2014 Fiat Abarth Review By John Heilig


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THE AUTO PAGE
By John Heilig

Model: 2014 Fiat Abarth

Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged I4

Horsepower/Torque: 169 hp @ 5,500 rpm/170 lb.-ft. @ 2,500-4,000 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Wheelbase: 90.6 in.

Length x Width x Height: 144.4 x 64.1 x 58.7 in.

Tires: P205/40R17

Cargo: 9.5/26.8 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)

Economy: 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway

Fuel capacity: 10.5 gal.

Curb Weight: 2,512 lbs.

Sticker: $27,600 (includes $700 destination, $3,900 options)

The Bottom Line: Three words - raucous, fun, small.

There is absolutely nothing subtle about the Fiat Abarth. It begins with the paint scheme. Our tester was Italian Racing Red with white stripes along the door sills and “Abarth” in the stripes. There are also Abarth scorpion badges in the significant spots. In addition, our tester had white wheels and white paint on the backs of the exterior mirrors.

Turn it on and the exhaust almost shocks you. The tuner kids in my neighborhood were jealous. The exhaust note sounds like a bigger engine, with a deep, throaty sound.

Acceleration is excellent and doesn’t hold back on the promise of the exhaust. It hurt my ears at full bore, but it was worth it. Sadly, the exhaust note makes it impossible to do sneaky rapid acceleration runs because of the attention it attracts. When you aren’t acceleration, general power is good with a noisy, but not raucous, exhaust note.

The 5-speed manual transmission is precise, with good shift points. The only problem is that I have become used to m6-speed manuals, so I often looked for that extra gear that wasn’t there.

Handling is stiff, as becomes a car that yearns to be a performance car. It is tight and ideal for fast cornering.

With its miniscule wheelbase and short overall length, the Fiat Abarth definitely qualifies as a microcompact. The front seats – black with red piping – surprisingly have little side support. Naturally, rear seat leg room is tight and only sufficient for occasional use.

There is one central instrument, a la Mini, except in the Fiat it is in front of the driver. The speedometer portion is hard to read. The center of the huge dial contains fuel and water gauges, a clock, outside temperature and a small digital speedometer as well as entertainment choices. The first ring around the central dial is the tachometer. The outer ring is the speedometer. For some reason I found it hard to read.

The painted red dash reminded me of the VW Beetle, in at least the first two iterations. I liked it. Very retro.

The Fiat Abarth has a good audio system, but it’s hard to get all the features. Also, with the exhaust note constantly underwriting everything, volume must be set higher than normal.

A nice feature I liked concerned the windshield wipers. When the front wipers are on and you shift into reverse, the rear wiper automatically turns on.

There is an interesting Mickey Mouse-shaped cup holder in the center console. The “ears” function well as holders for normal to smaller cups. The “head” acts as a single cup holder for larger cups.

I was impressed with the trunk. In normal configuration it has good volume at 9.5 cubic feet. Lower te rear seat backs and this explodes to 26.8 cubic feet. Since the rear seats aren’t much use for seating, it almost makes sense to keep the backs folded and use the space for cargo.

I couldn’t help thinking “Oh where, oh where, has my 500 gone?” The first 500 I drove was truly a 500 with a small 500 cc engine. Modern 500s have 1.4-liter engines, and of course the Abarth’s is turbocharged.

Also, I notice in advertising, that Abarth is pronounced Uh BARTH, when it used to be AY barth.

The Fiat Abarth competes very well with the other microcompacts – Smart, Chevy Spark and Scion iQ. It wins in the power department, and I like the styling. It loses in the price department, although a standard Fiat 500 fits in nicely with the competition.

The Fiat Abarth has a good solid feel for a small car and is a ball to drive.

2013 The Auto Page

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