2014 Fiat 500C Abarth Cabrio new car reviews

The subtle changes to the Fiat's exterior take it from mild to aggressive pretty quickly.
This was such a fun little car, we might have driven it a little harder than we normally do.
The interior is surprisingly roomy for such a small car.

For those who are not familiar with the Abarth badge, they are basically Fiat’s performance division, like Mercedes’ AMG or Nissan’s NISMO, but with a little more of a fun, psychotic twist. They are historically known for taking practical city econoboxes and injecting them with their special blend of rubber, turbo and scorpion venom. It makes their cars incredibly fun to drive, but also rather useless on the street in most cases. So is this new model any different? Can it actually be used day-to-day?

Keep your eyes peeled for an Abarth Tech Tips section in an upcoming issue of Grassroots Motorsports to learn you how to make yours faster and angrier.

Other staff views

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin

Let me get this out right off the bat..... I'm not a big fan of the Abarth's cutesy, looks. This little Italian is a bit to cartoonish for me, and it makes me feel a bit silly to be a grown man driving it.

Ok, I'm done with the negativity---- I love nearly everything else about this little demon!

From it's commanding view of the road (ala early GTI), to it's punchy little turbo four, this tiny badass means business. it rips around turns and rewards you with a turbo blast upon corner exit that will leave you giggling like a school girl. The steering wheel is a bit of a reach in the traditional Italian (arms-out) style, but it's just reminding you that it's different. The Abarth is not a cookie-cutter econobox, and that's OK. What we have here is a Chickenhawk attacking Foghorn Leghorn, a Jack Russell terrier picking a fight with a German Shepard. It's tiny, but mighty-- and you'll never forget it, because of the sound.

Yes, this miniature Fiat packs an audible wallop. It's perhaps the best sounding little car I've ever driven, and makes all other "sporty" small cars sound boring and tame. It may not post the fastest 0-60 times on paper, but it FEELS faster because of the glorious racket blasting out of the exhaust. I found myself screaming around in second gear at 5K RPM just to envelope myself in that lovely ripping rhapsody.

Sure it looks a little silly, but the Abarth was designed for driving fun, and it delivers on that promise better than any small car in recent memory. (yes MINIs and MX-5's included) The novel semi-convertible top opens up the sky without sacrificing structural rigidity, but it also raises the price to ridiculous levels. I'll take a tin-top version and go Corvette hunting-- just for laughs-- because laughs are what this car is all about.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

If you read our magazine, then you need to try out this car in real life. Find a way to spend a few minutes behind the wheel.

I see three possible outcomes:

You'll think it's the best thing ever.

You'll like it but, being hardcore, will opt for the hardtop version.

You'll like it but decide to put your money into something a bit more refined, like a BRZ/FR-S, MX-5 or maybe even a used Boxster or Cayman.

I don't see anyone not liking it. I just see different reactions to the driving experience.

I love the engine, the chassis and the looks. The driving position is nice and upright--if anything, a bit too tall in the saddle. It's small but not totally cramped inside. Using the back seat and trunk, my wife and I fit our entire grocery load in the car--figure enough for two people to last three weeks or so. The exhaust has a nice burble to it.

What don't I like? The shift linkage could be less rubbery. The highway ride could be better. The gauges could be less weird. The interior could feel a little more refined.

Ed Higginbotham
PunchyWrench - Ed Higginbotham

I'm not going to lie, I wasn't swept off my feet by this car on the first drive. The clutch didn't have much feeling, throttle response wasn't very sharp. It just wasn't as wild as I had pictured it in my mind. But then I stepped in for the second time to make a run to the grocery store and fell in love on the way.

The first thing noticed when you step into the car: "Wow, there's a lot more room in here than I thought." Second is the exhaust note when you start it up. It just sounds angry. Into first and you're off. after the turbo builds pressure, you have enough on hand to make a trip in this car exciting. The ride is great for the street and the breaks even better.

That being said, the only slightly off-putting aspects of this car for me were the seating position—a little high—and the shift light. When the Abarth decides you need to be in a higher gear it flashes a big "shift up" light at you, as many cars do. But the Abarth flashes this light when you are doing 24mph in fourth gear. It wants you in fifth gear, all the time. If you shift into fifth to make the blasted light go away you have little to no power without taking it down a couple gears.

A lot of people are down on this car because of the styling. I personally like it. It's a little bulbous, but it's based on the Italian city car and I can appreciate that, but the trim added by Abarth evens it out nicely. With the add-ons available for this car, it could easily be transformed into the wild hatchback I expected it to be.

Bottom line: I'd buy one.

Rick Goolsby
Rick Goolsby

I was fortunate enough to score the Fiat Abarth for the evening on the day it arrived at our office. Thursday nights are daddy/daughter date night so I figured I would get kudos for coming home with a cool car. Even though she is deathly afraid of scorpions, she able to get past the scorpion logos on the car and had a great time zipping around some back street autocross route to Smoothie King.

Driving home from work that evening was a blast! The Abarth is very nimble in the handling department and the engine revs quite nicely with no turbo lag. The biggest selling feature for me though is the exhaust note. I had heard talk of this before, but had never really experienced it until I drove the car. In 95 degree weather (with a feels like of 108 degrees) in the height of the Florida summer, I could not help but rolling the top back and lowering the windows just to hear the little Fiat Abarth sing. Speaking of the convertible, I felt like the convertible top was not much more than a big sunroof. I would like to see Fiat really go all out with a true convertible top in future models.

The interior quality was very good and everything was laid out nicely, however the power window controls were on the center console on the dash which I am not used to. The only other niggle I would have is the driving position seemed a bit awkward and the shifter felt a little rubbery.

So the question becomes, would I own one? And the answer is….you bet I would just for the exhaust note alone and everything else would just be icing on the cake as this would make a great second car to add to the stable.

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