The hot hatch drops its top
No, not like that. I’m talking about driving a car with its top down. This means the wind in your hair, the sky opening up around you, and an extra heaping of road noise. It also means a closer connection to the exhaust note, and that’s just what Chrysler is hoping fans of the Fiat 500 Abarth are clamoring for. That’s why the automaker has recently pulled the wraps (and top) off the little hatch to create the 2013 FIAT 500 Abarth Cabrio.
Audiophiles… your hot hatch convertible has arrived.
Same aggressive style, now with more sunlight
Whenever an automaker takes an existing coupe or hatchback and then removes the top, you’re left with a vehicle that’s not quite as good as the original. There’s a loss of stiffness and rigidity that is the tradeoff for the open-air motoring experience. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with the 500C Abarth.
Fiat builds the 500C with fully stamped body-side silhouettes. This means the automaker can get the exact iconic shape it’s looking for without sacrificing any strength from the final product. You’ll notice that there is still a roofline, and it helps keep the car in check with the top is down. This makes for a smiling driver on twisty roads.
It also makes for smiling folks being passed by. The shape of the 2013 FIAT 500C Abarth easily reminds one of the classic Cinquecento from decades ago. It’s similar, but clearly updated to modern times thanks to the optional 17-inch alloy wheels that hide relatively large disc brakes. Up front the lower fascia sports a far more aggressive attitude than the non-Abarth 500 thanks to a pair of inlets that feed air to the twin intercoolers. Around the side, the car looks lower thanks to the larger side sills and the rear end is set off with both a diffuser and a spoiler. It’s an aggressive package that is only slightly softened by the addition of the sliding cloth top.
An exhaust note to be reckoned with
All of that aggression would be nothing without the appropriate powertrain. The Abarth engineers know this and have stuffed the 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine into the little runabout. It’s a single turbo unit that produces 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The forced-induction mill is paired with a five-speed manual gearbox and sends power out to the front wheels.
We love the exhaust note the little bulldog of a motor produces. It’s the hallmark of pretty much any Abarth product, and it’s in excellent form here on the 500C. Slide the top back and you’re treated to even more of the noise. Driving the car on a canyon road, the pops, burps, gurgles, and roars all reverberate back and forth to create a symphony of aural delight.
It’s not all sunshine in the cabin space, however, because we do have a few gripes with the 500C Abarth, and they’re the same ones we have with the fixed-roof version. The shifter throws are far too long for such a sporty vehicle, and the shift lever itself is approximately the size of a little league baseball bat. On top of that, the driving position is a bit too elevated and it doesn’t help with the sensation that the center of gravity rides a bit higher than it should.
Despite that, the Fiat 500C Abarth is a blast to drive. From the intoxicating exhaust note to the track-sorted brakes and suspension system, it’s a fun package that constantly elicits smiles from driver, passengers, and pretty much anyone else on the road currently being passed.
Drop-top driving fun in compact fashion
Fiat is bringing a different side of the Abarth to customers, and it hopes to grab a portion of the market that wants the throaty experience but also desires to let the sun shine in. The experience isn’t exactly the same, however, because Fiat engineers softened up the Abarth suspension by about 20 percent. They did this because they feel convertible drivers would opt for a slightly softer ride. The in-cabin effect is actual rather minimal unless you drive a fixed-roof and a drop-top back-to-back. Letting the air in aids to the Abarth driving experience, and the 500C should draw some new buyers to Fiat lots.
What these shoppers will find is a sub-$30,000 sporty car that delivers a fun driving experience and a well-sorted cabin for the driver and front passenger. If you slide into the driver’s seat knowing that you’re not getting a true sports car and just want a fun cruiser that can handle itself adequately on a canyon road, then you the Fiat 500C Abarth won’t let you down.
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