2017 FIAT 500 Abarth Review
When Fiat started selling new cars in the United States again after a 28-year absence, it did so not with the expected mass-market family sedan or crossover SUV but with the 500, a fuel-efficient city car that brought a playful attitude to the normally no-frills subcompact market. Five years later, the 2017 Fiat 500 doesn't quite have the same newness associated with it, yet it continues to be an interesting option if you're searching for an affordable runabout.
We like the Fiat 500 for its stylish looks and easy-to-maneuver nature in urban settings. While the base 500 is painfully slow under heavy acceleration, the high-octane Abarth offers a zippier driving experience. Unfortunately, those seeking something in the middle might be disappointed because the peppy Turbo model has been discontinued for 2017. In an effort to slim down the lineup, Fiat has also dropped last year's Easy, Sport and 1957 models, although most of the features included on those trims can be added back in.
There's nothing on the road quite like the Fiat 500, but there are a couple like-minded rivals. The Mini Cooper boasts a higher-quality cabin, sharper handling and a much higher degree of personal customization possibility, but it's also typically more expensive. The bigger Volkswagen Beetle is also more expensive, but it's a superior option if you want more power and a bigger backseat than the 500 can provide. For greater versatility, you'd probably want to check out a top four-door subcompact hatchback, such as the Ford Fiesta. Overall, though, we think the 2017 Fiat 500 is still worth a look for shoppers wanting an urban runabout with flair.
Standard safety features for all 2017 Fiat 500 models include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags, side curtain airbags. Rear parking sensors come standard on all versions except the base Pop hatchback.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 500 coupe came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressively short 115 feet, while a 500C Lounge needed 124 feet. Disappointingly, an Abarth hatchback needed 123 feet despite its ostensibly stickier summer tires and upgraded brakes, and an Abarth convertible with all-season tires required 125 feet.
In government crash tests, the Fiat 500 hardtop received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded the 500 coupe its top rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests. In the small-overlap front-impact test, however, the Fiat earned the lowest score of Poor. The 500's seat and head restraint design was rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Fiat 500 is available as either a hatchback or a convertible. Both are offered in three trim levels: Pop, Lounge and Abarth. An all-electric version, the 500e, is reviewed separately.
Standard features for the base Pop trim include 15-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, keyless locking/unlocking, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 7-inch color driver information display, 50/50-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Fiat Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment interface with a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice controls and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with an auxiliary audio input and two USB ports (one for mobile device integration, the other for charging). The Pop convertible also comes with rear parking sensors and a windscreen that fits between the rear seats.
The luxurious Lounge trim includes all of the above, plus chrome exterior trim, foglights, a fixed glass roof, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and satellite radio.
At the top of the Fiat 500 food chain is the performance-focused Abarth. It includes the foglights and parking sensors from the Lounge and adds a turbocharged engine, 16-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, sportier suspension tuning, upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, a performance exhaust system, distinctive exterior and interior styling tweaks, premium cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a sport steering wheel and front floor mats.
Some of the Lounge's extra features can be added to the Pop and Abarth as options. Other popular options include a sunroof for coupe models, 16-inch (Lounge) or 17-inch wheels (Abarth), a six-speaker Beats Audio sound system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer, a navigation system, and a variety of Mopar-branded exterior and interior styling enhancements.
Two engines are available for the 2017 Fiat 500, both of which send power to the front wheels.
The Pop and Lounge trim levels receive a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a Fiat 500 (with the no-longer-available manual transmission) went from zero to 60 mph in 10.4 seconds, a laggardly time for the class. An automatic-equipped 500C was even slower in our testing, needing a sloth-like 12.4 seconds to get to 60 mph.
The Fiat 500 earns EPA estimates of 34 mpg combined (31 city/38 highway) with the manual, but opting for the automatic cuts efficiency to a humdrum 29 mpg combined (27 city/33 highway).
The Abarth model's 1.4-liter turbocharged engine makes 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque with the available five-speed manual transmission. With the six-speed automatic, those output figures change slightly to 157 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, a manual Abarth coupe sprinted to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while an automatic Abarth convertible did it in 7.5 seconds. The Abarth's fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg combined (28 city/33 highway) with the manual and 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway) with the automatic.
The base engine's acceleration is undeniably lackluster. In fact, the 500 is one of the slowest cars on the market. It's a shame that the 500 Turbo was dropped this year, as it effectively split the difference from the sluggish base model and the significantly more engaging Abarth.
The 500's ride quality is pretty comfortable whether you're driving over rutted city streets or cruising on the highway. The firmer suspension tuning of the Abarth improves handling response without much of a comfort penalty; if you enjoy a spirited drive, this is really the only way to go. Any 500 is good fun on a quick errand, thanks to the car's diminutive dimensions and inherently nimble feel, though enthusiasts won't like the somewhat top-heavy feel and significant body roll at the limit. Steering is accurate but lacks feedback, and the Abarth's large 37.6-foot turning diameter is regrettably like that of an SUV, eclipsing the other 500 models by a whopping 7 feet.
Much of the 500's interior is a mixed bag. Despite the zippy appearance and colors throughout the cabin, the quality of most materials is subpar. The 500's control layout is also a bit of a mishmash, including odd controls for the standard (non-automatic) climate system. We like the Uconnect infotainment system's 5-inch user-friendly menus, though the screen itself is small by 2017 standards.
There is ample room in the front seats for taller occupants, but be advised that the tilt-only steering wheel can make finding a comfortable driving position a challenge and the optional sunroof noticeably reduces headroom. The rear seats for any 500 are pretty much what you'd expect: torture for those older than preschool age, with basically nonexistent headroom in the hatchback due to the sloping rear glass.
With the rear seatbacks up, the hatchback presents a reasonable 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space. Drop the seatbacks and you open up a total of 30.2 cubic feet. That's not bad for such a small car, but the two-door Mini Cooper hatchback gives you more (34 cubes), and four-door hatchbacks including the Honda Fit are even roomier. Cargo capacity for the 500C isn't nearly as generous, as there are just 5.4 cubic feet available behind the rear seats and 23.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. Moreover, the convertible's folding canvas top stacks accordion-like on the rear deck when retracted, all but blocking your view directly behind.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.