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IT'S AMAZING WHAT CAN BE DONE WITHOUT A MUFFLER
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After 9 years and some tweaks, this Euro oddity proves that changing the right things can do wonders for the overall driving experience. The first thing that is noticeable is the exhaust note and lack of muffler. All of that translates into simulated super car sounds. More importantly is simplicity, a car not burdened by overbearing electronics, safety and infotainment features. The car is light weight and nimble. At 2500lbs it balances solidity and sport extremely well without feeling like a total econobox.
Fiat knew how to establish an emotional connection with the driver when designing the Abarth 500.
The manual transmission on this car requires some getting used to along with clutch feel but after a few days it becomes a non-issue. The biggest surprise here is how the steering has such heft for an electronic rack. Some of this is because Fiat chose to set the car up with -1.5 camber up front knowing the car would be pushed hard. It is a good balance for street and autocross. They have also added the Koni FSD (dual flow) dampers and stiffer springs, for a street car that strikes a good balance without having to change or tinker with anything.
The car drives light and has the Miata effect as it simulates triple digits speeds at 45MPH. Fiat checked all the right boxes here for the driving experience. It is very fun to drive and the damping is excellent. The quirks with the exterior are going to stand out. Some may find this to be too Euro or "clown car." In America we are obsessed with larger vehicles so the 500 stands out like a freak. However, those seeking personality and character, will find all of that in the Abarth. The age of the platform stands out here. The interior quality, namely plastics and fabrics drag the rest of the vehicle down. While it's mostly ergonomic, storage and little problems with placement of trip ODO button, seat adjustments and button placement is downright questionable. The seating position is also school bus inspired, which was intentional on Fiat's part.
We hope Fiat can carry some of the Abarth into the new 124 and that the next generation 500 can take the best of this platform and improve in terms of quality and reliability. There is no doubt this is a flawed car, however spending even a day with it proves that driving joy is not all about perfection.