The expression "The rich get richer" kept kicking around my head as we snaked the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth through the serpentine canyon roads surrounding Malibu. A little over a year ago, I was in Las Vegas driving the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth for the first time after its 40-year hiatus from the North American market. When I left the hard-top variant behind in Nevada, I couldn't help but think how Fiat had done the impossible: It capitalized on the almost non-existent second attempt at a first impression. The Fiat 500 returned to North America a few years ago with some fanfare, but few sales; the Abarth quickly changed all of that. Now, with the addition of the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth, a brand that once showed little promise in North America is having trouble keeping dealerships stocked with the Abarth model.
Model and PriceThe Fiat 500 Abarth is already known for its unruly style on the road, and with the $4,000 option for a removable cloth roof, things only get more disruptive. The 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth starts at $26,700, which is only $650 more than the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth we hosted for a week last year. The retractable cloth roof only adds 33 pounds to the Abarth, but you still get all of the normal goodies like the Abarth-designed steering wheel, turbo boost gauge, and a shift knob wrapped in leather. Our 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth featured an optional ($700) Beats by Dr. Dre sound system that includes six speakers in the cabin, and an eight-inch subwoofer mounted in the trunk. If you want heated seats and automatic climate control like our 500c Abarth tester had, you'll have to pony up an additional $850 for the Comfort/Convenience Package.
Safety and Key FeaturesBesides the throaty exhaust note, the most notable feature on the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth is the folding cloth roof. Fiat designed this removable roof to act as a moonroof of sorts, as you can open it in sections, or all the way. Unlike a conventional drop-top, The Abarth convertible's top can opened and closed at speeds of up to 50 mph by the simple push of a button located between the cabin lights. Like its stationary roof sibling, the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth includes standard safety features such as anti-lock brakes, hill start assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Neither the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration nor Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have rated the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth.
Family Friendliness and UtilityThis just in from the "no surprise here, move along" news department: The 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth is, without question, not a vehicle designed to participate in daily family functions. That's all right though, as the 500c Abarth is much better suited for taking the long way home from work on a Friday night. After a long day at the office, it's also ideal when trying to find a spot to park on the street upon your arrival home. Unlike the regular Abarth and other 500 model variants, the 500c Abarth doesn't feature a hatchback tailgate, and only gives way to a grand total of 5.4 cubic-feet of cargo space. A little more real estate (23.4 cubic-feet) is freed up when you fold the seats down though.
Comfort and QualitySpace is limited inside, and long road trips with more than two people and their bags are highly advised against. However, if your commute is short(er) and you're not responsible for more than one other person, then the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth is a fine form of transportation. When sitting in the driver's seat, you're greeted with a thick-rimmed steering wheel which is wrapped in perforated leather and features a flat bottom, like that seen on Chrysler Group's in-house performance vehicles from SRT. Like the stationary roof Abarth, the 500c Abarth features an instrument cluster that's impossible to mistake for something else. Orange accented lighting grabs your attention and showcases a speedometer, tachometer, and trip computer.
How it DrivesHere's where the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth flexes its petite, Italian muscles. Like its solid-roof counterpart, the 500c Abarth sports a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, rated at 160 horsepower, and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. And just like the regular Abarth, the Abarth cabrio's shifter knob is similar in size to that of a softball. Nevertheless though, the 500c Abarth enjoys the abuse, and can be thrown into canyon road corners with the best of them. All three pillars are still connected to the 500c Abarth's roofline, and as a result, structural rigidity remains intact. Acceleration is peppy and the engine note is all but impossible to ignore with the top down. As mentioned above, the roof can be retracted in sections when traveling as quickly as 60 mph. If you want to drop the top completely though, you'll have to slow down to 50 mph.
SummaryObviously, the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth isn't for everyone, but if you've never driven one, you're missing out. Those picking up a Fiat 500 Abarth know exactly what they're getting themselves into. They know the history of Karl Abarth and not only do they like the rowdy Fiat's engine note, that's one of the sole reasons why they buy one. Having the ability to remove the top of the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth makes it even easier to hear the exhaust (as if it wasn't before). Besides its racing lineage, the unambiguous exhaust note is a major reason why people decide to spring for the Abarth model as opposed to the other, tamer 500 model variants. Like the hardtop Abarth, if you're looking for a vehicle that provides a lively ride on a daily basis but is easy to park on a city street, then the 500c Abarth is a solid choice
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $26,700
EPA City: 28 mpg
EPA Highway: 34 mpg
EPA Combined: 31 mpg
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Fair
Estimated Combined Range: 325.5 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Below Average