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 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
by Mark Hacking

Italian for “pocket rocket”

The Fiat 500, an Italian icon that first appeared on the continent in 1957 and was resurrected to great acclaim in 2007 has become a global success story. With people around the world paying closer attention to fuel economy and emissions than ever before, a small and fun car with a tiny footprint is just the ticket.

The 2010 Fiat 500 Abarth, one of the many high-performance models produced in conjunction with independent tuning company Abarth, is an even more exciting prospect. A tiny, turbocharged car with no small amount of style? What’s not to like?

The Abarth is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 99 kW and 180 Nm of torque at 2500 rpm. When the car’s sport mode is engaged, this latter figure jumps to 206 Nm at 3000 rpm. While these numbers aren’t exactly mind-blowing in this day and age, the Fiat is a very small car, weighing in at less than 1000 kg.

The top speed for the Abarth hovers around the 205-km/h mark, decent for a city car if somewhat unspectacular. Fiat also estimates that this version of the 500 while accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds. Again: reasonable, if not exactly blood-pumping. (It’s worth noting that the frugal Fiat is also rated at consuming just 5.4 L/100 km of petrol in combined driving.)

 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test

But compact size and sufficient power translate into some honest grins behind the wheel. During a breakneck tour of Lake Como, the Fiat proved its worth, darting around like a rabbit (the animal, not the car) and offering enough performance off the line to keep things interesting. Even in rainy weather, the little car displayed refined road manners—a little bit of wheel spin in slick conditions from the front-wheel drive Abarth, but that was to be expected. The car clearly benefits from its torque transfer control system, a type of limited-slip differential for the driven wheels that keeps things in check even when the stability control system is switched off.

The Abarth also comes equipped with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and a hill holder system for starting on an incline. In the damp conditions, the brakes proved eminently capable of hauling the 500 down to zero in fine order. In other news, the steering on the car was a bit imprecise and the shifter on the 5-speed manual was a bit slack, but the clutch had a nice progressive feel to it.

From an engineering standpoint, there was one key disappointment though: the turning circle. By and large, European roads are the reason why small cars exist—their size comes in handy when confronting a large bus on a narrow side street or finding a parking space at a Zucchero concert. But the turning circle on the 500 was so surprisingly unmanageable, I had to reverse out of a tight 180-degree hairpin on more than one occasion.

 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test

When it comes to the interior environment, the Fiat plays the style card in much the same way as the MINI Cooper, so the intent is, no doubt, to market the car as an entry-level premium offering. This is a fine approach, as long as the vehicle in question has the proper amount of cachet and quality built right in. In the Abarth tested, the cachet was there, but the quality left a little to be desired.

First off, a consistent and mysterious rattle plagued the back seat area. The audio system seemed incapable of picking up radio stations with any clarity, even on the outskirts of Milan. The instrument panel menu switched between displaying all potential readouts and showing none, which made setting up the readouts a major challenge. And despite my best efforts, I could never locate a trip odometer, which made following my printed Google Maps directions a major pain.

As noted, the Abarth is a small car, so interior space is at a premium. The back seat is roomy enough for children, so the car should perhaps be classified as a 2+2 rather than a 4-seater. Due to the car’s round shape, though, headroom is decent for front-seat passengers and the visibility forward and to the sides is very good. The cargo area is also tiny at only 185 litres, but the back seats fold down to create enough space for a big run to the grocery store.

 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test

On the other side of the ledger, the Abarth does have a funky interior that includes sport seats, aluminum pedals with rubber inserts, a chunky steering wheel, and a leather-covered shifter and handbrake lever. The gauge set is impressive, too, with an analogue turbo pressure the icing on what is a very tasty cake. If the car-builders at Fiat can resolve the quality issues, they’ll have a very engaging little car to offer the world.

One thing is sure: The 2010 Fiat 500 Abarth has enough appeal to make it an interesting addition to the commuter car scene. There will never be too many small, fun, efficient cars in this world—in fact, they’re needed more than ever. There is some question about how it will be priced, though.

The version tested had a sticker price of 20,000 euro—a lot of money for a commuter car, to be sure. In order to prove successful in markets outside of Europe, the Abarth needs to be priced according to its true worth—and its true worth is something less than that of a MINI Cooper, from a quality and dynamics standpoint.

One final note, though: In Ferrari-mad Italy, it was interesting to see how many locals stopped and stared whenever the dull grey Fiat with the blazing scorpion symbols roared past. This alone speaks volumes for the potential impact the 500 Abarth can have outside of Italy.

