A nice raspy rumble comes resonating from a distance. Many pedestrians and other motorists look from left to right, trying to figure out what this sound is. As the sound gets louder, a 2013 Fiat 500C Abarth drives by. Envious teenagers, young girls, and older folk (who appreciate the car’s history) all give the car a smile, a nod, or even in some cases a thumbs-up.
The 500C Abarth, backed by over 60 years of heritage, originates from a company known for making racing cars. Having started the company in 1949, Carlo Abarth joined forces with Fiat in 1952 and eventually sold his company to Fiat in 1971. Abarth’s primary focus was to be Fiat’s racing development team. Carlo Abarth shared the same idea as John Cooper; two big names in the automotive industry who had a need for speed. Though two entirely different people with different origins, they had the same basic idea. They took somebody else’s slow but fun car, and made it into something beefy, great, and nothing short of exhilarating to drive.
During my week with the 500C Abarth, I was asked numerous times how it compares with the Mini Cooper S. Conveniently, we had the John Cooper Works Convertible only a few days before the Abarth, so I was able to come to an accurate conclusion. Though equally fun to boot around with in the corners, both cars are so different it’s actually incredibly difficult to pick one over the other.
Though being an Italian at heart, the Fiat 500 is actually assembled in Mexico. All Abarth models sold on these shores use the 1.4L turbocharged inline 4-cylinder “MultiAir” engine. The motor is manufactured and assembled in Michigan. Don’t let the small displacement fool you though; this little car packs a punch that is totally unexpected. On start-up, the car sounds incredibly mean. I don’t want to go as far as to say that all Italian sports cars are loud, but this is certainly not a quiet thing, especially with the top down.
The motor is rated at 160 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a quick-shifting 5-speed manual gearbox. Even though the shifter is located way up in the center of the dashboard, rowing through the gears with that throaty burble of the exhaust never gets tiring. The ~2,500 pound weight of the car also gives it an awesome power-to-weight ratio.
The 500C Abarth uses MacPherson suspension with KONI Frequency Selective Damping (FSD), twin-tube shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar. It also has a torsion beam rear suspension with a solid stabilizer bar for the added rigidity needed for a spirited driving style. The meticulous attention to detail on the suspension/handling of this car was especially evident on my drive through Forks of the Credit. This car isn’t exactly a Mini Cooper S, but it handles the hairpins with ease and instilled full confidence in all corners. It’s definitely one of my favourite little cars on the road right now. I do wish there was a bit more feedback in the steering wheel (à la Mini).
I quite like the interior setup of the Fiat. The leather seats were reasonably supportive and unlike my colleagues in the other iterations of the 500, I had no complaints about getting a decent driving position. I’ll chalk it up to being a relatively short guy. I like the position of the gear shifter too. My complaints lie solely in the setup of the entertainment system, but I’ll start with the good. The Microsoft “Blue & Me” system works pretty well, and Bluetooth connectivity is top notch, especially when paired up to the great-sounding Beats By Dre speakers. Other than making a call though, the system was cumbersome to use when doing absolutely anything else. Scrolling through playlists, choosing a satellite radio station, and setting up the audio equalizer should be simple, but it’s not.
Being a muscle car freak as I reiterate all the time, I’m always excited to go for a drive. I take pride in my nickname of “Captain Hoon” as dubbed by my colleagues. With the Fiat 500C Abarth, I was always looking for an excuse to jump in the car and go for a spin, even if it was just to get some milk from the store. This was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since I drove the Toyobaru twins. The Abarth is a fun little city car that packs a nice bite. Fun Fact: Carlo Abarth was a scorpio, and therefore the Abarth logo is a scorpion. Perhaps it was also the fact that Carlo’s racing inspiration would bite the next guy in the ass for trying to challenge this car. For an as-tested price of just around the $33,000 mark and an average of 8.7L/100km, there’d be nothing stopping me from picking one of these up.
2013 Fiat 500C Abarth Gallery
2013 Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works Convertible