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Motoring: 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth: The cute, fun pocket-rocket

Credit: NAUMAN FAROOQ

The new Fiat 500 still embodies its endearing exterior, but the driving itself proves difficult on any bumps in the road.


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 3rd, 2016




The current generation model of the Fiat 500 first showed up on the streets of Europe in 2007; although, it took a few years for it to make an appearance on North American roads.

While Fiat has been updating the car along the way, it is essentially a 10-year-old model. So, does it still cut it in today’s world, or is it beginning to show its age?

From a styling perspective, it has done rather well. The design has managed to remain fresh, and people still smile when they look at it. The design has received a few updates for the 2016 model year, but they are so minor that you’d have to be a Fiat 500 enthusiast to be able to spot them.

The minimal changes are nothing drastic because the car was a hit due to its looks, and messing with that would not be taken lightly in the general public.

The changes to the interior are also minor. While it essentially has the same living quarters as before, the decor has been updated. The most obvious change is with the infotainment system, which now has features like a navigation system; previous models had a pop-in Tom- Tom device.

The 2016 Fiat 500 has not grown in size; so that means, it has decent room for two adults and can carry four in a pinch.

The one thing that always bugged me about the interior of the Fiat 500 was its slightly awkward driving position, and sadly that hasn’t changed. The thing that bugs me is the angle of the steering wheel, it seems to be tilted forward. The situation could be improved if you could pull the steering wheel closer to you, but it only tilts.

Since I’m testing the Abarth version, the sportiest of all Fiat 500 models, I bet you’re wondering what it was like to drive.

In short, on the right road at the right time, it is bundles of fun. The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre inline-four cylinder engine, which produces 160 horsepower and 170 pounds per foot of torque.

Power is fed to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox (a six-speed automatic is optional), and before the power reaches the wheels, it is channeled through a Torque Transfer Control (TTC) system, which dictates how much power each wheel should get. Hence, when you’re going around a corner, the inside wheel speed reduces and outside wheel speed increases so you can turn more sharply.

All this is great fun and the power delivery of the turbo is also quite healthy. On certain roads, this Abarth was more fun to drive than a manual sports car, like the Jaguar F-Type, but the road has to be as smooth as glass for this to happen.

The Fiat 500 has a short wheelbase, which helps in its ability to go around tight corners quickly, but it also results in a harsh ride. Go over a set of railroad tracks at anything over crawling speed, and you’ll revisit your last meal.

All Fiat 500s suffer from that, but the Abarth, thanks to its sportiest, stiffest suspension set up, is the worst of them all. If your daily commute has lots of bumps, you might want to look for a different car.

The ride quality is not my only complaint. I also wish that Fiat had given the Abarth a manual sixspeed gearbox because with just five ratios, it is just a bit too loud on the highway.

As mentioned before, the automatic version has six-speeds, so perhaps that would be the better choice if you travel on the highway a lot.

One of the reasons for buying a pocket-rocket is that it’ll just sniff fuel, but the 500 Abarth drinks more than I expected. In my driving week, I averaged 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres, which is not bad, but not great either.

All in all, the Fiat 500 is still a cute, fun pocket-rocket, but it is beginning to show its age and I hope its maker has an all new model in the works for the near future.

If you want one, prices for the 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth coupe start at $26,995, while the drop-top cabrio model is yours for an additional $4,000.
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