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 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Road Test
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  • Des

    30000 euros???? Is it gold plated?

    • hmmmm

      +1. No way in hell would I dish out that much cash for this thing. Looks nice, I must admit. Can you imagine what the drive would be like on our wonderful Australian roads? Would break your back for sure…

      • TheTruth

        hmmmm says:
        August 30, 2010 at 7:36 am

        “Can you imagine what the drive would be like on our wonderful Australian roads? Would break your back for sure…”

        They drive and ride fine, NOT a issue, have you been in one or drove one?

    • ABMPSV

      I do not know where CA get 30T Euro but in Germany is 21085 Euro. Source: Auto-News.de

      • ABMPSV

        Sorry that was the expensive version the cheaper one which is in this article is 18500 Euro. Source Auto-News.de

        • Kevinpeter26

            Looks fantastic but not really enough in the way of performance or
          features to justify it. Assuming it ever makes it to Aus it would cost
          at least $60,000 and for that money I’d rather an F6, a Focus RS or an
          Evo. All completely different cars I know, but all serving much the same

          tablet pc

    • TheTruth

      Des says:
      August 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm
      30000 euros???? Is it gold plated?

      No, but $155,000 for a HSV V8 is ok?


  • nickdl

    Jeez that’s a lot of money for a reasonable little car. Looks fantastic but not really enough in the way of performance or features to justify it. Assuming it ever makes it to Aus it would cost at least $60,000 and for that money I’d rather an F6, a Focus RS or an Evo. All completely different cars I know, but all serving much the same purpose.

    • Damian

      I agree, nickdl. Anybody that spends $60k on this thing needs his/her head checked. The impending Polo GTI out-specs this thing, and costs half as much.

  • Tony

    by the time ATECO leave their indelible imprints it’ll will be AUD$57k onroad

  • Frenchie

    It will never sell here.

  • Moey

    Whoever is buying this matchbox, a better car to buy with that money is the new Focus RS

  • j

    I thought it’s meant to be priced BELOW the Cooper S?

    It’s been out for a few years in Europe and the UK, when’s it coming here?

  • TomJ

    Ill buy a XR6 Turbo and spend the $15,000 excess in fuel.

    • Moe

      Yes finally a person that thinks the same ill have a XR6 Turbo too thanks, which ass is rating negative and prefering this overdone ferrari wana be yaris to over a XR6 Turbo. Seriously?

      • Rikstah


        People who aren’t bogans.

  • Jimbo

    I seriously doubt it will be priced any higher than around $35K. That is if it ever makes it to Australia.
    I hope it does though! I drove the standard Sport 500 in the UK and it was a hoot and a half. I’m sure the Abarth will be even more fun to drive. If you don’t believe me check out the Top Gear review on youtube.

  • Elitist

    Ateco sux, i never saw one add for the Fiat 500…

    Wish Fiat was here.

    • Underling

      Why waste money on advertising when nobody will by one anyway.

  • Shak

    All of you people who want an XR6 Turbo, go and get one. people who want this car are much different to you. They are probably young, single, live in the city etc. Different class of car for different people. Some people dont want a powerful large family car. And some people just think this car is really cutesy.

    • TheTruth

      Oh, and some people [ie class type people, NOT bogans] would NEVER be seen in a Falcodore

  • Reckless1

    Falcon XR6 Turbo buyers are such a tiny, tiny, tiny minority on the world stage, that their opinion of the Fiat can be completely ignored.

    Back to the Fiat Abarth – the name has been used in vain on this incarnation. For potential Australian buyers, the engine is not really there, 7.9 to 100 is very poor, 5 speed gearbox, no boot space, 2 seater …..price, likely to be anywhere from mid 30s upwards.

    Polo GTI smashes this car in every respect.

    • Glen

      Ummm, this car isn’t really about drag races… If you are concerned with 0-100 times then it isn’t for you. It is about trundling around the city during the week using 5 litres per 100km… Then finding the twistiest bit of road you can on the weekend, and absolutely launching this little thing at it, with the gorgeous sounding Italian engine pinging of the limiter… It’s about character, people – something that it has in bucketloads over any XR6 Turbo o Polo GTi.

      • Damian

        I don’t see how “character” can be measured with any degree of objectivity. Can you give us some justification as to what character attributes a Fiat 500 has, to justify its estimated $60k price tag? We’re talking solid Golf-R money here, and I doubt the Fiat would have a bar on the VW.

