You've been a naughty, naughty little car. In fact, crude in some respects—the Fiat's slow-ratio, nonlinear steering makes each slalom input an educated guess; the tail crabs out under hard braking with the slightest bit of steering input; the ride motions deliver a kidney punch over any meaningful bump. Yet with its feral 1.4-liter turbo MultiAir engine, high seating position and truncated wheelbase, the 500 Abarth is a motorized bar stool on crack...and flaws and all, you can't wipe the smile off your face after driving it.
It positively gnawed its way around the autocross, its top time gapping the 2nd-place Veloster by a half-second, and its 6.7-sec. blast to 60 mph was an order of magnitude quicker than any of its competitors, as was its 15.1-sec. quarter-mile time. Its slalom speed of 69.3 mph was tops too, but it wasn't a very tidy performance, owing more to its narrowness and grippy Pirelli P Zero Nero tires than a coordinated chassis. There's a lot of roll here despite the stiff suspension, a function of the Fiat's height versus a relatively narrow track. Brakes feel sensationally powerful and immediate, no doubt owing to its 2660-lb. curb weight, identical to the Fit's.
Inside, with its optional red leather interior, the Fiat Abarth smells like a Ferrari, but that illusion is shattered when you rest your arm on the windowsill and it's closer to your armpit than your elbow! The seats are supportive with soft-ish padding, the pocket-size dash is color-matched to the red exterior paint, and there's that funky concentric tach/speedo combination that's difficult to read. The shifter juts high out of the center console; its feel is positive if just a little fragile, but it works nicely with an easily modulated clutch.
It won't surprise anyone that the Fiat's fuel economy was lowest—27.6 mpg, partly a function of its 5-speed's relatively short top gear—but there's 160 bhp that begs you to engage, if only to hear the ringing, pipey exhaust tone as the needle circles that weird tach. Personality-packed, irascible, slightly rough-edged and as Italian as Lambrusco, the 500 Abarth is our winner, and portends great future cars from Fiat-Chrysler.
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