2015 Fiat 500 Abarth automatic gearshift leverThere aren't many manual-transmission-only offerings on the US market, and now there's one fewer. The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has just gone into production with a newly available automatic option.

We've known that the hair-raising, high-performance Cinquecento has been scheduled to get a two-pedal setup for some time, but now we have more specifics on the gearbox itself. According to Fiat, the six-speed automatic is derived from the same Aisin unit used in the standard 500, but it's been substantially reengineered to cope with the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo engine's added power. Allison Singer, a vehicle integration engineer on the 500 Abarth's development program tells Autoblog that the modifications to the gearbox include "gears that have been reinforced and a few extra clutch plates," among other changes. Unfortunately, there are no paddle shifters, as the 500's steering wheel was not designed to accommodate them, but at least there's a +/- manual gate on the gearshift lever.

Interestingly, the automatic brings with it substantially different power numbers than its manual counterpart. The new model receives 157 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque, which is 3 horsepower less than the manual, yet it packs a whopping 13 pound-feet more torque, which should aid drivability. By comparison, the five-speed manual 2015 Abarth registers 160 hp and up to 170 lb-ft. New features that come with the auto include a dedicated sport mode, rev-matched downshifts, fuel-cut upshifts, shift logic that holds gears in corners and 'fast-off' situations, along with sharper throttle tuning. Despite the added torque, Singer admits that "The manual will probably be a tiny bit quicker as far as performance goes," but she is confident that the transmission's availability will open the car up to a much broader market of buyers.

Ariel Gavilan, Head of Communications for Fiat North America, concurs, telling Autoblog, "There are some young kids who might not know how to drive a manual... yet [with the automatic] they still won't miss the essence of Abarth." That widened appeal should help improve Abarth sales, which are already on a solid upswing, with sales up 16 percent year-to-date through the end of May, according to Gavilan.

​All 2015 model-year 500s feature a new seven-inch screen (like that of the battery-powered 500e) that replaces the analog gauges in last year's instrument cluster, among other minor changes.

2015 500 Abarth models in both hardtop and convertible bodystyles have begun rolling off the line at Fiat's Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico as you read this, and production of the first auto-equipped 500 Turbo models (which share the Abarth's powertrain without most of its visual upgrades and hardcore suspension) are also getting underway.


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  • 48 Comments
      Bill Burke
      • 6 Months Ago
      The 500 is an example of the difficult transition that some European cars face when coming to America. Although the Fiat commercial of diving into the Atlantic and swimming Fiats emerging from the ocean to the U.S. shore is one of the best I've seen, it's not that easy. When I travel in Europe, I just don't relate to the average vehicle. It's a whole different and deeply held mind set. That mind set makes it difficult, in this case for Fiat, to see the difficulty in wide spread acceptance of the oh so cute 500 and the added limitations of manual transmission cars in the states. Couple that with just one model, the 500 at initial launch, and the Fiat brand has an uphill climb. The Abarth has been wildly successful in self imposed limited numbers, and the automatic will be well received by Americans. Just a matter of acculturation.
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Bill Burke
        With that said, and as a 500 owner myself, I'm ready for some French hatchbacks.
      Anj
      • 6 Months Ago
      I thought that the world was coming to an end when Ferrari stopped offering manual transmissions and if you want a 911 turbo or GT3 you have to take an automatic. But those cars don't bother me as much as an auto Abarth does because I can't afford them. The Abarth, I can afford and the thought of going to a dealer and not finding a manual in their inventory disgusts me. IMO, some cars should never be equipped with automatic transmissions - Miata, WRX, STI, EVO, Civic Si, Mustang GT(yeah, I believe the GT should not have an option for an auto), GTI, Golf R & BMW's M's.
        Anj
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Anj
        Oh, and Fords ST's.
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Anj
        Yet, what would those of us who never had the opportunity to learn to drive a manual do?
          IBx27
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          Suck it up and learn. It's the easiest thing in the world if you even have a teaspoon of octane in your blood.
          BG
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          If you are near a major urban area, there is surely a professional driving school that could teach you in 8 or 16 hours of training in one of their vehicles. That is how my wife learned to use manual 30 years ago and has not touched automatic since then (except in rentals, of course).
          Mike Pulsifer
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          Well, IBx27, how would someone with a busy schedule and no manual car do that?
          Mike Pulsifer
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          Well, IBx27, how would someone with a busy schedule and no manual car do that?
      Jim
      • 3 Months Ago

