Fiat 500 Abarth Buyers Guide
Are you interested in purchasing a used Fiat 500 Abarth? Read below to learn more about this fun little car and any useful information needed before making your purchase.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is the sport tuned version of the popular Fiat 500. The 500 and Abarth sub-model has been available in European and foreign markets since 2008, however the North American model was introduced in 2012 with slight modifications for the US market. If you want the modern Italian styling of the 500 with added performance and handling, the Abarth is the right model for you.
Featuring a 1.4 liter Multiair 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, the Abarth puts out 160 hp and 170 ft lbs of torque. This engine was developed by Chrysler with their infinitely variable valve timing system they called “Multiair”. This system utilizes solenoid operated intake valve lifters to deliver low end torque and top end power for increased efficiency and performance. It was offered initially only with a 5 speed manual transmission, but later had a 6 speed automatic transmission option made available. The Abarth also makes use of no large mufflers within the exhaust system, creating a recognizable exhaust note that crackles and pops during spirited driving.
What makes the Abarth special?
Fiat offers a few different versions of the 500 model in the North American market. Including the Pop, Sport, Lounge, Cabrio, and Abarth. Here we are specifically looking at the Abarth models. So what makes the Abarth special compared to other 500 trim levels?
To start, the Abarth gets the turbocharged 1.4l engine with increased power as discussed above. This gives the car a noticeable performance gain over the base models 101hp. The transmission offered in the Abarth is also refined for improved sportiness. To back up the drivetrain, Fiat also improved the suspension with upgraded Mcpherson struts in the front. As well as modified lower control arms and more aggressive alignment specs from the factory. The brakes received enlarged front rotors and painted calipers. The electronic power steering was also adapted for sport modes with a more responsive profile. Cosmetically, the Abarth received a more aggressive front and rear bumper set with aerodynamic tweaks for cooling. Finally the Abarth comes standard with more aggressive wheels and added Abarth badging and decals. Racing inspired bucket seats with upgraded interior trim panels were also added for the Abarth models.
Year to Year Changes
The American market Abarth has now been offered for 7 model years. This means it's received a host of updates and changes to stay relevant. Let's take a look at some of these changes that occurred throughout the years. The later models will often be better equipped with the modern amenities that most have come to expect from modern day vehicles.
- First year offered in North American Market
- Hatchback ( hardtop ) model only
- 5 speed manual transmission only
- First year production sold out at 3000 units
- 500C Abarth Convertible model becomes available
- TPMS system integrated into cluster computer
- Interior updated with new carpet, steering wheel, cluster hood
- Heated Seats option from factory ( previously dealer installed )
- Bose Audio replaced with Fiat Premium audio package
- Beats Audio package offered
- Passenger seat receives power memory and height adjust controls
- New updated wheel options
- New colors offered
- New color display added to gauge cluster
- Center console ergonomics updated
- 6 speed automatic transmission now optional
- New exterior color offerings
- Chrysler’s UConnect media system added
- New exterior colors offered
- No updates to Abarth model
- No Updates to Abarth model
- Base model Fiat 500 Turbo now offered with detuned turbo 1.4l making 132hp
- 17” upgraded alloy wheels
- Power operated Sunroof ( hatchback models )
- Leather Bucket Seats
- Navigation unit w/ satellite radio
- Beats Audio sound system
- Exterior Trim packages
- Popular equipment package
- Automatic climate control
- Auto Dim rear view mirror
The Fiat 500 Abarth is very hit or miss with the general quality and reliability of the vehicle. Some owners have put tens of thousands of miles on their vehicles without any major issues, while others have struggled to keep theirs out of the service center. We recommend having a PPI (pre-purchase inspection) performed by a professional prior to making an offer on any vehicle. These inspections are well worth the upfront cost to ensure your vehicle is free of any headaches. A well documented VIN history report will also be helpful to identify any previous issues the vehicle may have had. Here’s a few of the key points you should inspect when looking for a used Fiat 500 Abarth.
- At random times the blower motor for the AC system, located under the dashboard, can fail and start to produce loud squealing noises from the dashboard. The replacement process can be labor intensive due to the dashboard needing to be removed for its replacement.
- Although partially resolved now, many customers have had problems with the waiting for parts to complete a repair at a Fiat Service Center. Some have spent months without their vehicle while waiting for a few small parts to be shipped to the center.
- As the vehicle's age, some of the clips and piping components for the turbocharger may become loose. This can cause boost leaks and inconsistent idle problems. Be sure to check all intake piping connections for any leaks or damage.
- Some owners have noted excessive oil consumption from their Abarth. Low oil levels can cause serious internal engine damage. Be sure to inspect for signs of oil consumption or leaks, as signaled by white smoke or residue surrounding the engine. Oil consumption at small levels is quite normal for most modern vehicles. However excessive consumption can be a sign of poor maintenance and abuse.
- Over time, some of the plastic interior panels and trim can develop light rattles and squeaks. While not a major issue, this can be a deal breaker for some due to the stiffened suspension which accelerates the development of interior noises. Continuing with the interior, the sunroof equipped hatchback models do not have a solid sun shade for the glass panel opening. While the factory equipped shade is functional, some owners may want a more secure covering. The Cabrio models with the roof closed do have a completely solid ceiling within the vehicle at least.
With all that said, the 500 Abarth seems to be a vehicle that avoided any single major issues, but rather was plagued by a various quality control issues from the factory. A proper PPI and VIN history report will ensure your new-to-you vehicle is trouble free for enjoyable daily driving!
So, which is the best used 500 Abarth to Purchase ?
Many of the early model year Abarths are starting to become very affordable on the used car market. These are the ones you'll see for sale the most, as the bulk of the sales through the production run so far came from the first few models years. The later years will have some of the key issues resolved, while also featuring some welcomed improvements and additions. If you are used to modern vehicle amenities, a model after 2016 with the Uconnect software is a plus. Otherwise any Abarth with the Beats Audio package will be sufficient for normal listening. Not that you’ll really need any music over that amazing exhaust note! Pretty much every year from 2013 through 2016 featured small improvements to ergonomics and everyday useability. Follow the year by year guide above to determine which improvements you may find the most useful when searching for your next used vehicle. If searching for a more recent model year, you may be able to get one with a Certified Pre-Owned or existing factory warranty. A factory warranty is always a plus to resolve any unexpected issues that may come up in the next few years.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is becoming a great used car purchase proposition as the prices continue to drop year after year. Despite the lack of quality control and reliability that’s reported, the value is still there for a small, fun, sports hatchback with a notorious exhaust note and chic Italian styling. It may not have the quality and usefulness of some of its competitors, but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable and best values for a small sporty hatchback.
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