Logo



MF Review: Fiat 500 Abarth vs MINI JCW Coupe

Ever since Fiat announced it was building an Abarth version of the 500, MINI owners have been raising their eyebrows. Sure, the basic 500 is a decent car but, as we found out last year, it simply doesn’t compare well to the MINI in either build quality or performance. Enter the Abarth — the car conceived to go head-to-head with the MINI Cooper S and (if you listen to Fiat) even the JCW. So instead of reviewing the 500 Abarth on its own, we took up Fiat’s JCW challenge. We threw it into the ring with the newly-release MINI JCW Coupe. Apples to oranges you say? There’s only one way to find out.

Righting the Wrongs of the 500

The Abarth addresses the 500′s lack of sporting credentials exactly as we’d hoped. First up, a revised engine revs quicker and higher. It’s built stronger too. Abarth also updated the transmission (an obvious issue with the standard 500) with a new five-speed that, with a 3.35 final drive ratio, makes for a quicker 0-60 time. Other driveline upgrades could have been made, but with only 170 ft lbs of twist, at least torque steer isn’t much of issue.

Then there’s the suspension. Revised Koni struts up front give the car a 40% stiffer spring rate and a 15mm drop. Both were desperately, desperately needed over the base 500. Larger constant velocity (CV) joints (53% stronger to be exact) also help deliver a better ride and control over the original car. Finally, the steering rack has bee quickened 10% to help solve some of the laziness we found in the 500 Sport we tested last year.

Sense a trend yet? The mad scientists at Abarth apparently shared some of our opinions when it came the stock 500. They’ve upgraded the Fiat to address the exact deficiencies we bemoaned last year. And we’ll be damned if they didn’t produced something very compelling.

Enter the JCW

The MINI Cooper Coupe is the most clearly single-purpose vehicle MINI currently makes. It’s engineered to feel like a hooligan, and set-up to be the be the fastest MINI ever on the track. That performance focus, especially in JCW spec, is sharper, more refined, and more compromising of other design factors than anything else in the MINI lineup. It is MINI’s most rarified performance variant, which more than anything makes it the correct car to test against Abarth’s hyper 500. After all, they picked this fight, not MINI.

Looking at power, the JCW Coupe produces 208 hp and 200 ft-lbs of torque. That’s an extra 48 hp over the Abarth, with just .2L more displacement. It manages these sizable horsepower gains while getting nearly equivalent fuel economy — just 3 mpg less in the city, and 1 mpg less on the highway than the Abarth 500. In fact, the Cooper S (which still generates 21 hp more) matches the Abarth’s fuel economy on the highway and is down only 1 mpg in the city comparatively.

The Coupe’s Suspension and Handling

A lot has been made of the JCW Coupe not being available (yet) with a factory JCW suspension. Luckily, the $500 Sports Suspension is already fantastic. No it’s not standard. Yes it should be. But it is still hands-down better damped and allows for more confidence at the edge as compared to the Abarth. Where the JCW falls down are the run flat tires, which destroy nearly all the hard work done in fine-tuning the suspension for ride quality. The Sport Suspension does just fine in the corners —with decidedly less body roll and much more composure than the Abarth — but the car is jittery over broken pavement. This is entirely the fault of the run-flat tires. Honestly, they make the car downright uncomfortable at times. Proper radials and it’d be problem solved.

MINI’s reliance on run flat tires takes points off the board in this comparison test, as usual, but the Coupe is clearly still on top in handling — with key advantages in how it behaves at the limit of grip. The Abarth just can’t come anywhere close to the Coupe’s composure in the bends. Despite being very neutral before succumbing to understeer, the Abarth is never as eager as the MINI, nor as easy to drive fast. It’s simply at the limit of what its meager, Panda-based chassis can deliver. Further suspension tuning and upgrades might help it along, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to put better tires on the Coupe than to replace the entire suspension system on the 500.

