The FIAT 500 is a small car with a big heart. That shows in its interior accommodations, at least in the front seats, as well as its fun-to-drive ratio. Like most other automakers who are looking to appeal to more customers on all levels, FIAT now (since the 2015 model year) offers a six-speed automatic transmission on the performance-oriented Abarth model, making the car accessible to more people than just high performance seeking enthusiasts.
The trade off with having the automatic is a loss of 3 horsepower but a gain of 13 lb.-ft. of torque. What that means in the real world is that you’re really not going to feel a difference between the two versions. The nice thing is that the turbo should stay spooled up so that it should stay in the power band longer, giving the car more oomph (technical term).
For such a small car, the 500 Abarth handles rougher roads easily without a harsh ride. Also, the peppy engine makes getting around town fast and easy. Since I didn’t get a chance to take the 500 Abarth out on the open road I will not even speculate on how it handles on the interstate, except to say that small cars like this usually feel very skittish at highway speeds and with such a short wheelbase expect a lot of porpoising over road undulations and expansion joints.
For 2016, the high end Abarth gets FCA’s UConnect system 5.0 which sports a 5-inch touch screen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command to control it all. Couple that with the available BeatsAudio 368-watt six-speaker/subwoofer and DSP system and you’ve got one great-sounding ride with tunes from coast to coast.
There’s also a bunch of high-tech safety features to keep you safe and on the road. Some of the more than 35 safety and security features include seven standard airbags (including full-length side-curtain air bags, standard seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags and even one for the driver’s knee) and an Abarth-tuned three-mode Electronic Stability Control.
The FIAT 500 Abarth starts just over $22,500 and goes up from there but you can easily keep it under $30k if you watch your options. Speaking of which, our test vehicle had a few options like that Aisin six-speed automatic transmission ($1350); premium leather-trimmed bucket seats ($1200); premium Italian stripe package by Mopar ($515); BeatsAudio ($700); and the comfort/convenience group ($975) and it was just under $28k! Drive the manual off the lot and you can see how much you’ll save ($1350) but you’ll also have so much more fun!