2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: Introduction
As you will note - with a mouthful of the omelet generously furnished by the Fiat Experience organizers that you will later determine was a poor choice prior to autocrossing in the sweltering noonday sun - the 2012 FIAT 500 Abarth marks the return of a lineage previously thought extinct in the US. Though your own personal knowledge of Karl Albert Abarth might be extensive, your memory will be jogged by the short introductory video they will play before letting your greasy little hands near the gearshift. It is meant to instill a renewed respect for the vehicle you now own, as well as provide a brief crash course (we’re incorrigible) on the history of the Scorpion badge. If, like us, you’re already pretty well up to speed on Abarth history, the video will at least give you a metric by which to measure the vehicle. It was intended, so the somber video intones, as a phoenix from which Abarth might emerge from dormancy in the states – which is a pretty tall order to fill given Fiat’s professional associations.
They have, by all accounts, succeeded.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: Competition
Given the incredible prowess offered at a genuinely reasonable price point, the Fiat 500 Abarth is peerless.
Pricing, Powertrain, and Fuel Economy
Pricing starts at $22,000, which includes a laundry list of standard equipment like a new, playful C510 five-speed manual transmission and the highly celebrated 1.4L Multi-Air turbo rated at 160-horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Together, they perform a duet that transcends even the beauty of a rigorously disciplined cellist manipulating the taught strings of his instrument. The official EPA rating claims 28 city/34 highway, which we will have to assume to be accurate. We are unable to independently verify these statistics given the great difficulty we experienced in caring.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: Exterior
You can have it any color, as long as it’s black. Or white. Or red. The wheels are offered in similar color combinations and regardless of the pairing, the end result is still a diminutive Italian menace. It’s one of the few vehicles with exhaustive aesthetic combinations that won’t inevitably end in over-styled disaster.
At the risk of sounding banal, it is small. Though frequently employed as an innocent deception when describing cars that have bloated to outrageous proportions over the course of their lifetimes, the Fiat 500 Abarth is genuinely small. Small in a way that the typical blundering buyer won’t be prepared for - fortunately, they stopped reading three pages ago.
You, on the other hand, will find the confined cabin unsurprising given the purpose with which the Abarth was built. Apart from the size, not much registers as especially significant. There is a lot of Dodge’s desperate new bravado stitched into the leather-swathed cockpit, which seems appropriately modern but not remarkably so.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: Driving Impressions
Perhaps one of the most pleasing attributes is the kick-back that never comes. Through every aggressive corner we braced for the inevitable, telltale swing of the rear, only to gracefully glide out of the apex with all the aplomb of the most accomplished gentleman racer. Or we would have, were we not afflicted by an acute lack of both skill and swagger. What we did is a close cousin to the distinguished driving style popularized by restless 17-year-old males. Nevertheless, the Abarth translated our primitive desires into flawlessly delivered performance and a snarling exhaust note that seemed to belong to a powerplant twice its size.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: Final Thoughts
As you get older, things that are “fun” begin losing out to things that are “smart” or “economical.” “Yeah,” you say, “It doesn’t have the turbo, but I’ve still got two years left on the warranty and I’m getting, like, 30mpg’s on the highway.” It’s biologically similar to the pheromones a weakened animal emits shortly before dying, and we too have uttered an identical knell on occasion. On a smoldering track in the middle of the Las Vegas desert, however, it’s hard to keep making that argument. The Fiat 500 Abarth reminded us what it means to have fun, to enjoy the relationship of mutual symbiosis between man and machine.
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: What We Loved
- Exceptionally aggressive yet precise handling, despite operator errors.
- Looks cool (we’re simple creatures).
What We Didn’t
- The lack of feasible rear seating - which is less a complaint and more just a sign that you need less family. They’re too loud anyway.