If you are in the market for a subcompact with mega personality, the 2017 Fiat 500 offers a wide variety of models and features — meaning there is a 500 that can suit pretty much any taste.
I was pleased to test the performance-oriented Abarth 500C. My model was no bigger than the base 500 but included modifications such as a lowered suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, bigger front brakes, and at least 50 percent more grunt than the base car — thanks to the fitment of a single 160-hp turbocharger to Fiat’s 1.4-liter inline-four.
A five-speed manual is standard; a six-speed automatic is optional. The exhaust note is addictive, and a slammed suspension gives the Abarth handling as feisty as its styling. A coupe or sliding-canvas softtop are both offered, although in open-air form it can get a little pricey. Still, the Abarth is a special car with a ton of charisma.
First introduced for the 2012 model year as a hardtop, with the cabrio following a year later, the 500 Abarth got an upgraded Uconnect infotainment system last year. 2017 brings just one change worthy of note — a new color package allows customers to pair the Abarth’s body color with a contrasting shade — red, gray, black or white — on the roof, mirror caps, accent stripes, and rear spoiler.
The 2017 Fiat 500 is available in three trim levels: Pop, Lounge and, at the top of the Fiat 500 food chain, the performance-focused Abarth. It includes the foglights and parking sensors from the Lounge and adds a turbocharged engine, 16-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, sportier suspension tuning, upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, a performance exhaust system, premium cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, and a sport steering wheel.
The base engine’s acceleration is undeniably lackluster, but the 500’s ride quality is pretty comfortable on bumpy city streets and on the highway. The firmer suspension tuning of the Abarth improves handling response, so if you enjoy a spirited drive, this is the way to go.
Standard safety features for all 2017 Fiat 500 models include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and rear parking sensors.
In government crash tests, the Fiat 500 hardtop received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.
My performance-oriented Abarth got 24 mpg city and 32 highway. Price-wise, this model starts at about $21,500, making it one of the least expensive “fun” cars you can buy.
While some may say this car is utterly impractical, I praise the peppy 2017 Fiat 500 for its personality and perky city driving. Yes, there may be a lack of space and an underwhelming base engine, but if you live in a dense urban area like Miami Beach or Wynwood, rarely ride with passengers, and you want to make a style statement on a budget, then the 2017 Fiat 500 could be for you.
Grant Miller is the publisher of Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277 or via email at email@example.com.