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Photo Courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

When Fiat delivered the all-new Abarth 500 to us for the 2012 model year, we instantly fell for the pint-sized terror–especially at its $22,000 price point. We called it a true competitor of the much-heralded, more expensive MINI Cooper S. Now that depreciation has kicked in, we’re even more intrigued.

Where MINIs historically retain much of their original value, time hasn’t been so kind to the Abarth. We’re now regularly seeing early examples with about 20,000 miles on the clock advertised for $14,000 or so. We just watched a listing for one with about 77,000 miles drop below $10,000.

At that price, you’re getting one of the most delightful cars unleashed in recent memory. Sure, faster machines exist, but where can you enjoy them this side of Daytona or Le Mans? The Abarth works best at suborbital speed: It’s the adult version of a Big Wheel mated with your favorite BMX bike–plus a dash of Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots.

The 500 Abarth follows a formula similar to the MINI Cooper S’s: Add just the right amount of sport to a competent small car. In this instance, the 500 Abarth gets a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower. Despite only 1.4 liters of displacement, lag isn’t bad at all–note that the Abarth has 170 ft.-lbs. of torque available.

Other performance upgrades include stiffer suspension parts, larger front discs, a dual exhaust system, sportier bucket seats with harness pass-throughs, and genuine Koni dampers. The Abarth received the requisite larger footprint, too, with 16x6.5-inch wheels coming standard and 17x7-inch wheels listed as an option. Among the other upgrades, the most significant one had to be the power sunroof.

What’s not to like? Well, the Fiat 500 is a bit narrow inside, so make sure you fit before you leap. Some may find that interior to be not quite heirloom quality. And underneath, the 500 features struts up front paired with a rear twist beam; that’s standard fare for economy cars, going back to the original VW Rabbit.

Still, people voiced the same concerns about the original Mini. If you’re more about nailed apexes and heel-toe downshifts than acres of fine hides and bespoke craftsmanship, consider this Fiat. After all, look at where that original Mini landed in the annals of performance car history.

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1/2/19 4:36 p.m.

With Fiat putting a 2.4 litre motor into the 500 SUV with 180 horse power, how long will I have to wait for it to show up under the hood of the Abarth?

1/2/19 4:37 p.m.

Can you make a comment on the 500 Abarth reliability--usually an oxymoron for a Fiat?

Coupefan Reader
1/2/19 6:33 p.m.

In reply to jfknupp :

That really needs to die.  It's tired and just inaccurate.  Yet here in the 21st century people keep parroting it. 

Thudhammer None
1/2/19 7:04 p.m.

I obtained a 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth from the estate of a good friend who died suddenly. Sadly he hadn't owned the car very long. He bought a standard 500 with 100 hp but found it lacking in power. When the Abarth was announced he was back at his Fiat dealer. He ordered it in red (naturally) with the upgraded wheels and sunroof. When he died the car had only about 13,000 miles after nearly three years. I drove it quite a bit and had planned to let me wife drive it. Though she enjoyed driving it she determined it to be too small. But when I went to get the car insured reality came into full view! WOW! Insurance on these cars is savage! When I inquire as to why my insurance rep said it was due to the expense of repair parts and shop repair time. I inspected the bottom the car and discovered some creative packaging. Clearly any moderate damage would result in some real expensive repairs. I eventually sold the car. It was fun to drive. 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
1/3/19 12:50 p.m.
Gattopazzo said:

With Fiat putting a 2.4 litre motor into the 500 SUV with 180 horse power, how long will I have to wait for it to show up under the hood of the Abarth?

It seems the 500L and 500X are 500s in name only, and don't share platforms. Not sure how much that rules out somebody trying it anyway.

bullmanuga New Reader
1/6/19 8:56 p.m.

In reply to Thudhammer :

The insurance for my Abarth is twice as much per month as my wife's Colorado. Also, it spent 2 of 12 months in 2017 immobile at the body shop as they waited on parts after an accident. Other than that it's been worry free, that is, after I replaced the stock coilpacks with Bosch units from the Alfa 4C.

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