Beyond the Abarth losing in handling, it also can’t match the JCW in braking, acceleration, high speed stability or overall control. In fact, the Abarth above 90 mph feels like the MINI over 140 — like an out of control rocket heading to the center of the sun. Fun as it is, it’s simply out-gunned.

Technology

Electronically the Abarth is less sophisticated than the MINI. Rather than the three-stage traction and stability control of the MINI, the Fiat features a simpler stability control system that’s either on or off. While relatively smooth-engaging, it’s not what I would call particularly dynamic. Traction and stability control systems are legally mandated on cars both here and in Europe. So if you’re going to have the electronic nanny, she might as well be good company. The MINI’s DTC system does this very well, but the Abarth’s system is as bone-basic as the rest of its underpinnings.

Like the MINI, the 500 also has a sport button that adds weight to the steering and a slightly more aggressive throttle mapping. The key word in that is “slight.” As in, you barely feel the difference. Not necessarily a bad thing as it does’t add too much weight or vagueness to the steering, like MINI’s system does, but I have to wonder what is the point of a sport button if it’s so subtle you almost can’t feel the difference? More aggressive throttle mapping would be a great place to start.

That feeling of being a generation behind MINI’s electro gadgetry carries on inside with the iPod connection. It relies on a system similar to MINI’s from the R50 or early R56 models. It includes a USB port in the glovebox and rudimentary controls within the radio interface. It’s right on the edge of “why bother?”

Even worse is the Navigation system, which is nothing more than a TomTom attached to the dash — in the driver’s direct line of sight, no less. There’s no integration with the car itself and little thought given to the consistency or continuity of digital experiences throughout the rest of car. As if the GPS-as-afterthought integration weren’t bad enough, there’s the little problem of the whole unit tending to bounce out of its holder and lose power. At one point it took me about 30 seconds of slamming the system into it’s holder before some tired mechanism finally gave up and clicked into place. No one wants to play whack-a-mole with their GPS unit while rolling down the highway. I sure didn’t.

But all of that pales in comparison to a much more obvious problem with the GPS: security. When you semi-install a hand-held GPS system on top of the dash in a car as flashy and visible as the Abarth, some knucklehead is going to break into the car and rip it off the dash. It’s only a matter of time. I came face-to-face with this on the last day of my review period. I walked out to the Abarth (after only leaving it about an hour, mind you) to find the driver’s side glass broken out. The GPS was gone, and with it, the Abarth’s dignity.

Quality

The Fiat 500 feels “decent” for a $16,000 car. It feels a little merely ok as a $20,000 car. At $26,000 (essentially a “loaded” Abarth) it feels a plainly cheap. Not only does it feel well out of the MINI’s league in terms of quality of components and manufacturing, it simply doesn’t have the options that the MINI does (save for the surprisingly nice Abarth seats). Our loaded Abarth felt a bit pedestrian spec as compared to the JCW Coupe. Granted the Coupe (as tested with Nav and other options) came in around $35,000, but the MINI felt like a luxury good compared to the Fiat. The Abarth couldn’t help but give away its original, low-end intent with every touch of its interior plastic. Even the exterior door handle had an obvious mold line running exactly where the tip of your finger would rest when grabbing it to open the door. It’s these details — the lack of attention to design and quality that became all too obvious when experienced back-to-back with the Coupe.

No, the MINI isn’t perfect, but the difference between the two was stark. Their aspiring equivalency on paper is shattered in real world comparison.

1 + 1 = 3

Yet surprisingly, all of this doesn’t necessarily make the MINI more fun than the Abarth. The 500 is a chuck-able car in the best sense. It’s also quite endearing in that it’s obviously less than perfect. It leans, it’s not fast and the clutch feels like the worst kind of sweaty, limp-wristed handshake. Yet you can’t help but throw it into a corner and enjoy managing the consequences. It’s unruly and vaguely unpredictable. After a week of matching the floppy clutch and quick-revving engine (a hint quicker in the low RMP range than the JCW), I was heel-toe shifting at every corner without even thinking about it. For all the car’s shortcomings in real handling capability, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

Then there’s the cheerful “warble” of the exhaust. The first time I started the car I was shocked by the volume and quality of that sound. By the end of my time with the Abarth I was addicted to that noise. Even my BMW 1M sounded all too sanitized in comparison. Would you get tired of it eventually? Perhaps yes, but by God it’s some character in the age of soulless appliance cars aimlessly driving down the highways. The Abarth is worth driving for the noise alone. I have to hand it to Fiat for having the attachments to give the car such a distinctive note. A rev of the engine sounds like a vintage airplane flying low somewhere overhead.

