The subcompact world in Canada is full of a variety of shapes, sizes and power offerings. From the Hyundai Accent to the Toyota Yaris to the Fiat 500, everyone’s vying for attention and drivers.
And to their credit, 2015 has seen many strong choices for consumers.
But what happens when a subcompact goes to the gym five times a week, calls upon Carlo Abarth for inspiration and gets a new, snazzy set of clothes? You get the 2015 Fiat Abarth Cabrio.
Not quite as extreme as a Jenny Jones “Geek to Chic” episode, seeing as the 500 was handsomely cute to begin with, the Abarth sees an enhanced masculine look with available 17” wheels, dual bright exhaust tips, aggressive front and rear fascia and body side striping.
I’ll admit, when I first stepped into the Abarth, I was expecting the five speed manual gearbox that churns out 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft. of torque. Instead, the folks at FCA told my left foot to take the week off via a new for 2015, AISIN six-speed auto box, whipping up 157 horsepower and a whopping 183 lb-ft. of torque, all through a 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged twin intercooled engine. I was told by FCA that there’s a steady, consistent increase in the demand for automatic transmission among the masses and as a good company should, they’re giving consumers what they’re asking for. The DIY option will still have its share of loyal enthusiasts but the right foot only option will clearly win the popularity contest.
The Abarth’s high power figures and low weight (a measly 1,154 kg) make for quick acceleration and a high “fun-factor” driving wise. I wasn’t going to break any 0-60 km/h records but I did have to ease off the gas at times as the car gets up to speed quickly. Highway driving was a pleasure (says the guy who’s got a thing for smaller cars) and city driving, as mundane as it is in the GTA, was enjoyable.
The loud and proud baritone exhaust notes completes the bookend of power.
Additionally, the stiffer suspension, lower ride height, stronger handling, stabilizer bar and KONI shock absorbers contribute to channeling your “I’m an urban race car driver not exceeding the speed limit”.
I will say that the handling is very respectable and there was minimal over/under steer.
To keep an eye on the turbocharger, Fiat has included a turbo boost gauge to the left of the steering wheel. While handy, it’s positioning to left of the dashboard made it slightly hard to read consistently as my left hand obstructed the view.
If you really want to push the Abarth to its limits, flip it into Sport mode, change your own gears and watch the dashboard change color. The result is a series of exclamation marks on an already peppy machine.
Inside, the Abarth is similar to the rest of the two-door 500 lineup with a “button-only” configuration for the centre console and a minimalist, clean layout. All functions are easy to operate and there’s no guesswork in what each button does. If there’s a suggestion I’d have for future models is to borrow from the X and L models and include an infotainment screen, dials and all. True, there’s space for a Tom Tom to be attached but I’d rather have it all in one location.
My model was given the $495 upgraded Beats audio system with six speakers plus subwoofer and 368 watts of sweet, sweet music. Or talk radio, depending on what you’re into.
The available leather faced, heated seats do well at holding you in place as you twist and turn the flat bottomed steering wheel, complete with audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls.
As with nearly all rear seats in a two door car, there’s not a plethora of room for two adults. This car is primarily designed for the driver and their lucky front seat passenger. Yes, you could squeeze in a couple of folks for short-haul drives but the rear seat is best utilized for shopping bags, an acoustic guitar, groceries from Whole Foods, a few cases of authentic Italian food via Chef Boyardee’s canned goods, or whatever else needs carting around.
The drop top moves in multiple movements so you can go from a simple “fresh air” opening to a fully retracted, “I’m one with the sky” position. As a big fan of natural light, I kept it open for as long as Mother Nature would allow.
For the driver, there’s an easy to read and operate, seven-inch, color, single gauge dashboard display with nearly everything you need. The trip reset button is tucked on the end of the windshield wiper stalk.
Oh, and the lever to raise your seat is on the right side opposed to the conventional left side.
Overall, the Abarth Cabriolet offers a sporty, punchy and quick ride for those who want a subcompact car with some oomph to it. Well, a lot of oomph. While the price tag can escalate as the dealer’s pen carves the bill of sale to suit your preferences, the starting price of a touch below $30,000 isn’t completely out of line for what you’re getting. For Fiat enthusiasts, there shouldn’t be any issues in paying more for this versus a 500. You’re getting decent fuel economy ratings 9.6 city and 7.3 highway, plenty of power and torque and a vehicle that you can zoom around in with comfort and excitement. With aggressive looks and a penchant for moving from A to B in speed and style, the Abarth Cabriolet is worth including on your short list.
2015 Fiat Abarth: $29,495
Comfort/Convenience Group: $795
6-Speed Automatic Transmission: $1,495
Colored Mirror Cap and Bodyside Stripe: $275
Beats Premium Audio System: $495
17″ Gloss White forged aluminum wheels: $995
Federal Excise Tax/Ontario Tire Surcharge: $100
Destination Charge: $1,695
Total price as tested: $35,345
Yay: Powerful, fun to drive, great handling, available drop top, great sounding exhaust, cuteness replaced with handsomeness
Nay: Could use an updated center console with a screen, rear seats aren’t overly passenger friendly, options can make the Abarth pricey