Small, stylish Fiat 500 offers unique sub-compact alternative

SHARE Small, stylish Fiat 500 offers unique sub-compact alternative
SHARE Small, stylish Fiat 500 offers unique sub-compact alternative

The sub-compact Fiat 500 is small in stature, but offers unique, eye-catching exterior styling with 15 color choices to choose from. For 2017, it is more affordable than before with a starting price of just $14,995. Additionally, the model lineup has been simplified with only three trim levels: Pop, Lounge and Abarth.

All three trim levels can be had as either 3-door hatchbacks (500) or 2-door convertibles (500c). The convertible (Cabrio) models cost an additional $1,495 over hardtop models and feature a rollback soft top that can be opened or closed at highway speeds.

The entry-level 500 Pop ($14,995) includes 15-inch alloy wheels, power and heated side mirrors, full power accessories, 7-inch driver information display, 5-inch touchscreen multimedia display and a six-speaker Alpine audio system.

The well-appointed 500 Lounge ($19,390) adds polished 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, fog lamps, fixed glass roof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, satellite radio, security alarm and rear parking sensors.

All 500 Pop and Lounge models are propelled by a naturally-aspirated 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at just 101 horsepower.

All Fiat 500 models send their power to the front wheels through a standard 5-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed automatic. Those wanting more power no longer have the choice of the Turbo trim and now must select the sporty Fiat 500 Abarth ($19,995).

The 500 Abarth features a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 160-horsepower when mated to the standard 5-speed manual gearbox, or 157-horsepower when choosing the optional 6-speed automatic.

The Abarth also adds unique exterior and interior styling cues, scorpion emblems, a rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels, a performance exhaust system with dual-chrome exhaust tips, performance-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, race-inspired performance bucket front seats, and Abarth-specific flat-bottom leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.

I recently tested a 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth with a 5-speed manual gearbox. My tester featured a great-looking retro light blue exterior paint called Celeste Blu and a black (Nero) interior.

If I were purchasing a Fiat 500, Celeste Blu would not be my first color choice, but it looked good in person. In fact, the 500 Abarth, in just about any color, is a nice-looking ride.

The Fiat 500 has a small cabin. There is room up front for tall folks, but there is no room for an older child or adult to fit in the tiny back seat. You can fold the rear seat backs down to increase the Fiat 500’s cargo capacity from 9.5 cubic-feet to 26.8 for coupe models. Cabrio models only offer 5.4 cubic-feet of cargo space or 23.4 with both seat backs folded.

The sporty high-back bucket front seats in my Abarth tester were very supportive and comfortable and I appreciated the sporty motif of the cabin.

The first time I fired up my Abarth’s engine, I was surprised with how loud the exhaust was. While I do like a nice throaty-sounding exhaust note, I found my Abarth tester’s exhaust to be oddly loud and raspy.

The power output of the Abarth’s turbo-four is much more forceful than the naturally-aspirated and weaker four-cylinder found in Pop and Lounge models. Still, the Abarth will not throw you back in the seat when accelerating hard. With the Abarth, 0-60 mph in about 7 seconds.

Handling and braking are okay, but there are others to consider if you are seriously considering a powerful and agile small car. In terms of price and pizzazz, though, the Abarth is quite appealing.

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