2018 Fiat 500c Abarth Review

Fiat 500 Abarth Overview

Looking for all of the world like an angry Easter egg, the Fiat 500c Abarth is easily an enthusiast’s delight. The sounds it makes, along with the way it loves to go diving into corners makes it an enchanting car to drive. While possessing the same basic footprint as its tamer siblings, the Abarth amplifies the 500’s character with a lowered suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, larger front brakes, and a turbocharger for the Fiat’s 1.4-liter inline-four. The result is a 160-horsepower buzz bomb with 170 pound feet of torque. Before you scoff at those numbers, bear in mind we’re dealing with a curb weight of only 2,545 pounds.

What’s more, the 2018 Fiat 500c Abarth grants a degree of open-air diving in addition to all of its other charms. The canvas roof slides rearward to admit the elements, while keeping a rigid framework around the car’s occupants. While this approach is a bit less liberating than a full convertible, the scheme takes best advantage of the Fiat’s design. It looks pretty nice too—whether open or closed. Even better, the top serves the same function as a sunroof when opened partially, offering a choice of three configurations.


The model with which Fiat re-established its North American presence in 2011, the 500 is loaded with character, even while the Abarth upgrades infuse the model with the equivalent of an adrenalin shot to the heart. One of the most endearing qualities of the 500c Abarth is the way you can have huge fun driving it, well within the bounds of legality. 

Too many performance cars force you to venture past the limits of civility to experience a visceral response, because, well, they’re too good.  (Yes, there really is such a thing.) Meanwhile, the 500c Abarth is just good enough to be fun all the time. Acceleration from zero to 60 happens in about seven seconds. Proof positive that it can be fun to drive a slow car fast, the 500c Abarth delivers the sounds and sensations of a much faster car. With its exhaust note and relatively high driving position, the Fiat feels like it’s doing 150 when it’s barely pushing 80.


OK, that’s the good news.


Here’s the other news.

Practicality ain’t even close to being a long suit here.  Cargo capacity is a mere 5.4 cubic feet with the rear seat deployed—though it jumps to 23.4 when the near useless rear seat is folded away.  Further, the canvas stacks up at the rear of the car when the roof is open, making rear parking sensors a necessity (thankfully, they are standard equipment). This is kind of ironic for such a small car.


But wait, there’s more.


Interior ergonomics require some familiarization time before intuition kicks in. Plus, the steering wheel adjusts only for tilt. If the 500 fits you right off the top, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, you won’t find much in terms of tailoring it.  And, if we’re to be completely frank (which we know you count on us to do), the materials employed to adorn the interior of the car could be of higher quality.

On the other hand, the features you expect to find in contemporary car at this price point are present and accounted for. Standard kit includes A/C, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control and a seven-inch display screen. You’ll also get Bluetooth, an Alpine audio system with satellite radio, a sport steering wheel and front floor mats.


Additionally, we averaged 30 miles per gallon in a mix of city, highway and zippy back road driving. This is right in line with the EPA’s estimates of 28 city, 33 highway and 30 combined for the five-speed manual powertrain with which our test car was equipped. Given the Fiat’s propensity to encourage the driver to exploit the full capability of its engine, we found this pretty impressive. And, of course its tidy size makes the 2018 Fiat 500c Abarth an excellent urban runabout. All in all, while there are detractions on the Fiat’s balance sheet, these qualities—along with its playful nature—wins a lot of favor.

Pricing starts at $21,490.