For automotive enthusiasts, the Fiat 500c is charming little car. It can be compared to a Smart car in terms of size, but with the added practicality of a small backseat and trunk. Plus, it reminds us of the classic Fiats of yore and their Italian heritage, just like Lightning McQueen’s friend Luigi in Pixar’s Cars.
The Abarth is the performance version and uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine mated to a true five-speed manual transmission. The combo proved nearly perfect. Usually enthusiasts would complain about missing a sixth gear in the transmission, but the ratios are perfect for the littlest Fiat.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: The Fiat 500c Abarth has one of the snarliest, most enthusiastic exhaust notes on startup this side of a Lamborghini SV. Moreover, when put into Sport mode, the pops and blips emulate a LeMans vehicle. I can’t imagine a better soundtrack coming from a four-cylinder engine so no need to change it. It would only make it louder, which isn’t necessary for the diminutive ride.
Our Abarth rocked the ultra-trendy Colosseo Gray exterior paint color that can best be described as concrete gray, which garnered a lot of attention. It seems the color palettes of the trendiest vehicles are moving away from metallics. Without going through the hassle and extreme expense of a professional paint job, it’s possible to achieve this look on your current ride by using a quality wrap. Bonus: If this trend falls out of favor, changing your vehicle back to stock is as easy as peeling off the wrap. Well, it isn’t that easy to peel off a professionally applied wrap, but your local vehicle enhancement professional can discuss the process with you and see if a color change would be a cool option for your current ride. Other touches that made the Abarth special were red brake calipers behind 17-inch black aluminum wheels.
The icing on the cake on my tester was the sliding canvas convertible top. It was as easy to use as a sunroof and could be used at any speed. Sometimes simplicity wins out over engineering. But whoever engineered the top did so with aplomb. When you press the button to open the top, it first stops at about the same opening aperture as a sunroof. Another press opens it to give the backseat passengers a view of the sky. Finally, a third press rolls the unit as far back as it can go, making the Abarth a true cabriolet. The only niggle is that in this setting, the folded-up canvas blocks the view out of the rear. Luckily, the Fiat has an infotainment screen with a rear-view camera that automatically turns on when the vehicle is shifted into reverse. In addition to rear parking sensors. This technology can be easily added in the aftermarket. The canvas also blocks the trunk from opening when fully open. However, pressing the trunk release automatically made the top go to its middle position to get the canvas out of the way. Genius!
The infotainment was straightforward and the 7-inch display works well. I did not like that the navigation chores were handed off to the TomTom built into the infotainment unit. That seems a generation behind, and Fiat would be better off offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Luckily, these technologies are just a quick aftermarket swap away. The audio system was not the top-of-the-line Beats but just the regular offering with woofers in the doors and tweeters in the A-pillars. It is a good basic start to get you going, but a speaker upgrade with additional amplification would be welcome – especially when cruising with the top down.
I loved my time with the Fiat 500c Abarth. After a weekend trip to Atlantic City, I was even impressed with its highway demeanor. Yes, it isn’t a cross-country luxobarge, but it wasn’t designed to be one. My wife and I could put two full bags in the trunk compartment, have four cupholders at the ready and even had the rear seat to spare! We stopped in Manhattan on the way home and were able to park it in a spot close to a fire hydrant that would have earned any other vehicle short of a Smart a citation. Purchase one and you’ll have a great time personalizing it to make it your own.