It’s hard to believe, but the raucous little hatchback we know as the Fiat 500 Abarth is nearly a decade old. The 160-horsepower version we get here first appeared in Europe at the end of 2008, and while ours didn’t arrive until the 2012 model year, it was mostly the same car.
That’s a really long time for a car to be on sale without any major changes or mechanical updates. So we spent some time with a 2017 model to see how it’s holding up. Here’s what we learned:
It’s still a lot of fun for a number of reasons, not least of which is the exhaust. This is by far the best sounding exhaust for the money. It growls, it pops, it’s generally a riot. Sure it can drone a bit on long highway jaunts, and you might annoy your neighbors in the morning, but it’s worth it. Other manufacturers could learn a thing or two about making their cars more exciting to hear. (I’m talking especially to you, Honda, because the Civic Si is too quiet).
The turbo 1.4-liter engine will still nudge you back at full throttle and pull you through corners quickly. The boost comes on very smoothly, too, making it easy to work with. Just make sure you have the car in Sport mode. Boost is limited in Normal mode, so if you want to enjoy everything the car has to offer, hit that button the moment you fire up the Fiat.
When compared to one of our first reviews of the 500 Abarth, not much has changed. Back then, we complained about interior quality and imperfect handling, while praising the raucous noise and fun nature of the tiny hatch. All of that is as true today as when it was new. And while the competition is getting faster and more refined, they haven’t nailed the silly noise and fun of the 500 Abarth, and that’s the Abarth’s advantage. It offers an experience that isn’t really available anywhere else.
So if you’re more interested in a unique drive, rather than the fastest drive, the 500 Abarth is worth your consideration.