Six-Speed Automatic Transmission ($1,350), Comfort/Convenience Package ($900 -- includes automatic climate control with micron filter, heated front seats, satellite radio), Beats Premium Audio ($700), TomTom Navigation System ($600), 16-Inch Aluminum Wheels ($550), Red Mirror Cap With Body-Side Strip and Gray Soft Top ($450)
Turbocharged, port-injected, inline-4, gasoline
Cast iron/aluminum alloy
SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression ration (x:1)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
157 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)
183 @ 2,400
Six-speed automatic with console shifter and Sport/Competition modes
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)
There is some hesitation when you first stomp on the gas pedal off the line, as with many turbo cars. A bit more with this 500 Abarth than most cars these days, though. But by the time the tachometer clears 3,000 rpm, the engine is making good power, enough to spin the front tires, especially when you have traction control turned off. Regardless, the Abarth sounds rorty and fun. It's a low, grumbly kind of engine/exhaust note, and it backfires sometimes on full-throttle uphifts. Which also sounds cool. Shifts are reasonably quick, usually coming around 6,000 rpm. It upshifts sooner if it gets a bunch of front wheelspin. Our quickest time came with the Sport button pressed while utilizing power-braking (overlapping throttle and brake on the line to bring the revs to about 2,200 rpm to spool the turbo). Manual shifting is via the console shift lever (push forward for downshifts, the way we prefer it). It blips the throttle on downshifts and will hold gears to the rev limiter. Manual shifting gave slower times versus just using the transmission's regular Drive mode.
Reasonably firm brake pedal, and stayed that way throughout, even though there was significant brake odor early. Nosedive isn't excessive, but the car squirms back and forth on its tires quite a bit. It's not the most confidence-inspiring stopper. Very little in the way of ABS commotion/noise, though. The first stop was the shortest at 125 feet. The second stop was the longest at 134 feet, but the fifth and final stop was back down to 130 feet.
Let's be honest: The Fiat 500 -- even the Abarth version -- doesn't handle all that well. Sure, it's sort of nimble (only because it's tiny), and it's better than a standard 500, but relative to the competition, this isn't a rewarding car to drive. It's too tall to feel truly confident in transitions, and there's more roll than there should be. The steering is lifeless when it comes to road feel and feedback, even if it is relatively quick. It understeers its way to only 0.87g on the skid pad -- with a stubborn refusal to rotate. And it's slower than everything in the class through the slalom. Blargh.