Let’s face it – the standard Fiat 500 model failed to impress critics and buyers alike. In fact, it was downright silly. However, the 2016 edition of the vehicle seeks to change all that. Designed for optimum performance, the new 500 Abarth is a crowd-pleaser. And it makes sense. After all, the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is marketed towards a different segment of buyers with a different set of priorities, the fundamental flaws of this automobile not being one of them.
The stunning exterior of the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth automatically earn it some brownie points. Available in Celeste Blu (Retro Light Blue), this retro shade truly complements the overall design of the vehicle while the Abarth badging is definitely the cherry on top.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Fiat 500 has become the dream vehicle for many automobile enthusiasts since its launch in Spring 2011. The car was a reminder to the industry about Fiat’s capabilities, and successfully managed to revitalize the brand. Taking the concept of a small three-door hatchback and turning it on its head through the use of relatively low-cost materials inside, Fiat’s designers managed to make the vehicle appear more upscale and stylish than it actually is.
The features of the 2016 model, which some describe as boy-racer styling, read like a what’s what in automobile luxury and innovation. Included are 17-inch forged aluminum hyper black wheels worth a cool $1,400, a black mirror cap with body side strip worth $450, and black trimmed lights, which cost another $250. Even better, the car comes with tinted glass windows for some much-needed privacy, dual bright exhaust tips, a performance spoiler, and rosso (red) brake calipers.
The lower third of the Fiat 500 carefully hides the extra bulk required for safety while the upward-sloping sides, button-like headlamps, forward-sloping rear glass, and the front “mustache” trim bar all combine to give the illusion of svelteness to the car from certain angles. The end result is a breath-taking silhouette that pays homage to the classic Cinquecento form, seen in old Italian films.
The first thing you notice when you pop the doors of the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth are the performance cloth-equipped high-back bucket seats. These raise the height of the driver’s seat a lot more than what is comfortable in a sports-centric vehicle. The rest of the interior – a harmonious blend of the practical and the playful – can make US, Korean, Japanese, and German designers green with envy.
Displays and gauges, like the premium 7-inch color cluster display, the 5.0-inch touchscreen display, and the turbo boost gauge are all arranged in simple concentric patterns. This is an ingenious move as the layers of detail and colors automatically draw the attention. The Uconnect 5.0 is the built-in infotainment system with AUX and USB input.
What stops this from being perfect is the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, coupled with forward cup holders too narrow to accommodate the iPhone 7 Plus. You do get a Beats Audi Package: Beats Premium Audio system, but this is going to cost you an extra $700. Also worth noticing is the absence of a reversing or navigation camera. Fiat 500, however, has included it as a Rear Park assist add-on worth $250.
The plastic dashboard matches the vehicle body color, and looks great. However, Fiat needs to work on the ergonomics. Finding the right touchscreen control or button is pretty much a head scratcher in the 500. The leather-covered steering wheel offers a good grip but could have benefitted from telescopic adjustment options and a smaller size.
For the entertainment buff, there is the Popular Equipment Package worth $975. It includes Sirius XM satellite radio, heated front seats, black seats, and an auto temperature controlled air conditioning system with micron filter.
Fuel economy numbers in the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth are moderate at best. According to the manufacturer, owners would arrive 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. We drove the car for a week and observed 23 mpg.
It would be unfair to compare the fuel economy of the Fiat 500 with members of the Toyota Prius range, which registers between 42 mpg to 50 combined, seeing as how its target audience is hardly concerned with fuel efficiency. They are more interested in the stylish, quirky looks of this car. If an energy efficient option does interest you, pick the Fiat 500e model. With a range of 84 miles and a decent 112 mpge, this electric battery-powered model is a solid alternative.
The Fiat 500 Abarth offers excellent performance thanks to the inclusion of a 1.4-liter MultiAir 16-valve 4-cylinder engine. This is complemented by the Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission which costs an extra $1,350, and features a shift knob wrapped in leather. 157 horsepower and 183 lb.-ft. of torque means that the vehicle is capable of doing 0 to 60 mph in a matter of 6.9 seconds, while the manual 500 hits 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. In comparison, the regular model has 160 hp and 170 lb.-ft. of torque.
Like the stick-shift model, the chassis of the automatic 500 Abarth comes with performance-tuned dampers and roll bars, big tires and wheels, and oversized brakes. The electric, leather-wrapped steering wheel offers an amazing tactile experience and is quick.
The stiff suspension, large tires, and absence of steel on the roof of the Fiat 500 Abarth means that the vehicle should have suffered from poor structural rigidity. Thankfully, this is not the case, and this mini-compact remains quite steady. Even when you are picking up speed, the 500 does not shake. Trouble starts when the vehicle begins bounding enthusiastically over expansion strips, bumps, and frost heaves.
The cost of the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is $22,575. If you include all the additional components mentioned in the review, the total comes to $28,945.
What we liked: There were many things to like in the new model, but what impressed us the most were the easy to park dynamics of the vehicle, the sexy sounds of the Abarth exhaust, and the boy-racer styling.
What we didn’t like: The bad rear seating arrangements, fuel mileage was not that impressive, and California-only electric version left much to be desired.
The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth faces stiff competition from new models like the 2016 Ford Fiesta, the 2016 Mini Cooper, and the 2016 Honda Fit. The Ford Fiesta and the Honda Fit both trump the new Fiat 500 with more seating room, while the 2016 Mini Cooper has its share of takers thanks to the retro style. In terms of mileage, all three models top the Fiat 500 Abarth. Where the Fiat 500 Abarth scores high is driver excitement.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2017 Angel Mosqueda / Car Fanatics Blog