    • TheTruth


      “Polo GTI smashes this car in every respect”

      Yeah but they are purchased by gays and drive around Darlinghurst types….

  • Richard

    Last time I looked the Aus Dollar was 0.7 Euro. Comes to about AUD42K on road. Similar (though not truly compariable) price to a base spec Golf GTI here.

    • Joe

      You’re forgetting the Australia tax plus Ateco’s cut on top of that.. its going to be 60k.

  • Neil M

    I’d take a Renault Clio Sport over this any day. Faster, cheaper, more powerful, better handling – same weight, same size. Only inner city hipsters are going to buy this thing…

  • kennyboye

    I wonder if they have fixed the seats; when I test-drove the vanilla version 500 I had to tilt my head 45 degrees to sit in the thing because there was no height adjustment and NO headroom. DS3 anyone?

  • Kim

    A good review here as nowadays i hardly ever hear of the negatives of a car on caradvice. Usually ‘reviews’ here sound like sales pitches but this one is different. Good work!

  • JooberGTi

    This car is definitely for a very niche market, how many of these are planned for the Aus market?
    If your so concerned with saving pennies fuel or not you wouldn’t fork out on a 60k car. I highly doubt this is for young individuals, more like swave mid-life crisis types who want something more unique.

    No doubt this will be a unique fun little car, but pound for pound particularly price wise , Polo GTi for me.

  • Antman

    30,000 euros????? I,m in Italy at the moment and the 500 Arbarth is 18,500euros. WTF??!!!!

    • j

      Precisely, someone has their number wrong. It’s cheaper than the Cooper S in Europe. So whatever the Cooper S is in Europe, use that to form the basis of your conversions for fx and taxes etc.

      The difference between the Abarth 500 SS and the Clio Sport and new Polo Gti are that the gti is DSG only, which in my view is inherently less fun to drive- can’t heel toe downshift a dsg, and is more fuel economical than the Clio Sport. It’d be torqueier than the Clio as well. Or at least in torque to weight.

      As the number say, no its no where near as fast as an xr6t and is not as fast as a polo gti or clio sport, but for reasons such as style, being freaking small which is great for the traffic jam commute into the city, economical and fun to drive, it’s a great alternative.

      I think the question is, is it better than the Alfa Mito Sport? They share the same platform and Motor’s BFYB said it was pretty sheit.

  • F1MotoGP

    I do not know where CA get the price but ABMPSV is right I checked the website and Fiat 500 Abarth 99kW, 206Nm, top speed 205km/h 0-100 in 7.9 sec is 18500 Euro. There is a better version Fiat 500 Abarth Esseesse 117kW, 230Nm, top speed 211km/h, 0-100 7.4 sec is 21085 Euro

  • Banicks

    30,000 EURO is just over $42,000. And that hasn’t even included the costs of importing to AU.

    I saw the Holden SIDI SV6 advertised with sunroof and optional extras included at $36,000, pushing 210kW – which would you go with?

    I think I know which I would go with. Especially when your talking about a Euro import – increased parts cost and servicing costs.

    Euros have no place in AU until they get their heads out and start mass producing parts down here and training mechanics.

    Sure if your getting a PERFORMANCE vehicle for the emissions concern (oxymoron much) – go for it. But I’d rather a Holden or Ford myself. I will be living in UK for a bit soon, I was considering the Abarth – but this is a bit ridiculous of a price tag for a small car, even the base model at 18,500 Euros. Ford or Vauxhall over there will be the go.

    • ABMPSV

      The car cost 18500 Euro which is $26428 not $42000.

      • F1MotoGP

        Yes It can not cost 30,000 Euro the new Golf GTi DSG is 29150 Euro!!

      • Banicks

        Your talking about the base model. The model they have tested here is 30,000 EURO.

        “The version tested had a sticker price of 30,000 euro—a lot of money for a commuter car”

        Try reading before rating me down numbskull.

        • F1MotoGP

          No there is two version only read my comment.

          • Banicks

            Yes, I know there are two versions. Hence why I quoted both version costs. But again, your not reading what is written.

            Even at the 30,000 euro costing, the features are basic and too expensive when your competing against a higher build quality and cheaper output performance car such as the Holden.

            If you want to start talking about the base model of 18,500 euros, lets review the base model and see what it will compete against. I’d say the Ford Fiesta for features, if your remotely lucky.

            From what I can ascertain on this website, y’all have a blind hard-on for euro imports regardless of price or quality.