The sum of it all?

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a car that charms and disappoints, all while it plasters a ridiculous smile across your face. And every day I had the Abarth that smile grew. How does it compare with a week in the JCW Coupe? Quite well, actually. The Abarth is a lesser car in every way. Yet its driving experience feels both irreverent (isn’t that MINI’s word?) and undeniably fun. It’s a car that is dripping with character, so you can’t help but forgive a few of its more glaring faults.

The JCW Coupe, on the other hand, can do smooth, fast and/or ragged on the edge in the blink of an eye. It runs rings around the Abarth without breaking a sweat. But sometimes breaking a sweat just to keep is just the experience we need. The Abarth is about throwing out any notions of being serious behind the wheel and just finding a corner to bend into or a straight to open up on — if only to hear that exhaust note again.

What would I have given my choice? With $9,000 price difference, the Abarth makes a good case for itself. However, the reality is that the standard Cooper S Hardtop could run (literal and figurative) rings around the Abarth. The JCW just widens the gap even further in performance, quality, and all while being just about as fuel-efficient.

The JCW Coupe will always be the better car, but it’s the smartly-optioned Cooper S that remains the sweet spot of the MINI range. It not only stacks up well against the Abarth, but almost trounces it all the same ways the JCW does. It also manages to do so while keeping the extra $10k in your pocket.

In the end, the Abarth is everything we hoped it would be and is certainly worth a look. It’s just not quite the car the MINI Cooper S, or JCW are.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Written By: Gabe

  • R.Burns

    At last the “official” review, that US Mini owners deserve ;)

    After driving it, I warned some people here, 3 years ago, but they didn’t believe me… ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bradley-Sketchley/100000398251447 Bradley Sketchley

    Fantastic review!

  • Aurel

    your enthusiasm for all things quirky and charming about the Abarth reminded me of your old reviews of the R53 ;) …

    • R.Burns

      If you knew… the R53 is much much much closer to the R56 than to the Abarth !

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        Yes and no. Both have questionable build quality, lack refinement and have tons of character. But the Abarth is softer than an R56 and quite different than an R53. In fact the Abarth splits the middle of both MINI generations nicely.

        • R.Burns

          “nicely” I sure wouldn’t employ that word, considering the deception that was mine ! “Every” element is several levels below the Mini Cooper S, either R56 or R53 Yes there is some fun to drive, but less than R56 or R53… Thing is : it is cheaper : nothing more logical ;)

        • RB

          BAH! Your assessment is way off the mark. I own one and I love it and the build quality of my 2012 is fantastic and better than either my 2002 or 2004….PERIOD!

  • GP0256

    I drove one because my wife thought she might like it as an every day car. I am 6’2″ and when I turned my head to look out the drivers side window to see if I could merge, I hit my forehead on the ceiling! On top of this, the car felt under powered…… probably because we drove my RMW tuned GP to the dealership. None the less, my wife actually disliked it so much she did not even switch me to test drive it, we just took it back to the stealership and decided the Coupe or Roadster were the way to go. She did drive that car and I am sure it will replace her R53 shortly. Great write up though, spot on.

    • jason

      The headroom is a major concern with me as well. I am the same height and hit my head about 10 times during a test drive. I wish the seating position was much lower.

