“2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio”
A Rapid transit Breath of Fresh Air in Lilliputian form
We’ll review here one of the many available new Fiats – the 2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio. What’s an Abarth? In the case of Fiat, the Abarth models, with their iconic scorpion logo, are a highly recognizable symbol not only in Italian performance circles, but worldwide. The name comes from Karl Abarth – a man, a brand, and a name that is synonymous with a host of racing victories.
First off, let’s square the pronunciation away…In Italian, it’s not AAAAbarTH or AHBarTH, but rather AHHbarT. Hagerty, an insurance company for collectible vehicles, has indicated that the Abarth edition of the Fiat 500 is undoubtedly destined to become one of the 10 most collectible small performance rides of the future. Competition success has always been a significant part of the Abarth story since Karl Abarth founded “Abarth & C” over 60 years ago in 1949, and Abarth’s collaboration with the Fiat brand represents a 45 year history, resulting in six international records and nearly 900 individual race victories.
The base Fiat 500 models deliver safety, fuel economy, quality and advanced technological features, blended with iconic Italian style. The modern generation 500 closely resembles the original, displaying strong, unmistakable, early Fiat DNA. The original 500s were rear-engined vehicles, designed to carry four occupants. Today’s examples are still city-friendly, four passengers rides in an “A” segment format, but feature a forward-mounted engine, in a larger, more comfortable package. This latest U.S. version is based on the globally popular Fiat 500, first launched in 2007, with over half a million sold in more than 80 countries around the world.
The Fiat 500 captures the original Cinquecento’s iconic allure in a smartly formatted no-nonsense design, artfully and harmoniously blended with technical, cultural and creative aspects. Overhangs are short and the body side consists of several superimposed layers, topped by a ‘shell-like’ roof. Up front, the signature ‘whiskers and logo’ face incorporates projector headlamps and lower park lamps. The front fascia tapers outward toward the pronounced wheel arches, displaying a wide, road-holding stance. The upper portion of the fascia features a horizontal cooling duct, while the lower ‘honeycomb’ style grille integrates stylish fog lamps. Wheel arches are flared and the body-side A-line slopes from the clean clamshell hood to fender cut. The sides are rounded and both head and taillamps are visible from the side. The 500’s iconic profile is finished off by the roof pillars and shadow-line window molding, forming a gentle continuous arc that also hides the door’s upper edges. In the rear, taillamps flank the rear-opening trunk lid in the Cabrio.
Enter the highly desirable performance version Fiat 500 Abarth edition. The Fiat Abarth is essentially an everyday performance car with track-ready capability, high horsepower (117 hp per liter) blended with efficiency, quality and sophistication. It is a “small, but wicked” global class small car.
In terms of the Abarth model’s differentiation from other available Fiat 500 models, the front facia is noticeably more pronounced, extending 2.7-inches ahead of its signature “whiskers and logo” face. The aerodynamics are better, and the engine bay features modifications that allow space for the 1.4-liter MultiAir® Turbo four-cylinder engine that makes 157 horsepower along with 183 pound feet of torque delivered to the front wheels via a five-speed, short throw, manual gearbox or an Aisen six-speed automatic Auto Stick with driver interactive manual control and electronically modulated torque converter clutch. Fiat’s MultiAir® technology allows the potent little four-banger to control air intake cylinder by cylinder and stroke by stroke with its electro-hydraulic system that comes without a fixed intake camshaft. Three wider air intakes and functional “Abarth” shield allow for additional air into the engine compartment. Also up front, a blacked-out fascia accents integrated projector-beam fog lamps for a more aggressive persona. Twin “nostril-like” openings are precisely placed on the front fascia maximizing airflow in and out of the engine’s two turbo intercoolers.
Other Abarth-specific functional and visual cues include: extended side skirts; optional 17-inch lightweight, forged, multi-spoke aluminum wheels shod with
Pirelli P-Zero Nero all-season rubber (16-inch rolling stock is standard); a large liftgate-mounted spoiler; a two-piece Abarth-styled rear fascia with a black-accented rear diffuser and symmetric twin exhaust cutouts optimizes rear outlet airflow; large concentric “double-tip” Abarth exhausts that provide an incredible sound along with a performance look.
The 2017 Fiat 500C Abarth (C is for Cabriolet), along with the Coupe versions, displays the brand’s ingenuity in building world-class small cars that kindle a spirit via simple design, old world craftsmanship and lasting value – the company’s small car formula worked before, and still works today.
