Fiat Officially Releases the Abarth 500 in the US

Is this the first credible competitors to the MINI Cooper S? We won’t know until we get behind the wheel of the US specific Abarth, but we can take a quick look some of the more important stats.

  • 160 hp / 170 lb.-ft
  • Upgraded suspension with (FSD) Koni front-shock absorbers and a .6 lower ride height
  • 10% quicker steering rack
  • Larger single position brakes with 11.1-inch rotors
  • Abarth-tuned ESC system
  • Optional 18.9 lbs 17″ wheels
  • Heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission
  • no weight given

Promising no? Yet it’s hard for us to forget our less than stellar experience in the 500 Sport earlier this year. Here’s a quick excerpt to remind you:

The Fiat 500 Sport does not compare favorably to the MINI Cooper in ways an enthusiast would appreciate. The steering is light and the clutch lighter. The manual transmission is vague at best and any propulsion out of the highly acclaimed 101 hp Multi-air Fiat 1.4L four cylinder feels like a happy coincidence. Within a half block behind the wheel of the 500 I was in ‘leisure’ mode whether I liked it or not.

We panned it’s performance in almost every aspect (as compared to the standard Cooper) but praised the cost (and the cost of ownership) considering it’s style and substance. Now that there’s a Cooper S fighter on Fiat lots, it will be fascinating to see how it stacks up. Especially given the impressive spec sheet. Let’s just hope (for Fiat’s sake) it’s a dramatically better car for enthusiasts.

For a refresher, check out our Fiat 500 Sport review.

  • Anonymous

    I am seriously considering this after having owned both an R50 and 53, pending a test drive. The current MInis aren’t doing much for me but I still have hope that Mini will hit it out of the park with the third gen hatch.

  • I hope theres not gonna be any hating on this car from the mini fans. this car is just as good as a JCW and EASILY cooler than a normal S

    • I would hold off any opinions until it’s driven. Even if you’re going by Abarth review from Europe (which are mixed) remember that this is a very different car. And keep in mind it’s aimed closely at the MCS and not the JCW in spec and price. 

    • MINImofo

      I wouldn’t go that far……

    • Anonymous

      Compared to JCW? That is pushing it…

    • Mills

      It’s a cool car, but it’s hardly a JCW competitor. The specs are interesting, it’s 2533lbs, and 144.4″ long, making it only about 130lbs lighter than a Cooper S, and just 1.8″ shorter. Which means that the tiny Fiat is now longer than the R53. Kind of surprising, no? Factor in the shorter wheelbase, higher center of gravity, and crappy suspension I can’t imagine it will even beat the Cooper S, let alone the JCW. Plus that new MINI is right around the corner.

      • im not saying its faster than a JCW, I’m saying its just as good. Its just a bad ass little car, like the JCW. the base cooper S isn’t all that badass IMO

  • RB

    Did I read somewhere that they “Dumbed” it down for us here in the USA? That’s a shame if true.

    I find it very appealing and as I’m just back from The Netherlands where I saw a bunch of these plus the old Cinquecento’s where I was staying in Hilversum. Here in Pasadena, Ca. I see quite a few of them and see people asking the owners lots of questions like back in 2002 when MINI came out. 

    I didn’t see one Abarth while in europe? Funny… it’s looks just right in europe but looks really small here in the USA while MINIs seems large in europe, at least in Holland, and small in the USA.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see they have lightweight alloys. Curious what the car total weight will be. There is probably a reason it is not mentioned… Lowered stock suspension is nice (are you listening MINI? JCWs should have JCW suspension from factory no?). Anyways, competition is good although I am not interested – I don’t much like the look and I am picking up my JCW next week.

    • Apple to orange a little. The revised suspension sounds a lot like the sport suspension on the MINI (which also lowers the car slightly). The lightweight weight wheels sounds impressive though. There have been very few 17″ MINI wheels ever under 20 lbs.