  • http://www.mynameisjay.com/ Jay

    The Abarth seems like a great “weekend” car. By that, I mean it is probably not suitable for day to day driving. I wouldn’t want to deal with a car that always wants to burst into speed – like when I’m stuck in traffic. That’s what I like about the MINI. It can be as smooth and tame as any other car, but it can also blast around corners and be really entertaining whenever you feel like it.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      It’s easy to bash the Fiat as a MINI owner but the truth is it’s a really good commuter car. It gets better MPG and is generally a fun car to drive from 0-75 mph. It’s also narrow and a little shorter than the MINI making it a good fit in large cities. That said the MINI is a more comfortable car day to day and has frankly less to be annoyed about when it comes to usability and optional equipment. I’d probably go with a Cooper or Cooper S as my daily driver by the Abarth also does the job quite well. Where it starts to falter a bit is when you really push it hard.

  • zinful

    Having driving an Abarth and my MINI for over 9 years, I think your review is SPOT ON. Thanks.

  • b-

    Great article, not surprised by the results.

  • Kurtster

    Having sold my ’04 MCS this year and being in the market for a new car before winter starts, I must admit the Abarth is a tempting option. I’ve got a deposit down on a new GP MINI but when I think about the more than $10k I would likely save by purchasing the Abarth, it’s tempting. I read some reviews that said that the 500 wasn’t so good in snow, even with son tires. People have posted getting stuck on hills, etc. I know my MINI performed very well with snow tires on it and much of the miles I’m going to put on the new car will be winter miles since I drive an M Roadster most of the year. Great review. Thanks for doing it. I LOVE the JCW Coupe. People on the Car & Driver site pick on it (and all MINIs for that matter), but the styling grew on me just like the Z3 Coupe did. I wish I had the patience to wait for the Coupe GP, but I hear it isn’t coming until early next year. Sigh.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Makes sense about the FIAT being crap in the snow, as the stability control is all or not. There is no middle ground to allow wheel spin (at least an option for MINI) and there is no brake based diff so in the snow with the traction control off the FIAT is one wheels drive- 1980′s tech there.

  • Dr1ver

    In Europe the price differences are much wider. The Abarth 500 prices start at under 17000€, while even the base Cooper Coupe (Non-S) is already more than 22000€, and that’s with less spec.

    A maximum fully loaded Abarth 500 (leather Sabelt bucket seats, 160HP Esseesse Kit, Koni suspension, Xenons, Monza exhaust with flap and all other things…) stays under 24000€, while a fully loaded JCW Coupe (Chili package, Recaros, etc) tops 41000€. In USD, that is $21k more, not just $10k…

    In my opinion you should have compared the same price category (with similar specs, this means Xenons, MP3, Bluetooth etc.) one of those: - A500 base vs. Mini One (!) or - A500 US / A500 Esseesse EU vs. Mini Cooper or - maximum spec A500 vs. totally empty Mini Cooper S

    The JCW Coupe vs. A500 US comparison seems a bit “unfair” like comparing a JCW Coupe against the Boxster S…

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      That was noted and referenced throughout the review. It was also put up against a similarly priced (USD) Cooper S hatch towards the end.

  • gokartride

    Your observations are very interesting. It is hard to deny that the MINI is one of the finest all-around performers out there, but this article points out the idea that this may not be all that matters, that certain cars may exhibit specific features and qualities that trump the rest, even if less refined. I applaud this observation. There are certain features that are part of the classic Mini heritage that MINI has chosen to deviated from…and that’s fine. If these qualities are somehow embodied in other marques, it is good to be able to appreciate them.

  • beken

    Having driven a 500 (non-Abarth) and a Cooper (non-S) recently, I felt the Fiat a better comparison to a Toyota Yaris than a MINI. If not for the funky styling, I don’t think we would even be comparing the two cars. I think I could recommend a Fiat 500 to my non-car enthusiast friends. I would recommend an Abarth version to those who want a bit more horsepower and don’t want to spend the premium for a MINI in the new car market.

  • JonPD

    Pretty much what I expected. However think the Fiat makes a plenty compelling car due to it unique look and price point. I still also believe the MINI has better interior materials but the Fiat interior is light years ahead of the silly MINI design treatment. Personally I am pretty ok with our JCW Coupe, but its still only a quasi performance item.

