POSTED: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 6:14pm
UPDATED: Monday, March 4, 2013 - 7:03pm
This is the Fiat 500 Abarth, and I know what you're thinking. How cute, how funny, how goofy. Well, when gas hits $5.00 a gallon, you'll be amazed at how ungoofy this car looks.
And beyond that, there is one thing visually that sets this car apart from the regular 500…this little scorpion logo. That is the sign of the Italian tuning and race car maker Abarth, which was founded by an Austrian, incidently.
So first you start with the cute little Fiat 500 and to be fair, Fiat has some bad vibes to overcome. When folks of my generation think of Fiat, they think of these cars, the 124 Spider, and others. I myself owned a Spider, and although it was a very nice little car for me, for others it was a troublesome leaky hunk of excrement made entirely of compressed rust.
Too harsh? Perhaps, but that's the hill fiat must climb with my generation. For those who are younger, well, they never heard of it so the 500 is that cool little sort of Mini Cooperish thing that Jennifer Lopez drives on TV.
The real 500 dates back to the late 1950's. it was just as small, just as economical and had that sort of Fellini, Mastroianni, black and white art film sort of feel.
The new one is funky and slow. Under the hood is a 1.4-liter engine that is willing enough, but has only 101 horsepower at its disposal. That means you can measure acceleration with a sundial, with 60 miles per hour coming up in 9.6 seconds.
That’s where Abarth comes in. first, slap a turbo on the sad little puppy of an engine, and immediately give it another 60 horsepower. Make the entire suspension 40% stiffer, and throw in some nifty racing seats and a comical attempt to make the cutey-pie front end look more menacing, and you have the Abarth.
0-60 drops to 6.8 seconds and top speed is around 130 miles per hour. And the car sticks now. OK, not like a true sports car, but in the ballpark with a Mini Cooper.
The gearbox is nice, if a little loose. The car is reasonably well equipped for $22,000 with electric windows and mirrors, all the amenities including Satellite radio, and even a rear wiper.
Ours had upgrades, some of them silly like the red mirror caps, and ended up just north of $27,000.
That’s too much, so use a little discretion with the options list.
On a trip to Houston, I got nearly 40 miles per gallon in the regular 500 and the Abarth ended up in ;the high 20’s. Performance has a price.
But compared to a Mini Cooper, I would probably still opt for the British machine, though the Abarth makes that choice darned tough.
Versus a VW Beetle, the regular Fiat 500 is more stylish and more fun. And as an old 60's guy, I can't believe we have these three economy car choices again in the 21st century.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is miles ahead of the basic version, and that car was pretty fun to drive. Think of it has giving you 40% more power with 100% of the cute.