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Video Review: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

The Abarth name burst strongly onto the automotive scene back in 1949. After a few decades of making aftermarket parts and racing machines, the name dropped into the background after it was purchased by Fiat in 1971. Now, however, the Abarth name has been given new life by the boffins at Fiat. 

Our first hit of the revitalized scorpion arrives in a small package. It’s the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, and it offers up one of the best sounding exhaust notes on the market today. Everything isn’t excellent though, because the small car has some big issues on the inside. Click past the break to see what I mean…

*Yes, I realize I said six-speed gearbox and we cut to a shot of the five speed. All I can offer up is a humble “oops”.

[Disclosure: Fiat allowed us to spend a week with the all-new 500 Abarth. A tank of fuel was included but a neck brace was not. Still, we had a blast listening to the engine and getting shocked looks from the rest of traffic as we snarled away into the distance.]

  • RegalRegalia

    How tall are you Jeff?

    • 6'3"

      • Stu_Rock

        And what's your inseam? I'm only 5'9", but with a 30" inseam, my torso length makes me need a lot of vertical room in a car.

        • Joe_Btfsplk

          Boxers or briefs?

          • jeepjeff

            Neckbeard.

        • njhoon

          As someone who is 6'1" with the same size legs I feel your headache.

          • Stu_Rock

            Ouch–I bet that makes it a challenge finding cars that are comfortable! At least in my case, almost all midsize vehicles work. Compacts are hit or miss for me, which I think is ridiculous given my modest stature.

        • Devin

          I am 2" taller but have a 2" longer inseam, and yet I find that I need mostly legroom – especially knee room – and have never had a headroom problem.

          • RegalRegalia

            That's my boat. And I like to have a wheel in lap position. I think my otherwise plain jane anonymous Buick does it for me so much because the driving position is so spot on, slightly off-center steering wheel included.

  • I'm a Mini person based solely on the shifter pod-thing in the Fiat. I am 6'5" with long legs and the silly dash mounted shifter pod hits me right in the side of the knee. Terrible comfort.

    The Mini has driver room aplenty, especially with a non-sunroof car. That said, the Abarth is cooler because of the fact that there are fewer around.

    /my opinion

    • By the way, these video reviews are great. Excellent work!

      • RegalRegalia

        The super fast dramatic zoom made me smirk in exactly the way I needed it to. The cinematography seems to be a good amateur/professional look that speaks to the spirit of the site quite well.

  • Joe_Btfsplk

    Being an old guy that remembers the last Fiat hasty exit from these United States, I think I'll wait a couple of years just to see how these little firecrackers hold up

  • Devin

    I suppose it's unkind to make fun of your silly beard, but it's for the greater good, really:

    When is the horse and buggy review coming?

    • Hold thy tongue, Englisher.

    • I grew the beardlet because I get bored with shaving. I'm not a good beard growing guy though. I DID work it into my review of the Suburban for Autobytel however

      [youtube _M6elCd1LeI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M6elCd1LeI youtube]

      • Devin

        If you're going to tire of shaving, you've got to go all the way. Like so…

        <img src="http://i.imgur.com/UPbNn.jpg"&gt;

        Hobo > Amish.

        • BlackIce_GTS

          Hobo > Amish > 14 year old who thinks he can grow a beard and is wrong
          Which is what happens when I don't shave.

          Jeff, I did know the Suburban is the longest running automotive nameplate, thank you for referring to me as 'right' and not 'bewilderingly nerdy'.

          • Devin

            I don't know if I'd consider my beard a shining example of beard-dom – it's annoyingly patchy – but I keep it because I hate shaving so much.

            • pj134

              I shaved this morning, that's what I'll look like by noon you lucky bastards.

      • OA5599
  • I'm told these cannot be run in SCCA autocross because they are too tall, relative to their width and/or length. Can anyone confirm?

    • Kogashiwa

      Maybe they have a class for them where they could compete against Suzuki Samurais?

    • I can confirm that the Abarth is classed by the SCCA in G Stock. Go buy one and autocross it. This car is a blast to autocross and drive on the track. I want to buy one.

      • flr1975

        Funny. Remember when the G Stock weapon-of-choice was the Probe/MX-6?

        • Oh yes! Then there was the V6 Camaro that upset that apple cart. Wasn't the Integra Type R initially classed in GS?

