- Fast Facts
People define joy in different ways. Major parts of philosophy, religion and social science are all centered around probing what makes people truly happy. For me, I think I’ve figured out the epitome of joy. It involves a 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth driving through the countryside with the windows rolled down and Italian opera blasting from the sound system.
It’s hard to find cars that generate smiles as easily as the little 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth. I own one of them, a Mazda Miata, but it’s wildly impractical. At least the Fiat has a back seat. In fact, its closest competitor here in America is the MINI Cooper, a car that’s just as good at bringing grins to your face. But the MINI is mainly designed by Germans, and — no matter how illogical it seems — driving a German car is just not as cool as driving an Italian car like the Fiat. Italian cars always carry the coolness trump card. It’s written in the Car Owner Bible or something.
To make it even cooler, Fiat didn’t send me an ordinary 500 to try out. They sent the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth version, a ridiculous but incredibly lovable car that’s tuned to go faster, be louder and ride rougher than the regular ol’ 500.
Granted, you’ve got to be the right kind of person to enjoy a car like this. It’s a small car with a powerful, turbocharged engine and very firm suspension setup that makes it ideal for flinging around corners. But the most controversial part is its exhaust note: a blistering, roaring, throaty burble, something almost funny to hear because you don’t expect such a loud noise to come from such a cute little car.
Driving the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth is predictably fun, given its 160-horsepower engine in an extremely lightweight body. It feels very much like driving a go-kart.
At the same time, it’s livable as an everyday car. One of the best things about the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth’s roaring exhaust is that, while it sounds like a beast under hard acceleration, it calms down dramatically at
It’s also interesting that when you opt for the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth version, virtually nothing on your car will say Fiat. Instead, it’s covered inside and out with the scorpion-crest logo of Abarth, the tuning and racing outfit started by Karl Abarth in the 1960s.
Abarth’s cars were always known as being “small but wicked,” and that certainly rings true with this modern-day version. The 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth is not just a mildly tweaked commuter car, but a thoroughly aggressive — some would say overly aggressive — overhaul of the look and driving feel of the 500.
To me, that’s refreshing. Virtually every car today tries to pass itself off as being “sporty,” from seven-passenger crossover vehicles to ordinary Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys. I even once drove a minivan called the Caravan Sport, with a little spoiler on the back and everything.
If you want a car that’s really designed to be sporty, and doesn’t just call itself so, the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth is one of a very select group that pulls it off correctly. It’s even quite affordable, starting at $22,000.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but for drivers like me, this noisy, raucous, insane little Italian car is the very definition of joy. It’s like alchemists at Fiat bottled up pure happiness and transformed it into a pile of metal, plastic, oil and gasoline that we call the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth.
And I love it.
2013 FIAT 500 ABARTH RATINGS:
What was tested? 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback ($22,000).
Options: Performance leather seats ($1,000), Beats Audio ($700), Comfort/Convenience Group ($650), red mirror caps ($350), TomTom Navigation ($500), 17-inch wheels ($1,200).
Price as tested (including $700 destination charge): $27,100
Pros: It’s pure fun: a tiny Italian car with cute styling, a loud exhaust and go-kart suspension.
Cons: Some people will see the Abarth’s aggressive sound and ride as too harsh.
2013 FIAT 500 ABARTH SPECIFICATIONS
- Description: Compact Coupe
- Trim options: Abarth
- Wheelbase: 90.6 inches
- Overall length: 144.4 inches
- Engine size: 1.4L 16v inline four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, turbocharged 160-horsepower engine, 170 lb ft of torque
- Transmissions/speeds: 5-speed manual
- Rear/front drive: Front Wheel Drive
- Steering: EPAS/rack and pinion
- Braking: Ventilated anti-lock 4-wheel disc, ESC
- Air bags: 2 (front), 2 (side), 4 (side curtain)
- EPA mileage est. city/hwy.: 28/34
- MSRP, est.: $22,000