Abarth model interior styling and design cues remain as simple and appealing as those of the exterior, with controls logically positioned for easy and intuitive use. The gearshift is placed conveniently in the center stack. Features such as the concentric binnacle instrument cluster containing a 160-mph speedometer, tachometer and trip computer were inspired by the original 500. Portable Tom-Tom navigation is available that is removable, and plugs into the top of the dash, along with BLUE&ME Handsfree Communication. A flat-bottom sport steering wheel and sport front bucket seats along with an Abarth-designed leather shift knob and aluminum, rubber studded pedal covers highlight the car’s competitive aura. Seating options provided, include: Nero (Black) in cloth or leather; or Rosso (Red)/Nero in leather with contrast stitching.
The chassis is precision tuned and features a unique MacPherson front suspension design with a stiffer spring rate (the rear springs are 20 percent stiffer with strengthened supports and a 22 mm stabilizer bar), and a ride height that is 0.6 inches lower than other Fiat 500s. There are also Abarth-designed front lower control arms and an increase in negative camber to 1.5 degrees. Steering is quicker at 15.1:1 with Abarth-tuned electronic power steering calibration. Brembo brakes are larger with vented fronts and Abarth-specific semi-metallic brake linings and Rosso (Red) lacquered calipers fore and aft. A new dual-valve Frequency Selective Damping KONI® front shocks improve road-holding prowess.
An Abarth-tuned electric stability control system provides a three-mode calibration to maximize on and off track handling characteristics with “On”, “Partial Off” or “Full Off”. The “Full Off” setting features Abarth’s innovative Torque Transfer Control system that maximizes throttle performance during on-throttle cornering (or throttle steering).
My test 2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio came with a Rhino Clear coat exterior finish (Dark Gray) with the interior executed in Nero (Black) accented by red stripes and stitching. The base price was set at $21,490, while the price as tested came to $25,510. after adding: the, Aisen heavy duty 6-speed automatic gearbox, Popular Equipment Package, GPS Navigation, Nero-trimmed lights, Nero capped mirrors and 16-inch forged aluminum 10-spoke wheels shod with Pirelli Cinturato P7 BSW 3-season rubber, and Destination Charge.
SUMMARY: Driving the 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth is unquestionably a ton of fun – not unlike the raucous and pleasing exhaust note. The dash-mounted sport button improves throttle mapping and engine response, while normal operation is more like an ‘Eco-mode’, that is not as responsive, nor is it as much fun. I tended to punch the Sport mode button and left it there, thoroughly enjoying the enhanced performance characteristics.
The Cabrio top slides back by pressing a button and has two positions. Closing the top uses another button and features three positions.
Acceleration of the Abarth model is noticeably quicker and more responsive, with the car only weighing roughly only 170 pounds more than regular Fiat 500s. The ride quality is obviously firmer than non-Abarth models, but is not unpleasant or objectionable. 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio models now feature Uconnect 5.0 system with 5-inch touchscreen radio, Bluetooth connectivity and integrated voice command
Rear seat room is still best left to small adults or children, particularly with larger front seat occupants. The rear seat backs fold down for added functionality and versatility, with a reasonable amount of room for personal gear with them up. The rear seat backs fold down for added functionality and versatility, with a reasonable amount of room for personal gear with them up. One awkward issue can arise – when my co-driver set the front passenger seat up to accommodate himself in the rear – he fit okay, but was unable to reach the inside door handle, even with the seat pushed forward all the way. The moral? Stay up front and enjoy.
Bottom Line, the 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio delivers an immense amount of spirited driving at a reasonable cost that’s hard to beat and on par with the MINI Cooper, with fresh air thrown in as an added highlight at the touch of a button.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio
Base Price: $21,490.
Price as Tested: $25,510.
Engine Type and Size: 1.4-liter, SOHC, 16-valve liquid-cooled, turbocharged MULTIAIR® inline four-cylinder with sequential, multi-port electronic, returnless fuel injection. 6,500 rpm redline.
Horsepower (bhp): 157 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 183 @ 2,400-4,000 rpm
Transmission: Aisen six-speed heavy-duty automatic Auto Stick driver interactive manual control and electronically modulated torque converter clutch.
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / Front-Wheel drive.
Suspension: Front – MacPherson suspension, coil spring with KONI® Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) twin-tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Rear twist-beam axle with coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers with 22 mm stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted, high performance four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS.
Tires: Pirelli Cinturato P7 All-Season 195/45 R16 84V mounted on 10-“Y”-spoke around separating loop forged aluminum alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 90.6 inches
Length Overall: 144.4 inches
Width: 64.1 inches w/side mirrors.
Height: 59.2 inches to roof.
Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 10.5 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 24 mpg city /32 mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.352
0 – 60 mph: 6.9 seconds.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.