      • Anonymous

        I suppose that is true. It won’t be anywhere near what the JCW suspension is. But from what I have read, the Sports Suspension on the MINI has exactly the same ride height as stock. If my JCW arrives lower with the SportsSus I will be happy though…

      • Jdbosford

        The question is how wide are the 17″ wheel. They didn’t get the weight saving through R&D thats for sure.

    • Curb weight is: 2533 lbs.

  • 53chief

    I use to own a 1958 Fiat Abarth 750; it was based on the Fiat 600. The car was a blast to drive. Nothing I have ever driven has come close to the handling of that car, till I got my 02 MCS.

    I had to sale the car a few years back and still miss it. Back in the 60’s Abarth and Mini competed and Abarth stomped Mini. Finally the SCCA kicked the Mini cooper 970 and the Abarths out of D-Sedan.

    Don’t get me wrong I love my MCS, it is built much better than the new Fiat. I drove a 500 and was disappointed with it overall. I cut my teeth working on Italian cars so I am excited to see an Abarth coming to the U.S. I just hope it’s not a disappointment.

  • Az Photo Mac

    Wonderful news for those that like driving what looks like a turd on wheels.

    • Anonymous

      You must have funny looking turds. I think it’s a beautifully simple design, like the R50/53 was when it came out.

  • that.guy

    I got excited by “10% quicker steering rack” and then saw that the ratio on the stock 500 is over 16:1…  Somehow I don’t think 10% is going to be enough to, as they say in the automotive press, “transform the driving experience.”  Still would like to see if this car captures some of the original MINI magic, which was brutally murdered 5 years ago.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I found the 500 a hoot to drive, and that wasn’t even the Abarth, it was the Sport. I guess it all depends on what you expect. It’s a very tossable car in turns, but yes, the motor was a bit underwhelming. On long  straights you had to be patient. But in windy stuff I found I was having tons of fun. Very well suited for spirited street driving. I’m hoping to get a shot at an Abarth this March.

  • goat

    The Abarth ticks a lot of boxes on the small+scrappy FWD hatch list for me, more so than any current MINI offerings aside from the new coupe, for that matter. 

    But one open question: is the seat mounted lower to the floor? It feels ridiculous to be cornering hard sitting that high up – MINI seats are mounted too high as well IMO but the Fiat takes things to new-and-wonky heights. The Abarth does get much sportier seats it seems from photos so there is hope that you sit a couple inches lower in the car… looking forward to the MF review!

  • Ac1de

    A good idea to make the Koni FSD dampers standard. After having driven Abarth 500’s with and without the Konis, I think those dampers are a must for a smoother ride and better brake stability.

    Although the ride of the JCW is harder and a bit more sportier, but that’s a different price category.

  • Do you guys get the Audi A1 in the States? I reckon that’s a more credible rival to the MINI.

    • that.guy

      You know we don’t.  Don’t be a meanie.

  • Hemisedan

    NO we don’t get the Audi 1 series, we aren’t intelligent enough to appreciate fine cars from Audi.  Europe still thinks that hatchbacks don’t sell in the USA also.

    Of the Fiat, I was really interesting in looking at one of these until I saw one in person in Chicago last summer.  People here talk about Mini having cheap accessories, well have them take a look at the Fiat.  Cheap door panels, cheap shifter, cheap dash plastic, that looks like plastic.  Unless they open up the cash on this car, I don’t think that many car enthusiasts will look at it seriously.  I remember the Abarths of the 60’s and THAT was a fine car.  maybe Fiat should take a look at that car and bring that one out.  To me, at least this one sucks.

    • Gregzito

      I for one am excited to see/drive this car. Performance wise it likely falls a bit short of a Mini S, however, that’s why they make mods which could be a fun challenge on this thing. I have to say it brings back the feeling I had the first time I saw an R53 decked out. The R56 just killed the Mini IMO. Might be a fun new toy if the price is right. I feel it tops the R56 in asthetics and uniqueness. will get the question “hey what is that” that is history for the Mini which is no longer a novelty.

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