I’ve had my eye on the Abarth 500 for just over a year now. I’m not entirely sure where the interest came from but I loved the idea of taking a Fiat 500, quite a cute car, and turning it into something fierce. When I try to explain how an Abarth 500 is different to a Fiat 500, I get blank faces. I tell them that while being associated with Fiat, Abarth are a separate brand. The Abarth 500 may look like its Fiat namesake but they are so different.
Then I get the question: But aren’t Fiat 500s really basic?
It’s not a Fiat 500!
I then give up.
After seeing the Abarth stand at the Autosport Show, sitting in a 595 and generally dribbling over all the pretty cars, I knew that I had to have one. This came from months of agonising over Audi, Abarth, Vauxhall, VW and on and on. But actually meeting all those cars at the Autosport Show made me realise that it’s the Abarth for me. We signed up for a test drive but I wasn’t really in a position to buy a car any time soon.
We went along to the test drive and made this clear to the dealer from the outset.
Then I got to drive the car.
We headed out in full sport mode to the dual carriage way and the salesman may have told me not to be shy with putting my foot down. That little 1.4 turbo engine, in such a light car. means super acceleration. It’ll do 0-62 in 7.9 seconds. That’s obviously nothing compared to a sports car but it’s twice as quick to get to that speed than my current car (1.2 Fiat Grande Punto, which is around the 14 second mark).
Seven-point-nine seconds is equivalent to an Audi A3 1.8T Sport, faster than a Honda Civic Type S, and only about a second slower than a new model Volkswagen Golf GTI.
I didn’t get too high a speed out of it but apparently it can do about 130mph too.
Now, sport mode was wonderful. It turns the car into the fast, exciting thing you want and need it to be. In sport mode, when you put your foot down, the accelerator is instantly responsive and the burst of power is quite startling (at least to me with limited experience of turbos). You get heavier steering, which – one would assume – gives you more control going into tight corners. If you do take a corner too quickly the traction control kicks in and keeps you on line by braking individual wheels.
On the dual carriage way the only thing I really got a feel for was the raw power in sport mode. I’d love to take the Abarth 500 for an extended test drive so I can try it out on some more exciting roads.
The ride was comfortable, the turbo was noisy (although pleasantly so and not like the Astra VXR’s horrendous noise), the interior comfortable and the whole car just looked pretty. For years I used to base my car choices on the colour and how it looked. Now, I know so much more but the looks of a car are important and I love how the Abarth 500 looks like a Fiat 500 on steroids. The alloy wheels, racing stripes, leather steering wheel and scorpion badge only further my love for this stupendous little car.
It might not be the best hot hatch on the market but it’s definitely the one with the most character.
The price isn’t bad either with the basic model coming in at just over £14,000. The slightly more powerful 595 version starts at £18,000.
How it made me feel
Like a racing driver. I think that’s important in any car. I don’t get it with the Punto.
The next step
There’s an Abarth 500 in my near future. It’s a pity the six month old car I test drove was in a hideous shade of blue otherwise I might be posting this review with a video of me hurtling around country lanes in my own Abarth.
Once I have the car though, it’s onto Europe for autobahns and windy mountain roads.