Named for the famous racer and car builder Karl Abarth, the Fiat 500 Abarth embraces its namesake’s legacy by offering the best performance of any 500. Take the top off and it becomes the 2016 Fiat 500c Abarth Cabrio that I recently test-drove for Latino Traffic Report.
Fiat accentuates the features commonly associated with performance vehicles—power, suspension, steering, and brakes—to make this Cinquecento realize what Abarth, said to describe his own lineup of racing vehicles, “small but wicked.”
Like the Fiat Abarth, the Cabrio gets its power from a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo inline four-cylinder engine. Launched in 2012 with only a five-speed manual transmission, it now offers a six-speed automatic for an added $1,350. It should achieve 160 horsepower and up to 183 lb.–ft. of torque. Reinforced for higher torque capability, the automatic also offers a Sport mode for an even sportier performance.
Assisted by technology and design elements, like better engine respiration and body aerodynamics, helps improve performance as well as fuel economy; the Fiat Abarth Cabrio manages an impressive fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. I averaged 26.5 mpg.
The automatic cloth top retracts, a little or a lot, with the push of a button. While it can be stopped at the midway point, it tends to rattle so retracting it all the way open so that it tucks neatly behind the rear head restraints gets the best result. This can be done at a speed of up to 50 miles per hour.
Abarth models feature a unique MacPherson suspension design with stiffer front spring rates and 0.6-inch lower ride height for improved handling and minimal body roll. The Abarth-tuned electronic power steering accentuates the steering response and the high-performance brake system helps push the 500c Abarth to accommodate more aggressive driving. As expected the Abarth took to curves like a pro and while the ride is a bit bumpier, the responsive steering and braking improved driver confidence.
For 2016, the Abarth comes in four new colors. I drove the Giallo Moderna Perla that cost an extra $500. Also new for 2016 is the Uconnect 5.0 system with a five-inch touchscreen that enables hands-free calling via Bluetooth-equipped phones, as well as voice-command control of AM/FM, and optional SiriusXM Radio and navigation system. Other creature comforts included an AM/FM Alpine stereo with a CD player and auxiliary input jacks, air conditioning, a leather wrapped cluster brow with accent stitching, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and a seven-inch thin film transistor (digital) instrument cluster.
While the test model did include a rear-parking sensor, and the driver’s side mirror was equipped with a section the provided a blind spot view, the lack of a back-up camera was noticeable.
Added features included the Beats audio package ($700), Comfort Convenience Group ($975) with heated front seats and a one-year subscription to Sirius Satellite radio, and 17-inch forged aluminum hyper black wheels ($1,400).
Pricing for the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth starts at $23,570. The as-tested pricing came to $33,315.
Sí: The Abarth’s sporty attributes set it apart from its siblings and the Cabrio makes it even more fun to drive.
No: The price is hard to justify considering missing safety features like a back-up camera and blind spot monitor.