2013 Fiat 500 Abarth 1.4 turbo from North America

Summary:

Super mini sports car that gets it

Faults:

Nothing so far, recent purchase used.

General Comments:

I have only had the Abarth a few days. Bought it at a used car dealer and have been putting it through its paces while still under warranty (30 days dealer, 1 year Fiat left). Being a used and though not "certified", it is an "inspected" car, everything works, clean Carfax (rear fascia has been repainted). The car is around 3 years old with only 15000 miles. I may be the one to catch silly problems, but it could just be a "good one". Although it is 3 years old, there has been no noted warranty work done on it. I can't speak to ease/cost of ownership. But people generally only talk about the pain of ownership anyway and you must take their opinions with a grain of salt. They are inspired by their problems to go out and speak to them on the internet. You can spot a crank vs a reasonable review right?

First, the Abarth doesn't fit in the "hot hatch" segment. Not in the US. It's an A segment ultra compact. Similar to the Ford Fiesta ST and the Mini Roadster, the SCION line etc. The Fiat 500C on which the Abarth is based is a city car. Very high 0-60 times, hard to get out from behind that slow car on a busy freeway. Very easy to navigate parking garages and fit in that last parking spot. Comparisons to the GTI, Mini S and the like don't quite fit. They are considerably larger and faster (on a drag strip) and can cost quite a bit more when outfitted to the max. The Abarth is a "tiny turbo"; a juiced up city car.

Driving impressions; The Fiat Abarth "gets it". The car isn't over fast. It would be at home on a tight road course, and lost on a long flat speed course, but that's not where it's driven. It's on the back roads and canyons where people are really popping the top on this little thing and it does that superbly.

Let's get the obvious out of the way - The first time you start the car, you won't believe it's got an OEM exhaust on it. I walked away from the first one I looked at because I thought it had an aftermarket exhaust and the dealer didn't know either way. "It sounds great, but I'm not buying someone else's project." was my answer.

On the way home I was googling reviews and found a video of Jay Leno driving the car. He asked "does it have baffles that open under throttle?" The Fiat engineer with him said, almost under his breath, "it actually has a straight through exhaust". So I hit up the FIAT parts site and sure enough, it has a catalytic converter right up front off the engine then ------------> dual exhaust. NO muffler. You can hear the turbo spooling out the back of the car from the factory. It sounds like a rally car. Seriously, look up an old Fiat 128 rally, add turbo, that's what it sounds like. Crackling and popping, "backfires" at the top, whole 9 yards. It sounds AWESOME. Don't know how they slipped that past DOT, but it's there.

The engine is not as peaky as some reviewers would have you believe. It revs quickly and turbo pressure is around 12+ of the 18 PSI it will allow at 3000 RPM. Quickly hits 18 PSI shortly after. If you don't have the sport button ON (adding or subtracting 30ft/lbs of torque), you don't even notice the transition to full boost. Furthermore, with such a small engine that revs so quickly, the transition between gears under full acceleration is smooth as glass. No slamming through the gears, transaxle trying to buck its mounts. Much more like a MK1 GTI. Smooth but always there.

Turn in takes a bit of getting used to. It is sharp. Yank the wheel and it goes that way. Now. The Abarth runs on 1.1 degrees of negative camber and what must be a decent amount of negative toe in the rear (read reviews of people complaining of tire wear). Where the GTI or Mini will push a bit going into a corner under late braking or just fast, the Fiat makes you think it's going to go around backwards. On top of that, you're sitting high and the car is narrow for its height so there's a bit of body roll. It lets you know you're turning. The seats don't grab you like a sport seat should, but I didn't find it tiring or hindering my control.

The pedals are all the same height, closely and evenly spaced. Heel-toe is natural on the Fiat. It's the car to learn how to Heel-Toe with. The shifter is not particularly stiff. As a matter of fact, it's all but wobbly. I haven't missed a shift (other than trying to find 6th gear in a 5 speed) so I guess it works, but it's very numb. As much as the mini Getrag feels like a direct shift car, this one feels like cable, which it is. The ESC button is hidden behind the steering wheel on the left. Very hard to find while driving.

The overall driving experience is amazing. It can really perform and be fun to drive at speeds that won't put you in jail. A lot of back roads are marked 25-45 mph. You can handle them easily at 80+. You'll love to slow down for safety around blind corners though, because that means you get to slide through the gear box again, getting that exhaust system to sing to you. -Gas-6500 RPM- clutch- *bang* pop pop-gear-gas repeat. I know for a fact I can get this car through tight roads out in farm land faster than I could my Mk6 GTI. That said, on a "max acceleration" test (forgot the sport button) a Nissan Murano stayed right next to me all the way to the next light.

The overall quality of the car is good. Again, I got mine used, so it's either a good one or it's been broken and fixed. The seats are holding up, everything is tight. I do get some door vibration (entire wall) with the top open over rough tarmac. But the quality seems to be very similar to the Mexican made VW Golf (GTI being german assembled). The front fenders stick out a tiny bit further at the door gap than the door, but it's equal on both sides. All the gaps are even all the way around. The doors close easily and with confidence. I have all the options to include the "Beats by Dre" stereo system, which is currently the best in my not audio focused paddock. Probably the best audio system I've had. 2nd best if we're accounting for technological progress (mini HK system was pretty darn good).

So far very happy with the purchase. It was sparked by the wife getting a job in Washington DC and having to find parking and commute a decent distance. She hated putting the miles on her beloved and large Subaru. We were originally thinking Mazda MX-5, but the Abarth is almost half the price and a bit easier to live with. Probably just about the same amount of fun.

I always update with issues as they arise on all my car survey reviews, so if there's no comment from me, there's nothing more to say... so far.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 23rd May, 2016

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth 1.4 turbo from North America

Summary:

Fun car in a poorly executed package

Faults:

Intermittent unidentifiable electrical issues i.e.

- ABS failing

- ESC failing

- TPMS malfunction

- Power locks acting up

- Engine failing to start or misfiring

Poor build quality.

General Comments:

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a strange little car. As a performance machine, it's brilliant. The car feels light and nimble, it grips well and is fairly predictable. As to be expected, the engine suffers from a fair amount of turbo lag, but the 1.4 liter 4 cylinder produces plenty of satisfying punch. The brakes are sufficient if not slightly underwhelming, but tend not to fade except with prolonged abuse. All of this in a car that averages better than 30 MPG. Sounds great, right!?

Well... not exactly. Aside from the aforementioned mechanical foibles, this car has hilariously poor build quality. Many of the interior pieces are held together by friction alone and rattle like a tambourine. The driver's armrest was clearly an afterthought; it cracked within weeks of purchase. The base stereo has the sound quality of a turn of the century gramophone. The horrendously refined gearbox is as sloppy as kissing a basset hound, and reverse tends to grind while shifting, even while stationary. Although the fuel economy is good, the tank is so small that I now know the local gas attendant on a first name basis. Finally, the driving the driving position is akin to that of a school bus, sitting high and away from the controls.

All in all, the Fiat is a fun to drive hot hatch with several unfortunate drawbacks that make it not the perfect everyday pocket rocket that I had imagined.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 28th October, 2015

1st Nov 2015, 03:14

Excellent review of Fiat ownership - the good and the bad - a must read for future owners :)

1st Nov 2015, 13:56

Anyone who reads this review is unlikely to ever be a "future owner". Care to guess which brand is at the bottom of Consumer Reports list of 2016 models projected reliability?

2nd Nov 2015, 00:00

Would that be (F)ix (I)t (A)gain (T)ony? °v°