inches, 2,512 lb. curb weight, 10.5 gallon fuel tank, 4.1-inch ground clearance, and from 9.5 to 30.1 cu. ft. of cargo space. Abarth models are 4.8 inches longer in length than the Pop (139.6 to 144.4-inches) yet still sit on the same wheelbase.
If you want a two-door 500, and especially an Abarth, this is your last chance as currently, there are no Abarth models listed on the 2020 lineup. However, don’t be surprised to see one re-emerge in the future.
Likes: Exterior looks, Fiat Abarth legend, great handling.
Dislikes: Fuel mileage just so-so, very tight rear seat, expensive options.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth
Entry price: $20,495