So when the Fiat arrived at my door, I slid the roof back and stowed the normal press car paperwork in the glove box so it wouldn't fly about during what ended up being a genuinely spirited drive. I had a great time, and my subsequent days with the 500 Abarth Cabrio were just as enjoyable. Sunshine, Italian supercar-like rumble, and hilariously fun dynamics. Awesome.
But then I remembered my paperwork in the glovebox. And when I examined the fine print, my jaw dropped. The bottom line: $31,100, including $700 for destination. For a Fiat 500. Ouch.
Ignorance really is bliss.
- Everything I love about the Fiat 500 Abarth is just ever so slightly better with the Cabrio, even the appearance. I'm generally not a convertible guy, but it works here, and I'm super hot on the contrasting white and gray color combination mixed with the hotter Abarth styling bits.
- As you'd expect, this is pretty much a plug-and-play version of the 500 Abarth and the 500C. The already beefier suspension geometry of the Abarth, as well as its lowered ride height, improved brakes, different steering ratio and, of course, its turbocharged engine all remain intact, but with the folding soft top that slides all the way back and bunches up just above the trunk lid (or right in the driver's rear-view sight line, however you want to look at it).
- The 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged inline-four is great as ever here, still tuned to 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque (if you're in sport mode, otherwise only 150 lb-ft is on offer) and mated exclusively to a five-speed manual transmission (for now).
- Really, in terms of what you feel behind the wheel, the experience here in the Cabrio is exactly the same as the standard 500 Abarth, even with those pesky 33 extra pounds in tow. What you get, however, is added aural delight from the awesome exhaust note, and you can better hear little things like the turbo whine of the MultiAir engine.
- The steering, suspension, brakes – the whole lot – all work the same as the Abarth hardtop. However, I did notice that when the top is folded back, it doesn't feel quite as stable and secure when driving spiritedly (worse aero, etc.). The car rolls slightly in corners, it'll understeer when pushed, and the back end has no problem getting loose around a corner if you're really pushing. But because it's all in a small, lightweight package, every single flaw is easily correctable. And honestly, it's a hilarious experience.
- Inside, it's all the same, too. The interior is still sort of bad in terms of refinement, and that seating position still sucks for most drivers, but hey, there's unlimited headroom with that top folded back.
- New for 2013, Abarth Cabrio buyers can opt for the excellent Beats Audio sound system, which can easily kick out the high-volume jams with the added noise of driving without a roof. And for times when the roof is shut, it's great for drowning out what's already a decidedly noisy cabin.
- It's all perfectly good, this 500 Abarth Cabrio, and tons of fun to drive. But choosing the droptop model costs an additional $4,000 over the standard, $22,000 Abarth. And adding features like larger 17-inch wheels and the sport seats (stuff you want, for sure) puts you at $29,100. With the coupe, I can see spending $25,000, since that's still thousands less than a comparable Mini Cooper S Hardtop. But I just can't fathom dropping $4,000 for the added fun of a folding roof (that ruins visibility), where that money buys you Mini's true convertible. The fun versus flawed equation balances itself out with the 500 Abarth hardtop, but I just can't excuse it here.