Hot hatches are a great way to get practicality and sporty performance at an affordable price. Volkswagen’s GTI, Honda’s Civic Si and Type R, and Hyundai’s Veloster N are all great new examples of the segment. And on the used market, the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST are also worth looking into. But there’s one other model, discontinued after 2020, that’s become a hot hatch bargain: the Fiat 500 Abarth.
Fiat 500 Abarth performance features
The 500 Abarth received a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that made 160 hp, or 59 more than the standard 500. To keep the engine cool, Fiat also fitted the 500 Abarth with a different front fascia. Early cars were manual-only, though 2015 and later models did offer automatics, Redline Auto Parts reports. There was also a Cabrio model, with a fully-folding soft-top roof.
Fiat also gave the 500 Abarth upgraded sport suspension and larger 4-wheel disc brakes. Plus, the car came with a Sport Mode, which Jalopnik reports sharpens the steering and boosts torque from 150 to 170 lb-ft. Doug Demuro called it “the most effective Sport button ever.”
All this in a car that only weighs about 2500 lbs and is 12” shorter than a Mini Cooper, Autotrader reports, means the 500 Abarth handles very well. It also has very communicative steering. In addition, the extremely short exhaust makes it one of the best-sounding cars on sale today.
The 500 Abarth also has a healthy aftermarket community. The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah drove one whose owner had modified the exhaust, suspension, turbocharger, and shifter.
Several well-trained drivers have owned Fiat 500 Abarths. Motor Trend reports former MythBuster Adam Savage enjoys using his to slice through San Francisco street traffic. And Jay Leno is a big fan of his 500 Abarth as well.
Is the Fiat 500 Abarth a reliable daily driver?
The regular Fiat 500 is not known as a particularly reliable car. Consumer Reports and Forbes both gave it poor reliability scores, which undoubtedly contributed to the 500’s cancellation. And Doug Demuro points out that, despite the Abarth’s sport seats and upgraded interior, it is based on a fairly-inexpensive city commuter car.
Evo and Redline Auto Parts report interior squeaks, rattles, and loose trim pieces aren’t uncommon. However, overall, r/Fiat sub-Reddit users report the Abarth seems to be a fairly reliable car. Having the manual helps, as CarComplaints reports that’s one of the biggest flaws with the early 500s. In fact, CR reports 2012-2013 automatic-equipped 500s had to be recalled to replace the cable bushing. Although, that’s not to say the 500 Abarth is completely fault-free.
r/Fiat sub-Reddit users report 2012 and 2013 500 Abarths’ turbos can fail, due to issues with the wastegate and possibly boost pressure sensors. However, 2014 and later models don’t have this fault, and earlier cars can receive the updated turbo. In addition, the HVAC blower motor has been known to fail, although based on CarComplaints’ information this doesn’t appear to be a terribly common issue. Also, the Fiat 500 USA owner’s forum notes the Abarth’s engine design does mean it consumes a little oil, and especially if it’s only used to make short trips.
As for daily-driving, the Fiat 500 Abarth was mostly designed as an urban commuter car. The interior is fairly tight, and there’s not a lot of rear cargo space. But, as the Abarth was the top 500 trim, it did come fully-loaded with features like Bluetooth, power-folding mirrors, and premium audio. And as for the interior, I’ve driven rental non-Abarth 500s before, and nothing struck me as abnormally cheap-feeling.
It helps the Fiat 500 Abarth costs fairly little. It’s possible to find sub-100,000-mile models on Autotrader for $7000-$8000. Cabrio models, though, do command a premium. Still, there are motorcycles that cost more.
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