    If I were to buy a 500 I would buy the 85 hp twin air. No pretensions about being a sports car just a near perfect commuter.

  • Minimalist

    The 500 is one of those rare cars that look better in photos than in the flesh,too tall and narrow although not without charm. The real deal breaker though is that the driving position is so high you feel as though sitting on rather than in the car.

  • piperbud

    Technology and quality aside — a side-by-side visual comparo yields equally disappointing results as both cars are decisively unattractive. But, in the final analysis it’s all a matter of personal perception. I’ve never liked the appearance of FIAT and the MINI Coupe chapeaux turned me off from day one. How about a brand new MINI micro-car hatch even smaller than the Rocketman that more closely parallels the Issigonis design scale. We keep losing sight of what MINI is intended to represent — a small, commodious, and fuel efficient vehicle with excellent handling characteristics. Simple criteria for an uncomplicated design.

    • RB

      WRONG! The Abarth ROCKS!

  • Dr Obnxs

    PRetty much the review I’d have written… I’ve flogged both cars and yes, the JCW coupe is a better “numbers” car. But those that think the Abarth isn’t tossable fun just don’t know what they are missing! The car is a hoot. It’s an affordable hoot. The seats are great (though the seating position is not), the exhaust note is surprisingly deep and to die for. Really, it will come down to things other than a numbers race when chosing which car to buy. They both do what they do pretty well to really well. And you’ve got to give credit to FIAT for keeping the price lid on the Abarth. Fully optioned JCW MINIs can get into the rediculous price range. One way to think about this review would be to consider a JCW Coupe vs Porsche Caymann review. You know who will “win”, but it’s still interesting to see how the stack up.

  • John Mancini

    I had 2 cooper S and must say the Abarth I test drove was the most fun I EVER had. It will be my next car. The Cooper S’s had tons of problems and cost $$$ to repair. Minis are pricey to buy. pricier even to maintain. I can’t wait to get my Abarth next year (since they are sold out this year).

    • Kev50027

      You’re going from a MINI to a Fiat to get away from problems that cost money? Have you heard of Fiat before? Do you know anything about their reputation as far as quality? For that matter, no Italian car company is known for reliability. MINI doesn’t have a perfect reliability record either, but then again they’re not known as Fix It Again Tony.

  • Mills

    I appreciate the article, but coming from Motoringfile, it really comes off as overly biased and condescending. I have read several comparison reviews over the past couple of months from all the major automotive magazines, and yes the Mini has won every one, even when just using a regular Cooper S. You should avoid this in the future, and leave it to regular magazines, and blogs. Beating up on the short, fat kid in the corner is just bullying.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      So avoid doing positive reviews of other cars. Uh… Ok.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        Remember Gabe, it’s not objective criticism unless we hate everything.

      • Mills

        You call that a positive review? You spent most of it bashing the Fiat, which would fine if it was coming from an objective point of view.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Obviously you’re reading into it what you want. No worries. It’s our review. It’s honest and objective. And I’m not going to apologize for calling out issues and yet still really liking The Abarth.

        • RB

          I now have had my Abarth for 5 months, NOTE; I had a 2002 and a 2004 MCS. The Abarth now has 8,500 miles on the OD so Gabe I think I can better comment on the car now than I did when we saw each other in Chicago at whatever that race track was called during MTTS 2012.

          Gabe you are right on with most of what you said but I wonder if the Abarth you drove had the remapped quicker engine like mine now has? Now when I engage the Sport button I feel a much more responsive engine. Also, starting with my build date the muffler is gone.

          I think comparing the Abarth to any JCW is kind of unfair, whether Fiat initiated it or not. The Abarth is more like the MCS’ of the 1st gen MINIs not like the next gen MCS’ and not even close to any JCW, even 1st gen versions that I have driven.

