2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio Review

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2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

Hypes: Only the Italians Could Attach a Spoiler to a Convertible Top
Gripes: Awkward Seating Position

You cannot buy any car for $24,000 that will provide more driving entertainment than the Abarth tweaked Fiat 500. We spent a thoroughly joyous week conducting the raucous Abarth symphony from the deeply bucketed Nero ( black) driver’s seat of a Rosso (Red) Abarth. This petite demon of a sports car had enough cloisonné Abarth medallions to open a jewelry store. Few automotive symbols are as significant or fetching as the Abarth scorpion, a creature you will find on the flanks, hood, trunk lid, steering wheel and wheel centers of this exceptionally attractive 500C. White laser stripes adorn both flanks as well, making the diminutive 2,450 package look more ferocious than cute. Based on its performance this scorpion has every right to look pugnacious.

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

In its most basic form, which Fiat terms “Pop,” the 500C is an economy sedan For as little as $16,000), you can buy a 500C Pop with 101hp and 97lb.-ft. of torque. This version defines the cute end of the 500C spectrum, with just enough power to make the grade on the freeway, but not quite enough pop to complete a safe pass on a two lane road. At the other end of the performance rainbow lies the Abarth we drove, powered by a very stout turbo boosted version of the 1.4 liter engine, producing 160hp and 170lb.-ft of torque (if you opt for the 6-speed manual transmission). If you chose a 6-speed automatic you lose 3hp (to 157) but pick up 13lb.-ft. of torque (to 183). In either guise, the Abarth nearly doubles the output of the base Pop motor, and definitely halves the acceleration time from 0-60mph.

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

But the lively engine is just one component of the 500C’s transformation from economy city car to back road burner. At each corner, you will immediately notice Pirelli P7 radials (195/45R16), mounted on Abarth-specific 6.5×16″ “Aluminum Hyper-Black Wheels.” This potent combo is ready to attack any race track and win the battle. Coupled with the Abarth’s “High Performance Suspension,” the 500C becomes an absolute corner bashing terror, leaping from apex to apex with the kind of immediacy you would expect from a formula race car, not a street legal sedan. On one of my favorite back road runs, conducted early enough to avoid traffic, the little Abarth conducted itself with such precision and aplomb that it merited “Bravo!” at the finish line. And that bravura performance occurred before I activated the little beast’s secret weapon – the SPORT button.

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

When you depress a shiny red button on the dash face reading “SPORT,” the graphics of the digital dash change from humdrum (info like MPG and Miles To Empty), to another dimension calibrated in cornering G-Force numbers and lap times. Fiat calls this realm the “Abarth Track Experience.” Unlike so many pretend vehicles these days that entice you with a placebo “Sport” button that accomplishes virtually nothing in terms of upgrading performance, the Abarth’s jump in response is very clear and real rather than imagined. As the tip sheet in the glovebox explains, “When the vehicle is in Sport mode, you will notice increased powertrain and steering responsiveness, as well as increased horsepower, torque and turbo boost pressure.” What more could you ask for?

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

Well, you could ask for an open air car on a nice day. And with the roll back roof of the Abarth Cabrio, you’ve got just that. If you depress the button located on the windshield header, the soft roof slides back into one of three positions. The first stop mimics an open sunroof, the second uncovers both front and rear seat areas, and the third slides the roof all the way back to the lid of the trunk. These are all great choices for low speed open air motoring. But you won’t opt for positions 2 or 3 at freeway speed, since wind noise quickly becomes irritating. With so much roof real estate devoted to canvas rather than steel, the Abarth’s structural rigidity might seem compromised. Such is not the case, because we never detected so much as a twist or squeak from this Cabrio over bumps or potholes.

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

The driving position here is unique. The high mounted, fat rimmed steering wheel sits beneath an even higher instrument binnacle lid that can interfere with forward vision. The large center dash pod locates the sweet shifting transmission lever elbow high. The extended sides of the console are wide enough to impede knee clearance. Under hard cornering, I was constantly bracing myself against that console with the boniest part of my right knee. But the joy of driving this precious Fiat was worth every ping of pain I felt.

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

2017 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4 cylinder, 16 valve MultiAir Turbo
  • Horsepower: 160hp
  • Torque: 170lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28MPG City/33MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $24,270
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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