The Fiat 500 Abarth and its traditional 500 siblings are dead. Fiat gave both gas-powered models the axe ahead of an all-new electric platform. But since the 500 hasn't seen any major updates since its debut eight years ago, the hot Abarth model's departure is certainly understandable. An old powertrain, outdated interior, and visuals that haven't changed much since 2012 make the hot hatch sort of irrelevant, especially in a class that's already on the decline.
Even as it exits the market, though, and despite its imperfections, the Fiat 500 Abarth remains a charming vehicle. We spent a week saying goodbye to a 2019 Abarth Cabriolet model, and found that while it clings tightly to those defining sporty characteristics from almost a decade ago, this hot hatch is still fun as hell.
The 500 Abarth uses the same turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that debuted on the car in 2012. It's punchy with 160 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque, but this engine still feels dated. For one, there's a ton of turbo lag off the line. Only above 3,000 RPM does the Abarth produce any noticeable power. That leads to a leisurely sprint to 60, even for the segment – the Abarth gets there in just over seven seconds.
A five-speed manual comes standard, but our tester sports the optional ($995) six-speed automatic transmission instead. It's a fine, if not slightly lethargic, gearbox – not even fussing with the paddles livens up the shift speed. Zipping around town the gearbox feels less offensive, allowing us to hang the revs well up near the 5,500 RPM redline. The angry little Fiat practically begs you to push it harder.
But we still love the way the 500 Abarth moves. The suspension tuning is perfection – it's both taut in the corners, keeping body roll to a minimum, but still cushy enough for a comfortable ride over longer stretches. The steering is heavy but provides an extremely quick turn-in, and while the front tires do struggle for grip, it's easy to fling this Fiat around with confidence. All the while, this Italian sounds great. The burble from the muffler-less exhaust is the Abarth's calling card, and it’s intoxicating.
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For as fun as the Fiat 500 Abarth is to fling around, though, the cabin feels less inspired. Part of the 2018 makeover adds a digital instrument cluster and an updated boost gauge that provides a readout of the drive mode, but most of the same core elements from almost a decade ago carry over. The infotainment screen is a tiny 5.0 inches and runs the outdated Uconnect 3, shiny black and body-colored hard plastics cover a huge chunk of the dash, and most of the knobs and buttons feel extremely flimsy.
The seats aren't great either. While the standard black cloth buckets with red inserts certainly look neat, the seating position is high and it feels like you're sitting on the chairs rather than in them. The back seat, of course, is cramped – but that's expected of a car this tiny. And the convertible top, while a nice feature to have, acts more like a glorified moonroof, opening a large middle portion of the car rather than the entire roof. Also, there are some pretty noticeable blind spots.
Worth The Cost Of Admission
Faults like the flimsy cabin and a laggy transmission are easy to overlook, though, when considering the cost. The base 500 Abarth starts at $20,745 for 2019, and the Cabrio model costs just $22,240. Our tester, with minimal options (the most expensive being the $1,395 wheels and the $995 six-speed automatic) costs just over $26,000. For comparison’s sake, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo costs $23,350, the Honda Civic Si costs $25,200 to start and the Volkswagen GTI costs $28,595.
All things considered, the Fiat 500 Abarth is and was a fantastically fun car for the money. Though it shows its age upon exit, the hot hatch still delivers tons of punch, fantastic feedback, and an extremely pleasing exhaust note. It’s not the best hot hatch that ever was, but we’ll certainly miss the feisty 500 Abarth.
Gallery: 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabriolet: Feature
2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabriolet