Abarth 500 – Review

When the Fiat 500 Abarth was introduced in 1958 it had a 479cc engine producing a mind-boggling 26bhp! It was, as it is now, based on the Fiat 500 but with slight adjustments to the appearance and a huge adjustment to the engine.

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The “new” Abarth 500 began production in 2008 with its turbo charged 1.4 litre engine. It produces 135bhp in the standard model but there is an esseesse (SS) version which produces 160bhp. There are also 595 and 695 versions of the Abarth 500 and they are even more powerful and handsome looking again.

The 135bhp model I drove is definitely more than enough. It mightn’t sound like a lot but 135 horsies in a car that weighs only 1035kg is pretty impressive. It’s certainly quick also, Abarth claims that it does 0-100kmh in 7.9 seconds with the manual box but 8.1 seconds with the Competizione (automatic) transmission. I see the Abarth 500 as a small, ‘nippy’ city car. It has enough boot space for your daily essentials and that’s about it really. So boot space is limited but unlike some city cars its rear seats can fold out flat for that dreaded trip to Ikea.

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That then brings me to the ‘living’ area. As you sit into the 500 you are greeted by a large scorpion emblem on the sports steering wheel and the same quirky dash you find in the Fiat 500. The Abarth has the addition of a turbo gauge on the dash. The interior isn’t of best quality. The plastics feel quite cheap and the turbo gauge looks like it was just thrown up onto the dash as a last minute job. However its not all bad, My car had red and black leather which suited the cabin nicely. On a new Abarth this is a €1000 option! These leather seats are for the driver and front passenger and for the small adults in the rear it is cloth. The leg room in the rear is quite tight. I’m six foot and just about fit in.

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From the outside, the Abarth is certainly a head turner. The colour of my test car was Bianco, which is a form of pearlescent white so it looks well when polished up. The added body kit sets it apart from the standard Fiat 500. The body kit consists of wider arches, a sportier front bumper and a rear spoiler. The look is completed with large red brake calipers. There are Scorpian emblems on each rear wing which you immediately identify with the Abarth brand.

Now, I only got to drive the Abarth for a short amount of time but in that time I had so much fun. As soon as I sat in and turned the key I had a huge smile on my face. The engine noise is just something else! On the 135bhp version of the Abarth you get twin exhausts but on the 595 you get the Record Monza quad exhaust. It may look a bit much with a quad exhaust on this tiny car but it sounds amazing.

Driving the Abarth is like driving a go kart. Its small, quick and nimble. The steering is very responsive and smooth with the help of electronic steering. I took it down a dual carriage way and before I knew it I was doing 80kmh. It mightn’t have a top speed to rival its Italian cousin, Ferrari, but it will get up to the speed limit in the quickest and most fun way possible. The ride really compensates the cheap interior so don’t let that turn you off it. The lack of an all leather interior doesn’t detract from the sensation of power in this small hot hatch.

All in all the Abarth 500 is a drivers car and for the purists the engine note is the only music you’ll need to hear in this car.

I am grateful to Noel and the staff in Tractamotors Blanchardstown for the opportunity to drive this car. However, my student status doesn’t allow me to own such a car at this moment in time. But for those who are in the market for a car that adds fun to performance this is a serious contender so check it out at: http://www.tractamotorsblanchardstown.com/_usedCars/usedCars.shtml . If anyone does decide to purchase this car, do get in touch with me. It is some machine!

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