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2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Test Drive Review

Most people buy cars to serve a direct purpose whether it is to maximize fuel economy, haul cargo, carry a soccer team full of kids or to have 0-60 bragging rights. The 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth exists for one reason: to have fun!

The recent economic downturn opened the door for small, European cars to finally make their way to the U.S. market, and after things settled down, the performance variants started showing up. The 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth competes in a surprisingly crowded segment with vehicles that include the 2017 Toyota 86, Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen GTI and, especially in this convertible form, the Mazda Miata. So what’s it like to drive the only drop-top hot hatch you can buy? I strapped in to this 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth for a week to find out.

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2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Exterior:
The retro styling of the current FIAT 500 hasn’t changed all that much since it went on sale in Europe in 2007 and in North America in 2011, but the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth does bring a few changes for the new model year. The most notable of which is the addition of new exterior paint colors including the Abarth-exclusive Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow) that is available as a $500 option; other new colors include Grigio Cenre, Rhino and Celeste Blue. Other than this new color, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth continues to look like an inflated version of the original FIAT 500 that was in production from 1957 through 1975 with a flat nose, quadruple front lighting, the D-shaped rear windows and the sloped rear hatch.

As the sportier model of the lineup, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth brings a more aggressive appearance with a vented, more squared-off front and rear bumpers, a lowered ride height, bigger wheels and, of course, the iconic Abarth scorpion badges. Bringing a meaner look to the car, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth used for this review also added black trimmed headlights, black mirror caps and black side stripes for $700 as well as the bronze-colored, 12-spoke 17-inch forged wheels, which were a $1,400 option.

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2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Interior:
When it comes to changes made to the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth, the interior is the most obvious. Gone is the afterthought-of-an-infotainment system that only had a removable, dash-mounted display screen available for navigation only, and in its place is a standard Uconnect 5.0 system with a five-inch touchscreen radio, Bluetooth connectivity and integrated voice recognition. While the graphics of this new system are pretty good, the size of the screen is small considering the amount of piano black trim that surrounds the head unit. This new display is a big step forward for the FIAT 500, but cabin technology continues to be a little behind the times for this 9-year-old vehicle design as there is still a conventional ignition key rather than a push-button start.

Other than the updated infotainment system, the interior of the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is the same as before including the body-colored instrument panel accent and the large, circular single-pod gauge cluster flanked by a smaller circular boost gauge. Adding to its sport appearance, drivers are welcomed with a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in black leather with red accent stitching, and this material and color combination can also be found on the gauge cluster hood covering the high-definition seven-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) digital readout. Front occupants get the added support of performance bucket seats wrapped in black cloth with red accents, and the aluminum foot pedals finish off the sporty look.

As one might assume by the small stature of the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth, the 2+2 seating configuration can get a bit tight if you’re attempting to fit four adults in the car; the back seats are primarily design for kids. On top of that, cargo space is tight with only 5.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, but that does improve to 23.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. Whatever space the FIAT 500’s interior lacks goes right out the window when you open the power-retractable soft top. This top operates more like a sunroof than a convertible top as it can open at any speed transforming the hatchback into a convertible in about 15 seconds.

This tester added several option packages as well including the $975 Comfort/Convenience Group (bringing SiriusXM Radio, automatic climate control and heated front seats) and the $700 Beats Audio Package, which produces good sound despite offering just six speakers.

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2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Performance:
The whole point of buying the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is the Abarth tuning that transforms this cute little convertible hatchback into a sporty hot hatch with a raucous exhaust note that commands attention. Instead of the 500’s standard 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four (rated at 101 hp and 97 lb-ft of torque), the Abarth uses the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged and twin-intercooled engine as the 500 Turbo, but it cranks the power output from 135 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque up to 157 horsepower and 183 lb.-ft. of torque when equipped with the specially tuned automatic transmission as this tester was; with the manual gearbox, the Abarth puts out 160 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. The five-speed manual is standard, but opting for the six-speed automatic is a $1,350 option, and it actually gets lower fuel economy than the manual transmission with EPA fuel economy estimates of 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway**. The 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is rated to run on premium gasoline.

FIAT has upgraded the Abarth to be track ready with upgraded suspension, larger brakes and wider, stickier Pirelli P-Zero Nero three-season tires. Although the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is relatively light with a curb weight of 2,545 pounds, the car is surprisingly nose heavy with a weight distribution of 64/36, which is instantly noticeable when you drive hard into a corner. Whether you’re looking to drive it on the street or the track, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is amazingly fun, but does come with a handful of drawbacks.

2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Safety:
Unlike most convertibles, the basic design of the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth allows for an open-air driving experience that maintains a solid roof over the occupants’ heads for improved safety. On top of that, all 2016 FIAT 500 trim levels come standard with seven airbags, and the convertible models come with the added security of the ParkSense rear park assist system.

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2016 FIAT 500C Abarth Overall:
Whether you’re cruising around with the top down or hitting your favorite road course, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is a blast to drive any time, and it is even remarkably priced. With a starting price of $26,695*, the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is priced right in the heart of the sporty small car segment, and this tester carried an as-tested price of $33,315 – even with this number, keep in mind that ditching the automatic transmission and expensive yellow paint job will cut almost $2,000 off that cost alone. The bottom line of the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth is that if this car can’t put a smile on your face, then I’m afraid to admit that no car can.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation FIAT dealership and test drive the 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2016 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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