There is something inherently magical about the 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth convertible (500C in Fiat speak) and pinpointing the origin of that specialness is not all that hard to do. All a driver has to do is press the button to make the cloth roof slide backwards opening up the cabin to the blue skies and sunshine overhead followed by pressing a red button on the dash marked “Sport.” Then, when he or she turns the key they will be treated to one of the most sonorously delightful and wickedly loud engine note this side of a Ferrari. Without having driven a mile, you will know that this is one badass car.
Whereas the regular strength Fiat 500 two door convertible is a rather tepid and uninspiring car to drive thanks to a 1.4 liter 101 horsepower/98 ft-lbs of torque four-cylinder that when equipped with the automatic means you can pretty much pass one other car—the Smart ForTwo. Fortunately, Fiat does also offer the 500C with a perfectly capable 135 horsepower turbo version for those who might want to save a little money compared to the Abarth but not have to fear getting on the freeway safely.
But if you want the ultimate Italian driving experience and the freedom of top-down motoring, then you simply owe yourself a 2014 Fiat 500C Abarth. Not only does the Abarth feature the positively incomparable 1.4 liter Multiair 160 horsepower four-cylinder only available with a nicely weighted five-speed manual, but Fiat also worked with Chrysler’s SRT division to work magic on the upgraded suspension and steering system.
The Abarth is also available as a two-door coupe with prices starting at $22,000. The convertible brings the sticker up to $26,000, and our tester had an out-the-door price just over $30,000, as it featured Fiat’s excellent Beats audio system, Abarth exclusive leather-covered front sport seats, automatic climate control, heated front seats, upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels, some exterior trim enhancements and a TomTom navigation unit that plugs in on top of the dash. We would recommend any option but the rather lame TomTom, which looks ugly mounted on top of the dash and also got us totally lost. Twice. We removed it and threw it in the back seat for most of our tester’s stay with us.
While you may think an additional $4,000 is a lot to charge for Fiat to lop off the 500 Abarth’s top, you should know that this is a very unique cloth ragtop. The convertible portion stretches just over the heads of those inside it meaning the side doors and rear window are left fully intact, making for a near identical appearance style wise from the sides and very little wind buffeting. Also, the Fiat cloth top allows you to just open the cloth roof part of the way with a simple knob controlling how much sun you and your passengers will get. Lastly, the cloth headliner is multi-layered and feels very thick so it is by no means feels like a cheap transformation — all in all, we’d say the extra four grand is easily worth it.
Why You Will Want to Buy the Abarth
Abarth is the tuning arm of Fiat auto and has a long racing history with the company. You can tell a 500 is an Abarth because all of the Fiat logos are removed and replaced with Abarth’s sexy scorpion logo. Thanks to some styling tweaks and incredibly sexy-looking oversize tires, the Abarth version of the 500 really looks much cooler and more masculine than other everyday variants.
The interior features a special flat-bottom steering wheel as well as an additional turbo boost gauge mounted to the visually unique pod that houses the speedometer and tachometer. Some call this pod hard to read, we say it looks fabulous. And sometimes looking good is all that matters. Italians understand this. They also know how to make a leather sport seat hugely comfortable but also very opulent thanks to it being covered in some of the sweetest smelling red and black leather. No one does leather as well as the Italians. Which should come as no surprise since Italians even dress their food and pets better than we dress ourselves in North America.
Despite the rambunctiously intoxicating turn of speed that the 2014 Fiat 500C Abarth can manage to provide any driver, this vehicle returns an EPA estimated 28 city/34 highway. Despite us driving our tester in a state that was anything less than balls-out full-throttle, it still managed 29.2 miles per gallon. And get this, the Abarth convertible has the same 9.5 cubic feet of cargo space as the coupe, since the fabric roof merely rests on top of it when it is fully open. The trunk is actually usefully shaped and big enough, better at least than a Miata’s trunk or that of the VW Beetle Convertible, which has a blind spot the size of Kentucky when its top is up. The 500C suffers from no such blindspot maladies.
But mainly, the true joy found in the 2014 Fiat 500C Abarth is in its driving dynamics and the fact that it is just fast enough and makes just the right noises to make it the perfect sporty convertible to enjoy on real city streets. Now, 160 horsepower might not bowl you over but it’s plenty to move this tiny two door ragtop with surprising verve and the noise it makes as you accelerate adds to the whole sporty and fun overall feel this car possesses.
The 500C Abarth may not have quite the razor-sharp handling or telepathic steering of a MINI Cooper S, but it still strikes a nice balance between ride comfort and a decidedly sporty nature. It steers with effective precision and it corners brilliantly. There is a bit more body roll than you find in a MINI, but we feel that the 500C makes up for it with a less jittery ride. Surprisingly, wind and road noise are nicely muted on the freeway with only a bit of wind noise to be heard. The convertible top is surprisingly effective at keeping this drop top as quiet inside as the coupe version.
The 2014 Fiat 500C is the Best of All Worlds
We love the 2014 Fiat 500C because it mixes the driving thrills of a hot hatch with the relaxing freedom of a convertible in a small, fuel efficient car that can comfortably carry two adults and a child. Or a dog, just not a very big one. Really, the only negative we could think of regarding this car was its small back seat. Well, that and the fact that Fiat wouldn’t let us keep it.
All photos provided by Jon Jon Gala Photography