The 2014 Fiat Abarth: Same song different dance hall

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

I like cars, I really do. I can usually find something I like about a vehicle. Sure, I like some more than others, but at the end of the day I can always find something I like about just about anything I drive. Heck, I even found something to like about the Prius, a car I once likened to Satan.

Rare is the time when I find a car that has little I can find redeeming. In fact in all the years of racing, driving, working on and living around the machine called an automobile I can count on one hand, even after imagining losing three fingers to a bandsaw accident, the cars that I simply could not find something to like about.

Such was the case last year when I first drove the Fiat Abarth. From the first day I tried to find something to like; but it was loud, as in waking up the neighbors in the morning loud, had a high center of gravity, like sitting on top of an egg. It was also not every fast, had few features and was way overpriced. Sure, I can understand that there are people who like the Abarth, buy, lovingly wash it, drive and enjoy it, I’m just not one of them.

So when I was recently given the 2014 Abarth for a week, I sighed, heavily.  I promised myself though that I would give it a go, take another turn with an open mind. Maybe a year removed from the 2013 Fiat had made improvements, given it more room, more “stuff”, something to like.

Before proceeding, let me stress here that my review is based on my opinion, nothing more. The Fiat of old, with its quality and reliability issues, seems to be a thing of the past. What Fiat builds today is a fine car; it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

Doing my research prior to delivery I saw that for 2014, the Fiat 500 Abarth and Abarth Cabrio models have new multi-spoke 16-inch wheels, okay, but what got my attention is that in addition, there is a revised passenger seat that sits 1 inch lower for increased headroom and now includes an arm rest.  Okay, maybe a little more interior room is good.

I was wrong.

The 500c (I had the convertible) still seems as small as ever; you are still sitting on an egg and you’re almost too scared to take a high speed corner lest you tip over and wait for all the kings horses and all the kings men…well you get the idea. Like last year’s model the rear seats are useless and perish the thought of putting even a small child back there.

The 2014 Fiat 500 is available either as a hatchback or convertible. The hatchback is offered has five trim levels: Pop, Sport, Lounge, Turbo and Abarth. The convertible 500C comes in Pop, Lounge and Abarth trims.

The standard features for the base Pop trim include 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 50/50 split-folding rear seats, a trip computer, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio input and iPod integration. Moving up to the Sport trim (only offered as a coupe) adds 16-inch alloy wheels, some sporty exterior styling touches, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights, front sport seats, a front passenger seat armrest, a sport steering wheel and an upgraded Alpine audio system. The Turbo trim adds a more powerful engine, bigger brakes, a roof spoiler, perforated cloth seats and a leather-wrapped shift knob; strangely, there is no audio upgrade.

With the top of the line Lounge trim you lose the sporty upgrades  and get more luxurious appointments like 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, a fixed glass roof, automatic climate control, premium cloth upholstery and satellite radio. The 500C convertible model I had, like all convertibles, gets a three-position power cloth top and rear parking sensors.

Like last year, the Abarth is powered by a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine belting out 160 horsepower, and up to 170 ft.-lb. of torque. Like last year, starting the engine wakes up the neighborhood, although to Fiat’s credit you can now turn the “sport” mode off and it is a little quieter. It still reminds me of a car with an exhaust leak; like an old Ford I had that was the bane of my youthful existence and had the exhaust leak repaired via a beer can.

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

The 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth (Fiat)

Fiat claims a 0-60 time in the low 7 second range, and indeed in “sport” mode there does seem to be enough power, and I did manage a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds.  But doing so is an eye-opening experience, as in hold on tight and pray.

As mentioned, trying to aggressively corner requires nerves of steel and an iron will. At the end of the week, I had not done much deep cornering, preferring to live to drive another day.  One thing on the 2014 model that was absent on the 2013 was the convertible roof. It’s three position, and I did decide to give it a go. Sadly, you only lose the roof, the door posts go nowhere of course leaving you just short of a true convertible open-air feeling. Perhaps the worst part of having the roof slid all the way to the back was the loss of the rear view. You will not be seeing out the back window, and without blind spot monitoring you best be paying attention to what’s going on behind you via the side mirrors.

I guess I was hoping to find something to like, but in the end I failed. The final nail in the coffin is the price. The 500c I had topped out with an MSRP of $30,595. Really?

I’m sure there are plenty of Abarth fans out there who will love this car. Those who likes Mini’s, Beetles and the like. I can’t count myself among them however. I did drive and like, the Beetle (the MSRP is $3000 more though), but for me, the Abarth just doesn’t do it. It can wake up the neighbors somewhere else.

The 2015 Fiat 500c Abarth
MSRP:$ 26,195
MSRP (as tested, with customer preferred package 25X): $30,595
Engine (as tested): 1.4 liter turbo rated at160 horsepower, and up to 170 ft.-lb. of torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual
MPG (EPA rated): 28 city, 34 highway, 30 combined
MPG (as tested, mixed conditions): 29

Base Curb Weight (lbs) 2363

Interior Dimensions
Front Shoulder Room (in) 49.4
Second Hip Room (in) 42.6
Front Head Room (in) 38.9
Second Leg Room (in) 31.7
Passenger Capacity 4
Front Hip Room (in) 47.9
Front Leg Room (in) 40.7
Second Shoulder Room (in) 46.4
Passenger Volume (ft³) 75.6
Second Head Room (in) 35.6

Exterior Dimensions
Track Width, Front (in) 55.4
Width, Max w/o mirrors (in) 64.1
Wheelbase (in) 90.6
Track Width, Rear (in) 55
Height, Overall (in) 59.8
Length, Overall (in) 139.6
Min Ground Clearance (in) 4.1
Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up (ft³) 9.5
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Down (ft³) 30.1

Basic: 4-years /50,000 miles
Corrosion: 12-years/Unlimited miles
Drivetrain: 4-years/ 50,000 miles
Roadside Assistance: 4-years/Unlimited miles

Greg Engle