The new Fiat 500 has already conquered the hearts of all car enthusiasts, and even our Belgian queen takes the wheel of this lovely “cinquecento”, which so succesfully evokes the shape and aura of the original.
Of course, a faster version was in the cards, and it did not take long before an Abarth version hit the roads. We drove here for you the little gem, with enough power and good road manners to unleash the “Passione Abarth” in all of us...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The 500 Abarth looks cute from every angle, and the sporty note is omnipresent, but never too agressive. Our car was painted in subdued grey, and this suited the Abarth version very well. We like the humoristic note of the “iiiii” in the sidestrip painting, and so did the bystanders we met. Youngsters in tuned BMW's drove smilingly alongside, making the thumbs up sign, and even Brussels policewomen looked amused and threw handkisses!
The good looks are of course accompanied by a healthy sound, as an Abarth befits. Even at low revs, a pleasant heavy exhaust note reminds us that this is a “sportiva”. Despite this racy sound, the engine is very docile and smooth, showing an amazing flexibility. The Abarth pilot can effortlessly potter around in dense city traffic between 1000 and 1500 rpm, with the engine pulling smoothly and remaining completely silent and vibrationless. You can flick at 50 kph in 5th gear and leave it there, cruising along with the traffic flow.
The remarkable thing is that this docility of the 16 valve 1.4 engine is present whether you choose the ‘sport’ mode or the ‘normal’ mode, of which more later. The excellent seating position and overall ergonomy make you want to drive this car in traffic all day long. And of course we love the hefty gearlever, lying so ideally close at hand.
But the Cinquecento is not just an urban star. It shines also on the open road. Of course, the first stretch of winding outside the city limits will make your right foot itch. Yes, the engine climbs with a beautiful allegro note into the revs, and when you are lucky, you can hear the “pop” in the exhaust when making your first quick gearchange.
Alas, this dissapears all too quickly when the engine gets warmer and the mixture leaner. But what remains then is the beautiful song of the engine, the smooth gearchanges, the responsive brakes and the excellent, predictable handling. There are also several systems to assist the driver in his sporty handywork: ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), the sophisticated ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ASR (Anti Slip Regulation). Also a Hill Holder device helps the driver during hill starts and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) assists in emergency stops.
The engine is of course painted red, and on this "Testa rossa" shines also the Scorpione..."
The Cinquecento is a good long distance traveller too. The magnificently styled front seats offer ample space, also for longer legged Abarth lovers. They are quite comfortable, and have a wide adjustment range. Road and wind noise are also very well suppressed, taking into account the size of the car, and the suspension never becomes unduly harsh either. The car feels of course tout and stable, with very little body roll, and offers excellent straight line stability even at higher speeds.
One might regret a bit the Jeager instruments from the earlier Abarths, but the typical Cinquecento dials are pretty nentheless...
The Abarth pilot can choose between a “sport” and “normal” engine performance mode. In “normal” mode, the engine remains, as we said, very smooth and flexible, having chosen the “dynamic” mode, the turbo boost pressure rises, and the engine is eager to show its full 135 hp potential. This is the power of a full bloodied 4 cilinder Porsche “Köningswellen” Carrera in the early sixties, with a comparable weight as well. One understands quickly that the performance of the Abarth is then quite impressive. The acceleration figures speak for themselves: the 500 catapults in just 7.9 seconds to 100 km, and reaches swiftly a top speed of 205 kph. This is achieved by using turbo ‘overboost’, activated in the sport mode. The pilot can also monitor the turbo pressure in a nice dial, which also indicates the optimal gearchange spots for economy in ‘normal’ mode, and for best performance in the ‘sport’ mode.
A dial lets the driver monitor the turbo boost, and indicates also the ideal gearshift spots...
But even in this “dynamic” mode, the Cinquecento remains a very smooth performer, as we said earlier. Fuel economy depends very much on your driving style here, driving smoothly along with the urban traffic flow made us achieve an urban driving consumption of a mere 5,6 litres on 100 km, and on the open road it also depends on the weight of your right foot whether you achieve “green” consumtion figures. We reached a very honorable test consumption of 6.8 litres 100 km.
Under the bonnet, the 1368 cm3 4 cylinder 16 valve unit shines in all its beauty, painted in (Abarth) racing red, and this magical Abarth aura spills of course over in the interior, and is to be seen in the emblem of the steering wheel, the stunning shape of the seats, the changed lettering and indication of the instruments, a nice round dial indicating the turbo pressure, and many more little details. “Puristi” might regret the classic black and white Jaeger dials of the original Abarth bolides, but the laws of mass production are more stricter now, and as we said, the instruments are quite good looking, so we can live with them.
We were again agreeably surprised by the excellent sound system in the car. Our car was not equipped with a navigation system, but we gladly used our personal small screen TomTom (see our report on our Samurai) to guide us on a long trip to Holland. Let it be said that Fiat has a proper navigation and bluetooth driven info and communication system in store for you, if you so wish.
We already described the good virtues of the 500 elsewhere. But we must mention here again the cute shape of the car, which despite its very compact outside dimensions, can indeed seat 4 persons.
Our conclusion? The Abarth version offers all the “pur sang” sportiness you can expect from the emblem under the “Scorpione”, but what surprised us was the excellent versatility and docility of the car, which remains a magnificent all rounder, ideally at home in the city, as well as on winding (mountain) roads and last but not least on the Autostradas.
Fiat has a unique know-how in building small cars, and this masterful “métier” is shown more than ever in this 500 Abarth...
Hans Knol ten Bensel.
The gearlever lies ideally at hand...
The Scorpione emblem is to be found at the centre of the beautiful steering wheel...
The Abarth pilot can choose a "sport" mode, which unleashes 135 HP...
The engine is beatifully painted and detailed in the "pur sang" tradition...
The leather sports seats provided excellent support... and were very nice to look at!