        • Antman

          The Abarth cost 18,500euro.
          Sorry Banicks…thumbs down.
          The base model here costs 11,250euro.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Anthony Crawford


    Apologies from the road tester but the cost of the model tested is actually 20,000 euro NOT 30,000 euro as per the original article.

    Certainly makes the makes the Fiat 500 Abarth a far more appealing proposition.

  • Hooda

    Argh! Why did they stop selling the Punto here? They still sell it in Europe and India! :@

    • http://dodge franz chong

      I am disappointed they stopped selling the Punto here.I know price wise depending on specification you would be up to close to Corolla/Tiida and Mazda 2 and 3 level but everything else it would be a class better than those.

  • http://www.huntclubnissan.com/ nissan

    It has many shortcomings. Travel is horrible. Steering is pretty heavy, but no view. Build quality is better than a 99 point, in fact, a window spy and heating controls feel exactly the same and the driving position is crap with this car.

    • TheTruth

      @^^^nissan says:

      Glad your happy with your outstanding legend Tiida

      • http://dodge franz chong

        Fiat deserve to do well with this car.I am a single person and if I didn’t need a four door car for business and private use and won the lottery tomorrow I would be happy with one of these but only one problem I don’t think this ones comes in Automatic otherwise it would be fine

  • Rob

    I hired the Abarth for 2 weeks in Britain, and can confirm:
    * Nothing wrong with the performance of this car, has plenty of go.
    * Great handling & turn in
    * Firm ride (duh!)
    * Front suspension can’t cope with a decent bump
    * Worlds most annoying radio/iPod setup ($#!? Windows button)
    * Turning circle larger than a truck (you think I’m joking, I’m not)
    * Great fun on the right road

  • http://CarAdvice AT

    I don’t know where some of you people get off with your comments.

    Every car can kill you, regardless of it power! Every car has endearing points.

    What do people expect of a small car these days?????? Have you ever checked out Super cars from the 80’s and 90’s, some of these so called shopping basket are right up there dates! And from a 1.4 Turbo charged engine????? Its about the experience of the drive and how it suits the individual………not a spec sheet, if that were the case we’d all drive japanese cars as they come with virtually everything in them, not like Europeans where you have to add alot of the options into the cars.

    I’ve driven this vehilce on Australian Roads, and find it a refreshing drive…….and giving enough V8 hoons a bloody good surprise!

    So as per Ford and Holden your build quality is maybe on a par with the Fiat………Oh yeah don’t they also make Ferrari?????? They can’t know what their doing can they……for those that are mentally challenged that is Sarcasim!

    Oh and did they not sell all of the first shipment in Australia??????

    Drive something diffrerent, and get some perspective!

    Great car with a few down points…..can I live with it……….YEP…….cause that is what a small sports car is about…….compromises…….that lead to a long enjoyable relationship.

    Now into the pipe and smoke that!

    • Peter Sparrow

      I think I know which I would go with. Especially when your talking about
      a Euro import – increased parts cost and servicing costs.

      home owners association management

  • cos

    i have just taken delivery of the abarth 500 in red i think it is a awesome car for the price

  • Adrianomarcelo2010

    The Fiat 500 Abarth is for those who want power and usually goes only he and his wife.

  • Ridecycling

    Not sure why the Fiat Abarth in the States has 160hp where the model here is only 122hp.  Yet the 695 Ferrari version has just another 16 more HP over the US version.  Irony is the US Abarth starts at a meager $22K and the 695 here goes for $70K!  A high price for the 175HP auto only.  The US manual Abarth would likely match the 695 or at least be darn close by spec.

    Initial reports from the US version 500’s have been upgraded with larger fuel tanks, more cabin insulation and some added safety features that would actually be a better fit for the Aussie market, but I fear the Mexican built 500 would be all left hand drive versions only.

  • luckyLuc

    have the abarth. paid 35k new for it. i have to say it is a top machine. just love it. it is so well made. have had for a year now and not one problem. it goes hard too. it maybe a small car but it is made up for with the finisha nd build quality. i can throw it around a right angle corner at 60km and it wont even squel. it is a beatiful driving experience. worth every penny.

Fiat 500 Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$8,800 - $10,000
Dealer Retail
$10,450 - $12,430
Dealer Trade
$7,000 - $8,000
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
131Nm @  3280rpm
Max. Power
74kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.3L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:800  Unbrake:400
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
195/45 R16
Rear Tyres
195/45 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Lower wishbone, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Leather Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Electric Top, Fog Lights - Front
Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
RHS - On Floor in Boot Comp
Country of Origin