Pocket Rocket: The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
The 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth.
Four years on, the Fiat 500's fifteen minutes of fame and fashionability has long been up.  But if you still like the look, want one but haven't bought one, the one to buy is the Fiat 500 Abarth.

Abarth is an Italian racing company founded in 1949 by the late Karl Abarth, who started hot-rodding Fiats in 1952.  Fiat bought the company outright in 1971.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
2016 Fiat 500 Abarth.
In the case of the present-day 500, hot-rodding consists of swapping out the regular 500's 1.4-liter, 101 horsepower engine for a twin-intercooled turbocharged 1.4 that makes 160 horsepower.  The price of entry for the Fiat 500 Abarth is more than reasonable...$19,995...two grand less than it was when we last drove one four years ago and five grand more than the base Fiat 500 Pop,

In a car that weighs as little as a Fiat 500, an extra 59 horsepower makes an enormous difference.  There's easily five grand worth of fun in making the step up to the Abarth.

Instrument cluster of 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth
2016 Fiat 500 Abarth instrument cluster.
Abarths get a special performance instrument cluster, including a dedicated turbo boost gauge, as well as a performance suspension, Abarth-tuned dual exhaust (which makes the most intoxicating raspy snarling sound you'll find in a subcompact), race-inspired performance bucket seats, a flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Uconnect system with a five-inch touchscreen, Alpine premium audio system, electronic stability control and rear parking assist.

Our tester had a healthy batch of options, too...including a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission (with only seven percent of Americans now knowing how to drive a stick, this is pretty much a survival move for Fiat) for $995, premium leather-trimmed bucket seats for $1,195, white mirror caps with a bodyside stripe for $295, the Beats audio package for $695 and the Popular Equipment Package (which includes automatic climate control, heated seats and SiriusXM Satellite Radio with a one-year subscription for $895.

With $995 destination charges, the bottom line was $25,065.   Small, loud and a bit thirsty (we didn't get near the EPA-estimated 28 city/34 highway), the 500 Abarth is not trying to be the subcompact for everyone.  But if you like your fun loud and raw, it's hard to beat.