          NOTE…I have driven a Abarth that has been re-mapped by 500 Madness, a Fiat after market company here in California, using a Magneti Marelli ECU module and a nice set of Eibach suspension parts, drops the car 2″, and I’ve got to say it’s as fast and handles like the MINIs I’ve given including the ’06 GP. This extra costs still keeps the Abarth in a lower price range that the MINI S.

          I go out the door for, tax and license, $24,000…TOTAL.

          My first few months I was ready, quite frankly, to sell the car… hard uncomfortable Abarth seats, I could easily go 900+ miles in a day in my MINIs but was nearly crippled by a 300 mile journey in the Fiat, only 5 speed trans, lots of scary body roll.

          I bought a Relax The Back car seat pad and now I’m good to go 300+.

          I decided to hang in there for my Abarth Drivers Experience Day, given to all who buy an Abarth, to see if maybe they could help me understand the car. Due to a family emergency this never happened but supposedly it’s going to happen in 2013.

          I have since found that this car is a really fun car to own and drive once you realize… “It ain’t a MINI”. Yes, as Gabe stated it doesn’t handle as well, nor have the ponies to compete with most of the newer MINIs. What it does have is that feeling I had when I owned my 1st MINIs…FUN!

          I have to disagree with Gabe’s assessment of the cars quality and handling.

          1.) I think my Abarth is quite well built and though not a Germanic car in build quality, my 2002 or 2004 were not greatly built cars by any stretch of the imagination, I have gotten more “Wow, that’s a nice car” than I ever got with my MINIs.

          My ’02 & ’04 MINI had these problems…2 blown motors one at 5,000 (’02) and one at 20,000 (’04), 1 bad trans at 45,000 (’02), bad window motors, 2 broken shock mounts, right rear, bad seats, clutches, sunroof that stopped working, and they never could get rid of the “Stumble” from the ’02, a total of 5 cracked windscreens in both. Though the ’04 was the better car it was really done by 85,000 miles.

          My Abarth has had only one issue, so far at 8,500, when the outside temps reach 99º+ the sunroof refuses to fully close and goes to vent, below 99º it works fine??? They can’t figure out why.

          2.) I’ve driven the car above 120mph and though it has a bit of a wander to the steering, now mostly gone as my Hankook SP Sport Max tires wear in, it keeps me awake and engaged and never found it “like an out of control rocket heading to the center of the sun”??? Funny stuff Gabe.

          I will say that the Microsoft set up for the dash controls is STUPID but what do you expect, It’s Microsoft. I’ve learned how to use it but really + and – symbols for controls???

          I hear Eddie Cue (Apple) is headed to Ferrari to help them with their crappy software issues so maybe it’ll trickle down to Fiat. I will say that I never had Bluetooth or an iPod USB port in my MINIs but it’s pretty kool. I can sync 5 phones and the USB port offers a nice little net to hold my iPod. One odd thing when the iPod is hooked up there is an odd “radio off”, “radio on” thing going on but it’s Microsoft so…well you know.

          Mileage… SUCKs, even when I try and keep out of the Sport button… best I’ve gotten…28.7 and that was on a trip for LA to SF and back, generally 25mpg.

          My wife suggested when I decied to buy a Fiat… “WTF are you stupid, it’s built in Mexico, it’s a Chrysler and it’s a Fiat!” She now also loves it and is looking at a 500L if it ever makes across the ocean to us.

          Last… All and all, as usual, you did a great review and yes I’m loving the Abarth and love to let people hear that exhaust note, It’s F’n Bitch’n!

          Hope you have a chance to read this…RB

          BTW… Nathaniel..Not Nathan… as Petulant as ever, don’t take as a slam, nice to know some things never change…LOL

  • ulrichd

    There will soon be a 500T which is the current Sport with a detuned Abarth engine at 130hp. This will make an interesting alternative to a base Cooper. Price will be around $19K.

  • goat

    I enjoyed this review, especially the “1+1 = 3″ subsection which I think is the “take away” on the Fiat (and used to be the take away on the MINI, once upon a time).

