The original earned the tagline “small but wicked” back in 1958, and that remains an apt description of the 2016 FIAT 500 Abarth today. Of course, the current Fiat 500 Abarth also has grown considerably in terms of both size and wickedness. The 500 introduced nearly 60 years ago was less than 10 feet long, and even after automaker/engineer Carlo Abarth doubled its output, the car that wore his name notched a mere 26 horsepower. Fast-forward to 2016, and the latest effort from the long-running Fiat-Abarth partnership—though still a city car in size—packs six times the number of horses, a track-friendly suspension, and particularly affordable pricing. In fact, as you’ll see, the Fiat 500 Abarth is the least expensive Italian sports car in the US.
2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Road Test and Review
The MSRP for the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is $22,575, a price point noticeably higher than for most mainstream small cars. A Ford Fiesta hatchback—a true subcompact that’s some 15 inches longer than the Fiat—has an MSRP of $14,390; the high-performance Fiesta ST starts at $20,970. The whole point of the 500 Abarth is that it’s not a mainstream car. Its athletic, high-fashion styling helps it punch far above its weight in the design department, plus it offers the robust level of standard content that owners expect from any uplevel European brand. Among the highlights: a flat-bottom, racing-style Abarth steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather, plus a high-def, thin-film transistor (TFT) cluster display in place of traditional gauges. If you're in the market for a 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio, it has an MSRP of $26,695.
Power, Performance and Fuel Efficiency
To power the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth, engineers swapped in a specially tuned 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine in that makes 160 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque with the standard 5-speed manual transmission (or 157/183 with an available 6-speed automatic). Those figures may seem underwhelming at first, but keep this in mind: The entry-level Fiat 500 has 101/91, and the best-selling subcompact in the United States, the significantly bigger Nissan Versa, makes do with 109/107. So the 500 Abarth puts a lot more power into a lot smaller package. The Fiat's nimble size also means the 500 Abarth is also able to post impressive EPA ratings of 28 MPG city/34 MPG highway/30 MPG combined.
Photo Credit: FIAT
Exterior Design and Lighting
The 2-door 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is 144.4 inches long, about an inch longer than a 4-door Chevy Spark and roughly 18.5 inches shorter than the Nissan Versa hatch. But the 500 has a unique look that perhaps is best described as “aggressively rounded,” with available upgrades like foglamps, multiple 16- and 17-inch wheel designs and contrast-color mirror caps. Aerodynamic Abarth body mods include a rear spoiler, side sills, a two-piece rear fascia with air diffuser, and a front fascia significantly reworked for improved air intake. Designers also honor Abarth heritage with a bold Scorpion badge—representing Carlo Abarth’s Scorpio zodiac sign—and distinctive “triple stripe” body-side graphics.
Interior Design and Capacities
In this section of our Autobytel test and review of the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth, it's helps to remember exactly how nonbasic the basic 500 is, from its pod-mounted shifter to its body-color dashboard-panel trim to its asymmetric gauge display. Naturally, the Abarth package brings premium, sporty enhancements that start with performance-oriented front-row seating. These competition-style seats have large side bolsters to hold occupants in place during enthusiastic driving maneuvers.
The dramatic silhouette of the 500 Abarth does impact interior volume, however. The car’s front-seat headroom and legroom—38.9 inches and 40.7 inches—are a bit tighter than those of the similarly sized Chevy Spark. In back, the Fiat seats are best suited either for kids or for folding, after which there are an effective 26.8 cubic feet of storage.
Audio and Infotainment
Since the focus in the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is the driving experience, distracting technologies are kept to a minimum. Standard is one of Fiat-Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment setups, bolstered by voice recognition, a 5-inch touchscreen, and a 276-watt Alpine premium audio system with six speakers. Standard Bluetooth connectivity also is on board for smartphone users, who can count on that tech for audio streaming and hands-free calling. Navigation is optional, as is an impressive benefit: a Beats by Dr. Dre high-definition sound system that’s backed by 368 watts of power, digital sound processing and, mounted in its own enclosure in the trunk, an 8-inch dual voice coil subwoofer. That Beats package adds SiriusXM radio, too.
Beyond the available nav and audio systems—and a power sunroof—the options for the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth are mostly about increasing the car’s style factor. And that includes two-tone red-and-black seats that are a no-cost alternative to the standard all-black units.
Additionally, Abarth’s stripe and mirror cap packages are available in red, gray, or black, with Mopar also offering an “Italian stripe” package based on the colors of the Italian flag and featuring a full-length roof graphic. For customers who prefer something a bit more predatory in appearance, there are two available Scorpion packages. These showcase the Abarth brand’s iconic arachnid on a massive roof graphic as well as one on the fuel-filler door, license- plate frame, tire valve-stem caps, and floor mats.
Safety Technology and Ratings
The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth has not been evaluated by NHTSA or the IIHS for safety, but the standard 500 does not achieve top grades from either of those organizations. That said, Fiat indicates there are more than 35 safety and security features for the car, starting with seven standard airbags: multi-stage units for the driver and front-seat passenger, drivers side knee protection, full-length side-curtain units, and side pelvic-thorax airbags mounted in the front seats.
Moreover, the same standard three-mode electronic stability control system that does so much for the car’s corner-carving capabilities also supplies “improved braking performance in wet or panic conditions.”
Other Cool Info
Not quite convinced the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is a credible choice for enthusiasts? Well, the folks at the legendary Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving are, and they’ve got a complimentary one-day track experience ready for new owners to prove their case. It just might be the coolest standard feature of the 500 Abarth, with a syllabus that includes hot laps, autocross and rallycross driving, and slalom activities. Owners—and lessees—have one year after taking delivery to take advantage of this opportunity, which is held at the Bondurant facility near Phoenix. Note that lodging and airfare are extra and that Fiat drivers also can add a second day of activities capped by a road rally of about 200 miles.
For driving enthusiasts, it comes down to this: The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is an authentic Italian sports car with enough historic race credentials and modern-day hardware to carry on that tradition, and it provides those dual benefits at a price point that starts south of $23K. You’d be laughed out of the dealership if that were your budget for a new Ferrari. True, the Fiat isn’t nearly as powerful as its more expensive relatives, but, because of its low sales, you could argue that the 500 Abarth is nearly as exclusive. And we already know the Abarth is a good value.