Wednesday, August 17, 2022

2012-2019 Fiat 500 Abarth | Used vehicle spotlight

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The Fiat 500 is a funky little urban runabout. The Fiat 500 Abarth is a different car entirely. It’s still full of fun and funk, but it ups the ante with a punchy turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a soulful exhaust note, and a tossable demeanor.

The Fiat 500 Abarth debuted in America for the 2012 model year (along with a well-known Super Bowl commercial that we’ll share below without further comment). It didn’t see many changes over the course of its seven-year run, and we were sad when it was pulled from the U.S. back in 2019. Thankfully, enough were sold that they are easy to find on the used market.

Why the Fiat 500 Abarth?

It’s a heck of a lot of fun to drive. It’s not super quick, but there’s enough power to put a smile on your face. After all, 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque (models with automatic transmissions offered up 157 hp and 183 lb-ft) feels solid with just over 2,500 pounds to haul around.

Perhaps the most notable part of the Abarth’s driving experience is its burbly exhaust note. Here’s how we described it back in 2019:

“The little turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder has a gnarly burble at idle that wouldn’t seem out of place in a muscle car. It only gets better when you start cruising around. The burble becomes a raging howl, and shifting right at redline results in a whiplike crack. It’s intoxicating.”

That was true then, and it’s still true today. 

Plus, while we’ll get back to pricing later, it’s pretty cheap for a sporty little car. 

Which Fiat 500 Abarth to choose?

You’ve got two major choices to make. First, automatic or manual. Second, fixed roof or sliding canvas top. We’re suckers for clutch pedals, so we’d be hard pressed to recommend the automatic over the shift-for-yourself version, but honestly the six-speed auto isn’t all that bad.

The roof is harder to quantify — it’s not at all like a traditional droptop, instead sporting a canvas panel that slides back like a massive sunroof. We’d suggest looking at both versions and test driving them at city and highway speeds and hopefully even in varying weather conditions, before making a decision.

The model year doesn’t matter all that much, except that pre-2016 editions didn’t have any sort of infotainment system at all. The last four model years’ little 5-inch unit isn’t exactly up to modern-day standards, anyway.

Expect to pay under $10,000 for an early 500 Abarth with a reasonable number of miles. Later models obviously cost more, but even in today’s currently inflated used marketplace you should be able to find a nice example with low miles for around $20,000.

Our used vehicle listings can be helpful to find a good deal near you. Narrow the offerings down by a radius around your ZIP code, and pay attention to the deal rating on each listing to see how a vehicle compares with others in a similar area.

What else to consider?

The 500 Abarth’s most obvious competitor is the Mini Cooper S or John Cooper Works. Both a small European hatchbacks with solid power from their little turbocharged four-cylinder engines and limited everyday usability. Neither is known for its reliability, though, so if that’s a major buying decision we’d suggest taking a close look at the Honda Civic Si or possibly the Ford Fiesta ST. The Volkswagen GTI may be the quintessential hot hatchback, but it’s also bigger and more practical than the 500 Abarth.

If you’re thinking about using a Fiat 500 Abarth as little more than a second-car plaything, there are a lot of possibilities to consider. The Mazda Miata is a given, but $20,000 can also score an older Italian (including the Alfa Romeo Spider or Fiat’s own 124 in original or reborn form) or British sportscar (but be sure to save some extra dough for repair work).

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