Fiat Abarth

The scorpion stamped

"Two pedal model gets more torque" said Issam

"The Abarth accounts for about 15 percent of Fiat 500 sales"

"Automatic makes Abarth accessible to a new group of customers"

The 'petite' Fiat 500 is gradually becoming common around the world, generally because of its classic appearance and reasonable price tag. The normal 500 won't break any speed record, but the Abarth version in both hatchback and cabriolet models are another dialogue! The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has just gone into production with a newly available automatic option.

Driving Impressions
Who is the scorpion and what is the story of the Abarth? Karl Abarth was a man with one mission: go faster than yesterday, win more. He embodied the spirit of the Abarth brand, pushing the limits of the FIAT 500 Abarth for every second, every edge and every achievement.

According to Fiat, the six speed automatic is derived from the same Aisin unit used in the standard 500, but it's been considerably reengineered to handle with the 1.4 liter MultiAir turbo engine's added power. Along with strengthened clutch plates, automatic models get a specifically programmed Sport mode, introducing fuel-cut upshifts, rev-matched downshifts, brake assist downshifts, corner gear holding, fast-off gear holding and a much more aggressive pedal map. Along with an extra gear, the automatic Abarth gets more torque, 248 Nm vs. 230 Nm, at the expense of 3 hp loss.

The exterior is made exceptional with lively, straight styling and character filled lines. New paint colors for 2015 are Giallo Moderna Perla (modern pearl yellow), Laser Blu (bright metallic blue) and Billet Argento (billet silver).

Its interior is built of fairly economical materials that seem to look more expensive than they truly are. Other updates for 2015 include a redesigned center console. To make it more useful for drivers, the revamped console includes a new cup holder design and an additional, conveniently located USB port that is fully functional and integrated with the radio. The 2015 Fiat 500 models will also include Bluetooth streaming audio in addition to the already standard Bluetooth phone connectivity.

The new 7 inch TFT cluster allows drivers to easily monitor data like speed, fuel level, Eco index and trip information. While on the main screen, an image of the vehicle is surrounded by information, including distance traveled, gas mileage and range. A parking screen helps drivers while moving in reverse if the vehicle is equipped with Rear Park Assist. Other screen options include a radio screen that displays information about the station selected and a telephone screen showing call information. When the vehicle is in Sport mode, the TFT display becomes more aggressive in appearance.

In terms of driving, I was more relaxed in the automatic than in the manual because of the fact that I could sit away from the steering wheel. Subsequently, there was no need to get close enough to fully dampen the clutch, and I was able to get into a natural seating position and could contentedly drive the car for a longer period of time. Although in Beirut I drove the manual version; it is fun from time to time to drive it. Though in those traffic jams in Beirut city or Dubai, I would reach my destination with pained feet.

Verdict
After our drive at the Proving Grounds in Detroit, I can admit that the Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the most sophisticated small cars to choose from nowadays, and the automatic model get you more gears, more torque and some stimulation to make you feel like you're driving a manual without truly having to shift by using your left foot. Nevertheless, does it give the same Abarth driving experience? The Middle East region is an automatic-oriented customer region. As far as I know, it is almost as sensational as its manual sibling. 

4 stars

One word: petite
Pros: automatic model adds excitement, great rev engine and superb exterior design
Cons: high seats limit comfort and headroom to a certain point
Rivals: Mini Cooper S, Ford Fiesta ST, Mazda MX-5, VW Beetle, VW Golf GTI, Hyundai Veloster Turbo 

Specs

1.4 liter MultiAir turbo, inline-4 cylinders, 157 hp, 248 Nm
6 speed auto, FWD
Top speed: 208 kph, 0-100 kph: 7 sec, fuel consumption: 7.5 L /100 km
Weight: 500 Abarth (1,142 kg), 500C Abarth (1,154 kg)

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