The Cinquecento is already an icon among car lovers, and we are no exception to say the least. But there is even more. We drove the Abarth version of this 500, which has in the few years of its life already managed to grow into a living legend. Now this legend has got the unique name of Abarth on its bonnet, and the powerful wings of 140 horses… needless to say that what follows here is a tale of passion…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The creators of the Abarth 500C developed not only the performance, they did not neglect the design of the charming 500 C.
Alongside the classic body colour scheme, Abarth is offering two-tone paintwork for the first time on a 500. Although your eye may linger on the new colours, the long, dynamic spoiler reminds you that the Abarth 500C means business. The spoiler not only adds flair to the sporting image but also ensures an improved CZ load and more effective air flow distribution. The Abarth 500C is enhanced by new 17” diamond pattern alloys and a white diamond version of the popular 5 petal design.
…in sporting comfort.
Another strength of the 500 C is the outstanding climatic and acoustic comfort. Thorough aerodynamic research means that the turbulence experienced with the roof open has been reduced to a minimum, so you can enjoy fully the open road and engine sound
The Abarth 500C allows you indeed all the sensations of a real sports car: with the hood closed, it offers performance worthy of a hard top version but when the roof is rolled down, life gets even more beautiful when you speed along with the wind rushing through your hair to the beautiful sound of the twin silencer exhaust.
The electric hood, which faithfully traces the car's roof line, means that the Abarth 500C can be enjoyed at any time of year. Indeed, even in the wintery snow days, we enjoyed open air pleasure in the Abarth.
A true design object in its own right, the hood of the Fiat 500C is distinguished by its sophisticated electrically-controlled movements and its impressively finished and carefully crafted technical features: from the glass rear window to the third brake light built into the spoiler. The hood is available in 2 colours (black and titanium grey) and can be combined with classic Abarth colours as well as 2 specially-created two-tone combinations: the more sporty version (racing black and white) and a more elegant version in two tones of grey. A chromatic liner runs along the two-tone body to simultaneously divide and combine the car's two spirits: out-and-out sports performance below and the elegance of a cabriolet above.
Performance: the Abarth signature of sound and fury…
The new car is a true Abarth and this is confirmed by a 1.4 Turbo T-Jet power unit that delivers 140 HP, for significant performance: 0-100 km/h in just 8.1 seconds and a torque of 206 Nm at 2000 rpm in Sport mode – a delightful engine with a beautiful sound and smooth willingness that ensures not only thrilling performance but also makes the Abarth 500C a source of unique pleasure during day-to-day use.
In detail, the engine is a 1368 cc 4 cylinder 16 valve unit (turbo charged with a fixed geometry IHI RHF3-P turbocharger) that delivers exhilarating performance. Top speed is 205 km/h while acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h – as we said - takes place in just 8.1 seconds. This is partly achieved by the overboost function, activated by the Sport button that modulates control unit mapping and turbo pressure in addition to load on the steering wheel. Yet this typically Abarth performance comes with very frugal fuel consumption: 6.5 l/100 km over a combined cycle.
This lively yet smooth new power unit also has proven eco-friendly credentials: the new Abarth car is already able to meet the toughest restrictions imposed by future European standards (Euro 5).
In addition to the engine, the Abarth 500C retains all the engineering features already so appreciated on the original model, such as TTC (Torque Transfer Control).
The engine is indeed a true delight. Flexible at lowest revs in city traffic, docile as a lamb in “normal” mode, brilliant in the “sports” mode, with ample power throughout the rev range.
The gearbox: “Abarth Competitzione” at the push of a button…
The most important new feature of the 500 C is the race inspired “ABARTH Competizione” gearbox. With this unit, Abarth re-writes history:
In 1949 Karl Abarth was beginning to market his first official product, a racing gearbox with a steering wheel-mounted lever for the Fiat Topolino, able to offer slick gear shifts under sporty driving conditions. More than 60 years later, the ABARTH Competizione is offered as standard on the Abarth 500C with the same philosophy. It takes the form of a 5-speed gearbox with electrohydraulic control and driver interface created with paddles behind the steering wheel.
In detail, the innovative gearbox, derived from an MTA (Manual Transmission Automated) unit, consists of a conventional manual gearbox on which the manual linkage is replaced by an actuator controlled electronically by a TCU (Transmission Control Unit) which optimises both gearshifting and mechanical efficiency. This gearbox also offers auto mode for greater comfort and manual mode for maximum driving satisfaction. A sport setting may be added to both modes, with repercussions on shift speed.
The new ABARTH Competizione makes driving more fun, complementing out-and-out racing attributes with the possibility of shifting up through the gears on the steering wheel as though you were driving a real supercar. Indeed, we were soon using the manual function, actuating the paddles behind the wheel for changing up. As the gearbox and computer will automatically change down when you are driving slower, you did not need to worry about this. When you still do downshift manually to keep the revs up, a short flick of the paddle will indeed let the box change down with the computer giving an impulse to rev up the engine so it enters smoothly the lower gear, an expert rally driver could not improve on this, and needless to say we could not resist the temptation to do this time and again…
In terms of safety, the Abarth 500C also offers the features already successfully adopted on the Abarth 500. The Abarth 500C is indeed a very safe car. We could test the 500 C in icy and snowy condions, and were impressed by the stable, effective braking and predictable handling at all times. It is also good to know that the Abarth 500C is also fitted as standard with 7 airbags (two front, two window bags, two side bags and one for knee protection): The car also uses sophisticated technical solutions to ensure that the driver is in perfect control of the car (active safety): from ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD) to the advanced electronic stability program (ESP ), from the anti-slip regulation (ASR ) system to the Hill Holder devices – which help the driver with hill starts - and hydraulic brake assistance (HBA) to help with emergency stops.
The Abarth 500C also offers the “TTC ” (Torque Transfer Control) which improves the transfer of drive torque to the wheels and, in particular, guarantees excellent cornering behaviour, thus making the car safer and more entertaining during a sporty drive. The Abarth 500C offers also a suprising degree of comfort. The front system is a MacPherson configuration while the rear suspension features interconnected wheels (i.e. semi-independent) with a torsion beam. Both configurations selected have been appropriately revised and developed for the new vehicle to ensure both great handling and creditable driving comfort.
We drove the 500C in difficult winter conditions, but were astonished by the high degree of driveability and docility, making it, together with its magnificent sound and performance, a truly delightful machine. Just make a test drive, and be – literally – transported…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The 500 C emblem is tatstefully written on the dashboard, like a thoroughbred befits...
Push the sports button, and the 140 horses are unleashed...