      • Yup. The base 500 isn't legal in stock classes, but the Abarth is; it's just that tiny bit lower. You can still run a base 500 if you wanted to, you just have to drop it some and run in Street Touring instead.

  • flr1975

    Matching shirt and wristwatch face? Jeff, have you been taking night classes at the Ray Wert Institute of Sartorial Motoring?

    • Devin

      I like how this is becoming a fashion intervention.

    • The only time I'd attend class there would be to firebomb the building once everyone has gone home.

      • POLAЯ

        ….as Jeff walks away from the inferno…

        POLAЯ: Hey Jeff, is that Ray's Sport Jacket you're wearing that's on fire?

        Jeff: Why yes it is! I call it Burnberry.

      • I could put…I could put strychnine in the guacamole.

  • So, I'm intuiting that you might have liked this car's exhaust note, and that this is something important to you. Just a hunch.

    • BAMacPherson

      And he has a slightly unnerving obsession with scorpions.

    • pj134

      That exhaust note makes me want to do things to a car I haven't done in a long time…

  • Mr. ED

    Great review! Very entertaining sir.

  • RegalRegalia

    Expect the lead photo to become a hooniverse-local meme soon. Someone pshop some model planes in there ASAP!

  • About the sun roof: when we test drove prior to buying my wife's 500, I sat in one with the sun roof and as much as I like open top motoring, that low ceiling felt claustrophobic. We did not like the convertible either due to the lack of hatch.
    Unless the seats in the Abarth are much thicker than in the regular model, it is possible to fit four adults in this car (I'm 6", the other 3 are slightly shorter). They will not be comfortable, but it's bearable for a quick hop from the office to the local restaurant…
    One easy way to add some practicality is a roof rack. Ours has been pressed into service to carry all sorts of things, including a 6' step ladder and 10' EMT conduits.

    • Vairship

      A roof rack might be practical, but so is a sunroof!
      Back when I was in college in Europe, I was in my apartment when I suddenly saw a roll of carpet moving past my window. A bit of a surprise, as my apartment was on the 2nd floor! I rushed to the window to get a better look, and saw that it was a '60s Fiat 500 with the sunroof open and a roll of carpet parked vertically in the front passenger seat…

  • Nice video! I too would take the 500 Abarth over the Mini Cooper S. I find the Fiat to be tuned tuned to better fit how I like to drive.

    What particularly impressed me was the electronic limited slip. I could only prompt the unloaded wheel to spin in a corner if I had ramped the car over FIA curbing (closed course, racing driver).

    The Sport button is key to a good autocross or drag launch. In the default "not sport" mode, you lose 20 lbs of torque and the car tends to bog on launch. With Sport engaged, a 3500 rpm launch gives just enough wheelspin to take off smartly.

    You must be a giant. I had no troubles fitting my helmeted head in a sunroof equipped car. But then I'm a miniscule 5'10''. I could also sit behind the driver's seat with it in my seating position. Not that I'd want to do such a thing unless I was on the way to a bar with friends. Much better than the Mini, into which I couldn't fit.

    Again, good review. I like your frenetic delivery. Needs more driving. Perhaps a cut of you driving the car by the camera or launching and zipping off. It does make a great sound, doesn't it?

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Obligatory.

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/X1mSF.jpg&quot; width="500">

  • JayP2112

    6 speed?
    Does R Count?
    Surprised it's just a 5 speed. Maybe the torque makes it work?

  • I am sorely disappointed that, with all the references to the scorpion badges, that the Abarth did not rock you like a hurricane.

  • tempesjo
    • BAMacPherson

      Do NOT let Jeff get a leather catsuit…

      …unless we can order them from the Hooniverse Shop.

      • I'll send him the Stupid Sexy Tanshanomi leathers.

        (Don't you love micro-memes, aka "inside jokes")

      • tempesjo

        A Jeff in a leather catsuit Hooniverse calendar would be nice, too.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Finally got a chance to watch the video. So. Many. Scorpions…

    Excellent review, Jeff! Very comprehensive and gave me a good idea of what to expect.
    Is it possible to get the Abarth without the sunroof?

    • tempesjo

      Yes. I've built a few Abarths on the Fiat site, and I believe the sunroof is an $850 option.

  • pj134

    So, Abarth or Veloster Turbo?

    • Yes please, either one.
      What do I do, just send you my address or something?

      • pj134

        Yup, address, social security number, power of attorney and $20,000 and the Abarth or Veloster Turbo is yours!