I think it’s fair to say the majority of motorists are fond of the Fiat 500. Ever since the first one appeared out of Fiat’s factory in July 1957 it’s been a success. How could you not be taken by its petite size and friendly face, what’s more, it’s enjoyable to drive too. The latest version, has all the flair of the original icon, but with a healthy dose of modern technology thrown in for good measure.
However, if like me, you’d prefer your Fiat 500 to have a bit more muscle, then Abarth is where you ought to be heading to. The Abarth 500 offers all the quirkiness of a 500 delivered in a beefed-up package. Abarth have now created a 500 convertible to line up beside its hardtop sibling, fittingly named the 500C, for those that wish to have the wind in their hair.
Finished in two-tone paint, sitting on 17-inch white diamond alloy wheels, wearing a front splitter and a rear race-style diffuser with twin exhausts, the 500C points towards its sporting potential from the outset. Inside you’re treated to tan leather sports seats, climate control and Fiat’s ‘Blue and Me’ Bluetooth communication system, which enables you to integrate your phone through the car’s stereo. There’s also a usb slot alongside the handbrake which can be used for powering any usb device or playing music files from a memory stick. A turbo boost gauge, with an integrated ‘Sports’ light, sits on-top of the dash in clear view of the driver. Abarth badges adorn parts of the dash to remind you that you’re in something a bit special.
The 1.4 turbo T-Jet delivers 140hp and it uses all of these horses to deliver an involving drive. The Abarth 500C is more than nippy, in Sport mode it’s proper quick and easily out-runs some higher performance cars. With the simple press of a button, the engine’s torque is maximised and the throttle response is sharpened, along with a more aggressive gear-change. It’s particularly entertaining to drive around town where you can dart through traffic with ease. The flat-bottomed steering wheel has a chunky feel to it, the steering is positive and nicely weighted. The Abarth’s short wheelbase makes for quick and painless parking, especially around town where spaces can be best described as challenging.
The ‘Abarth Competizione’ transmission, which comes, fitted as standard, is an automated manual gearbox with steering-wheel paddle shifters. Whilst the chrome paddles look the part, the gear changes are somewhat jerky on the up-shifts, however, if you lift off the throttle slightly whilst changing gear, a smooth gear-change can be achieved.
Despite the car’s impressive performance, it still manages to return a very healthy 6.5 L/100km on a combined cycle. The handling is impressive, thanks to its stiffer springs and dampers, which don’t encroach on the comfort of the ride. The Abarth 500C also features an electronic differential or as Abarth label it TTC (Torque Transfer Control) which aids the transfer of power from the engine to the front wheels.
With the canvas roof fully retracted, the car’s side roof rails remain in place, thus helping to retain the car’s structural rigidity. Once closed, you could easily forget you’re in a convertible, even at motorway speeds the cabin remains calm. It’s reassuring to see a heated glass rear window fitted to the canvas roof which maximises rearward visibility. The roof comes in either black or titanium grey, depending on your exterior colour choice and features a clever integrated rear brake light that remains in view to following motorists regardless of the roof position.
Despite the 500C’s diminutive proportions, it packs a host of safety features which come fitted as standard, these include ESP, brake assist, anti-slip regulator, hill-holder and a class-leading seven airbags.
If you fancy an Abarth 500C for yourself it will cost you an estimated €26,500. I say estimated, because you’ll have to personally import one, as unfortunately there are no Abarth dealerships in Ireland at present. The good news, is that Fiat Ireland are examining the possibility of opening an Abarth dealership in Dublin. Fingers crossed this happens soon.
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Maximum power: 135hp at 5,500rpm
Maximum torque: 206Nm at 3,000rpm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 7.9 seconds
Maximum speed: 205km/h
Fuel economy (combined cycle): 6.5 litres/100km (43.4)
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
Motor tax band: C
Annual road tax: €302
Retail price: €25,000 Est