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First Drive: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth

No room, no worries when driving this pleasing pocket rocket.

by on Dec.24, 2014

The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth is big fun in a little package, in large measure due to its 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo.

No vehicle is perfect and the Fiat 500 Abarth has its share of shortcomings.

For starters, it can only carry two passengers. You can add to the list that it barely has enough room for the groceries of someone living alone and it’s dwarfed by most of the vehicles on the road, which can be unnerving at times.

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And it’s a blast to drive!

The 500 Abarth gets high marks in the “fun” department thanks to its great maneuverability and iconic but stubby shape, which makes it easy slip into parking spots anywhere.

For 2015, the Fiat 500 Abarth is available with a six-speed automatic transmission as well as an innovative instrument panel with a 7-inch high-definition display.

I drove the 500 Abarth during the run up to Christmas and time after time I found I could easily slip into the tightest of parking spaces and move through crowded parking lots with the greatest ease.

The Abarth also has some other attributes or virtues. In Europe, the Abarth name has long signified highly-tuned, sport models and while the suspension of the Fiat 500 Abarth sold in the U.S. has been for the rougher road surfaces found in North America, it’s still a pocket rocket at home on a race track.

It also has a throaty roar that grows on you as you drive.

The Fiat 500 Abarth also features a Sport mode calibration for more engaging driving. If the driver selects Sport mode on the instrument panel, the Abarth-tuned powertrain control module unleashes the full power of the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo and a more precise steering feel.

In Normal mode the torque is limited to enhance fuel efficiency and minimize CO2 emissions.

State-of-the-art connectivity and more than 35 safety and security features with seven standard airbags, including driver and front-passenger advanced multistage airbags, driver’s knee airbag, full-length side-curtain airbags and standard seat-mounted side airbags, offer enhanced protection to all occupants in the event of a collision.

The active safety equipment also includes electronic stability control for improved braking performance in wet or panic conditions.

For music fans, which I suspect is just about everybody who drives, the Abarth comes with a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system offering passengers of the Fiat 500 Abarth models a high-definition music experience the way the artist intended. The Beats Audio studio-quality sound system includes six premium speakers, a subwoofer with trunk-mounted enclosure and eight-channel, 368-watt amplifier.

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The Abarth is also equipped a voice-activated communication system that allows the driver to operate a Bluetooth-compatible phone while keeping his or her hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Using a series of voice commands, the driver can place phone calls and access the phone’s address book.

State-of-the-art powertrain and chassis technology, which was once limited to premium-priced performance car, is also found on the Abarth, which has more than 60 years of performance and competition tuning under its seatbelts.

(Click Here for details about U.S. new vehicle sales exceeding 17 million in 2015.)

The 2015 Fiat 500 is powered by the aforementioned 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine that when matched with the optional six-speed automatic transmission yields 157 horsepower and up to 183 ft.-lb. of torque.

Enhanced front and rear suspension components are engineered to deliver the precision handling, steering and refinement needed for high-performance driving. Compared to the Fiat 500, the Abarth models feature a unique MacPherson suspension design with stiffer front spring rates and lower ride height for improved handling. The beefier rear suspension of the Fiat 500 Abarth provides a torsionally rigid rear axle design with strengthened coil-spring supports for greater durability.

The aggressive styling of the embodies the Abarth-brand tradition in full – purposeful and intentional details, all designed to improve the car’s performance while enhancing the clean and simple design language of the 500, which has earned several awards for its design. To improve aerodynamics and provide the necessary engine compartment space for the turbo-charged engine, the Fiat 500 Abarth features a more pronounced front fascia.

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The interior design blends a specially designed steering wheel with a thick rim, perforated leather and flat bottom to provide the look, feel and increased roominess desired during at-the-limit driving.

The new 7-inch high-definition color driver information display sits behind the steering wheel and features a leather-wrapped cluster brow wrapped in Nero leather with accent stitching. Below the instrument panel, Abarth-designed aluminum pedal covers also feature rubber trim for a decidedly “racing” look.

The Abarth version of the Fiat 500 clearly elevates the overall performance of car that is already a lot of fun to drive. You really can’t ask for more.

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