I have held off on writing my review for a couple of years (so my car is actually a '13) in order to see how it fared over time. I don't think they have made many changes since them to the Abarth. I did not give it a poor rating on things like ride quality and storage simply because the car is great for what it is. The ride quality is very stiff due to the sport suspension, as is the steering. It's what I wanted and what I expected, so it has not disappointed me in these regards. It is also noisy due to the awesome exhaust (which one dealer told me is made by Ferrari). My only "poor" rating is on the visibility. Even looking out the front you have to be vigilant. There just isn't a lot of clarity no matter how you slice it. Two other things I do not like: no Bluetooth connect from phone to audio (unless calling someone) so if you want to listen to Pandora, you have to have cords. This is probably not the case if you get the navigation package. The other thing I do not like: terrible turning radius! Crazy. Feels like driving a boat when trying for a tight turn.
These things being said, I thought that when I bought this car I would get tired of it after two months. It's loud, fun, stiff, small, fast, manual. I got it on lease for three years, so it was a gamble. Well, I have not tired of it at all. It has been great. You will get close to 40 mpg on the highway, and I average about 30 in mixed city driving. Also, I fit a Laz-y-Boy in the back! (Only because you can separate the seat from the back with a Laz-y-Boy.) This is not a super fast car, but it FEELS super fast and it is a blast to rocket around. I will say that the turbo lag is a bit much. I hear that it is not so obvious in the automatic transmission.
Also, Fiat often offers some great deals. I got this as a lease so had to pay the list price. The same car was on sale for about $4,000 less when purchasing. So leasing may not be the most economical choice.
I have noticed that a lot of American reviewers are pretty hard on Fiat. I don't know why. Consumer Reports rates them with awful reliability yet I have not had a single issue. I test drove the VW GTI, and that is a great car, but a whole different animal. The GTI is faster, way more refined in terms of ride quality, but the Abarth feels like it is made for rallycross and wants to chew something up. It is just bursting to go when you put it in sport mode. You can only get a sense of the Abarth by driving it and really pushing the pedal. Again, I'm not sure why it doesn't get amazing reviews, but I am not a car expert. One person described the driving experience as "driving an angry hornet." That is right on.
On the highway, it holds very firm. I have driven it fair distances and been very comfortable, but again, it is quite loud.
I would seriously consider getting another Abarth when my lease is up in 2016, but the girlfriend is not in favor. She says it makes her dizzy and it is too loud for us to talk on a road trip. Also, the racing seats are not conducive to her reclining to take a snooze while I drive. So....a word to the wise.
In a nutshell, if you test drive this car and finish by getting out and telling yourself you feel like you just got out of a cocktail shaker, this may not be the car for you. If, on the other hand, you get out and you find yourself eager for more, then you know you have found your next car. It will not disappoint.
You have to try it.. you may love or hate it - but it really is a fun car for 'enthusiast' drivers. Great value, provided you don't pay the MSRP (I got mine (with 3 year tire insurance - which I already used once for a repair) for 19K US$ + tax with end of year discounts of 6K.)
Was considering other small/light 'fun' cars such as the Mini/Mazda Mx5/BRZ-FRS, but for similar performance/features it would be 10K more, anyway, I just kind of fell in love with it after a test drive.
With the 17-inch wheels and P-zero tires this light weight car feels fast and nimble, not always stable on the edge. Provided you keep it in the mid-rev range the torque is strong and turbo lag is not an issue.
I love the responsiveness and handling, and of course the exhaust sound is fantastic, and surprises many people.
I get a lot of questions of the sort - what is that? Did you modify it?.. It is stock - although I added a short-shifter and 'go-pedal' - search online there are a ton of mods you can make for even more performance.
No - this is not a super-car, and yes you will get out-run by a Honda V6, but driving this car puts a huge smile on your face and has a special feeling.
Reliability seems fine - have done 8K of pretty hard commute driving on it and no issues. An Abarth track day experience was included in the purchase - just brilliant (although I wish we'd had more track time).
The interior plastics are pretty cheap and easy to scratch. The ride can be a bit stiff and bouncy (low profile tires probably not helping), however I think the rear suspension could be improved. Sometimes on the freeway I would like to have a 6th gear and for sure reverse lockout would be safer.. as reverse comes after 5 in the 2013 model at least.
Pedals (too close), steering and seating position (high) are not great - I wish it had a telescoping wheel. I'm hoping fiat bring out a coupe based on this platform with no rear seats, move the engine and seats backwards to improve the car's balance and create better leg room/pedal layout not impeded by the front wheel arches, make it RWD.
I have a 2013 Abarth. I will start on a High note and say that it is a Blast to drive, sounds great, and is an amazing small performance car. Now for the bad! I bought mine used with 4100 miles on it for about $10000 less than a brand new one, $27,500 sticker price. This should have been a sign that they don't hold their value at all. I missed having a larger car and wanted to trade it in, they offered $14,000 trade in with 6000 miles on it. Now with 16,700 miles on it I have had a brand new radiator put in it and have an appointment for a speedometer that stopped working today! Do yourself a favor and by a Honda Civic Si,VW GTi or Ford ST! I wish I had taken my own Advise!
Performance is Great, 160hp, 170lbs, 5 speed stick and Straight exhaust! All out of 1.4ltrs of Displacement is spectacular in my opinion! Beats sound system sounds pretty decent. You also won't find many more around you, I own the only one in my town!
Build Quality is typical Chrysler, poorly built and even poorer Customer service from Fiat, Chrysler!
Bluetooth System will drive you to Punching something! The worst Depreciation of a Car than I have EVER OWNED! Any car that loses $10,000-$12,000 in value in the first year is Criminal and Fiat should offer Refunds to owners!
Up front I'll say that I love this car and it is great for my needs. But this is absolutely a niche vehicle that is lots of fun as a run-about but gives up a lot in utility/flexibility. There is no way I would have bought this as an only car in the household--something like a GTI would make way more sense or a Focus ST if you wanted more edginess. That said, I felt the Abarth had way more character, was more fun, and was more unique for a hot hatch. It feels a more raw and simple than the competition--which I like. It gets me to work every day, puts a smile on my face when I drive it, gets good gas mileage, and for short trips fits a family of three and groceries for a couple of days.
Exhaust is great fun, meaty and quick turbo engine, good grip, extremely easy to park in those spaces no one else can fit in. I love the pops and backfires when you lift off the throttle quickly or when changing gears. I like the high seating position. I really like the old style analog concentric gauge cluster--I have no problem quickly interpreting the data as some have reported. Looks are great with the gray-tint headlight/tail light option. I like the Abarth stripes--what the heck, might as well with a car like this!
The seats bother my lower back on longer trips. I dropped the money for wet okole seat covers with lumbar support and now they are pretty good. Given that, getting leather seats was a waste and maybe the cloth would have been better on my back. Blue and me interface is pretty low tech and user un-friendly but not a deal breaker. Beats audio is better than stock but still not great. If you get 17" wheels with summer tires you will need dedicated snow tires if you ever touch snow/ice.