    Apologia be damned, the Abarth is the new R53 MINI. It has “sporting character”, which the second-gen cars are severely lacking until you reach JCW levels of trim (and corresponding stratospheric pricing). And even then, the turbo Prince is a yawner in how it delivers its power, something that could never be said about the Tritec. Now let’s factor in the pricing deltas in Canada – please put down the MINI koolaid and read the following carefully: An Abarth is available for the same price as a non-S Cooper (base price, zero options). $5K less than a Cooper with equivalent features spec as the Abarth, $5K less than a base S, and $13K less than a base JCW. So you save a metric-crapload of money, get a sturdy little car that is (gasp!) actually small compared with other compact hatches on the road (smaller than even Mazda2 etc.), better resolved styling than MINI gen2 inside and out, and more of the hard-to-pin-down-but-you-know-when-its-got-it “sporting character”. There is a growing aftermarket, there is a rich pedigree, it surely cannot be less reliable than the MINI, and all of the above is why these cars are everywhere in Canadian cities, with young drivers (unlike MINI which tends to be old people at this point) grinning their faces off. So will BMW reclaim the “caffeinated sporting hatch” with the gen3 car? Based on spy info we have seen so far, doubtful. The Rocketman could do it though… are you listening BMW/MINI? Sometimes (increasingly, actually, with cars getting more and more capable “on paper”), LESS = MORE. :)

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Agree and disagree with some of this. I do think that the Abarth has loads of character. Is that character making it a better car or a more enjoyable car? That’s a very tough to answer broadly because it’s inevitably a personal answer. Pricing deltas aside, there’s zero doubt in my mind a Cooper S is a better car. But the fact is that the Abarth (for all that’s wrong with it from the enthusiast perspective) is as fun with maybe even a touch more “#%#% ‘em all” attitude. Which would I own? The better car.

      • goat

        Thanks for reading all the comments (even dissenting ones) so objectively Gabe. I tend to prefer “more interesting character / greater driving feel” over “better car via quantitative performance metrics”, but the ideal vehicle would have a solid helping of both. Perhaps gen3 MINI or at least Rocketman will deliver the goods.

  • Matt

    I traded my R53 on an Abarth and couldn’t be more happier.

  • RC

    I once had a Fiat 124 Spyder. It was a fun car to drive, but lacked power and the build quality wasn’t there. I can’t get past the Fiat 500′s physical appearance. To me it looks too much like the VW Beetle. Of course, I don’t care for the roofline of the Mini coupe either. I guess I’ll just have to stick with my R53.

  • 80Spitfire

    I’d like to see a comparision of the Cooper S Coupe to the Suburu BRZ or the Scion FR-S. Both are rear wheel drive proper sports cars and will give the turbo S a run for it’s money even with its normally aspirated boxer engine!

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      We’d love to do it. Securing a car is the problem thus far.

    • Mills

      Autoweek did a comparison last month. Their website kind of sucks, and they parcel out the review over multiple articles So for the sake of keeping it simple, I’ll post the lap times, They really didn’t go into subjective ratings, other than saying the VW had a lot a brake fade and felt a bit sloppy. They liked the Mini more than the Abarth, but felt the BRZ was the best overall car. VW GTI – 141.39 MINI S Coupe – 141,54 Subaru BRZ – 144,44 Fiat Abarth – 145.86 Honda Civic si – 146,14

  • bob

    BMW/Mini payola..the Fiat is so much more fun to drive.

  • Pierre Geneva

    The mini coupe is ugly and more expensive. Fun wise, I very much prefer the small and good looking Abarth …


Sort by MINI model

MotoringFile on Instagram








MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

Advertise with MotoringFile

If you or your company are interested in advertising on the most influential MINI website in the world, please visit our Advertising section. If you have further questions about becoming a sponsor or would like to see our rate sheet please feel free to contact us directly.
mini mini
Translate MotoringFile with Google: 
 

BF

MotoringFile Buyers Guides

R50 ('02-'06 MC) Buyers Guide
R53 ('02-'06 MCS) Buyers Guide

BF

SF



MotoringFile Reviews

Reviews:
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range


cafepress