      Test drove it today at the NMB Fiat studio. Sounds great and runs strong and peppy. My biggest gripes about the Abarth or any of the Fiat 500's including the L is they can't or haven't realized the hood seams are a sloppy fit with the fenders. My God, they want $ 30+K for a car that on the showroom floor has such a glaringly poor fit, that it seems that every vehicle has been in a major front end collision. And the new instrument cluster is a fine upgrade to all digital, but the illumination doesn't match. The instrument cluster is a cool white/blue, but the radio, transmission shifter and ac controls are the same orange that it's been since 2012. For a vehicle that has color matching as a theme for every aspect of the car, this illumination mismatch screams of your first 10-12 year old high school ride, working a minimum wage job in the 1970's and you put an aftermarket am/fm cassette player in it with beats ? I told the salesman this, basically telling him it was an embarrassment and that it was absurd to pay $ 30+K for a vehicle that was that deficient. Needless to say, I did not purchase one and until they get this straightened out, I simply won't buy one in the future either.

      IBx27
      • 6 Months Ago
      Die in a fire. When you saw an Abarth, you used to know it was manual, you knew the owner was a car guy or girl, you knew they loved driving. Now when you see one, you have to wonder if it's just another disposable barbiemobile, where anyone can buy it purely because it's the more expensive trim level, where anyone can drive it without knowing how to connect with a car, and where everyone take a turn at pissing on Karl Abarth's grave.
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @IBx27
        >baawwwwwwww It'll guarantee we get the next one. Look at it that way. Driving a manual doesn't make you any more of a man, nor does it make your penis bigger.
          Feurig
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          I don't think he was contending that there is penis growth or manliness. He even includes girls when he says "car guy or girl." I agree with him. Manual-only trims are great because when you see them, you know the driver picked that vehicle for that driving enjoyment and connection to the aspect of driving. Automatic transmissions dilute that feeling no matter how much you argue otherwise (even if it's a Ferrari).
          carguy1701
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          Also, one can enjoy driving without using stick.
          Feurig
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          I don't think he was contending that there is penis growth or manliness. He even includes girls when he says "car guy or girl." I agree with him. Manual-only trims are great because when you see them, you know the driver picked that vehicle for that driving enjoyment and connection to the aspect of driving. Automatic transmissions dilute that feeling no matter how much you argue otherwise (even if it's a Ferrari).
      Vassilis Alex
      • 6 Months Ago
      A great example of USA killing hot-hatches. If people don't know how to drive a manual they should learn. It's not that difficult.
        PJPHughes1
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Vassilis Alex
        I totally agree with you, but Fiat has to appeal to a wider audience to increase the number of car sales. Sadly, that means catering to the 93 percent of the US that prefers an automatic transmission. The US has always been so heavily automatic tranny dominated...although I do remember the days of 5 speeds in Honda Accords, Pontiac Grand Am's, and many other standard family cars...
          Vassilis Alex
          • 6 Months Ago
          @PJPHughes1
          I understand that but it's just sad. Especially when it's done for an Abarth model.
        mmmoose
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Vassilis Alex
        Yes, because EVERYONE who drives an automatic must not know how to drive properly, right? Let's completely forget enthusiasts who may have had injuries leading to lifelong health issues like sciatica. Or war veterans who weren't fortunate enough to come back completely unharmed. Or people who live in regions with tons of steep hills and lots of traffic. Or heaven forbid some people just want to kick back on longer trips without completely giving up the ownership experience of a fun sport trim car. There's nothing wrong with giving cars the OPTION of having an automatic transmission (ideally dual clutch). I'm personally 100% all for saving the manual transmission. I just wish the elitist and douchey attitude among that crowd would die out already and become more tolerant. Some of us recognize that owning and driving cars is still a fun and wonderful experience despite personal transmission choice.
          Ducman69
          • 6 Months Ago
          @mmmoose
          Please, the number of war veterans that lost a limb compared to the number of sales make up automatic purchases is completely divorced. Only around 6% of vehicles now ship with manual transmissions, and 94% of the country isn't handicapped... *rolleyes*
          Vassilis Alex
          • 6 Months Ago
          @mmmoose
          Nothing wrong with giving cars the option of an automatic transmission but there are many things wrong with giving hot hatches the option of an automatic transmission and especially when that one just ruins the car. The 500 Abarth has a certain character that the auto trans. ruins. If people want/need to drive automatics they should by all means. There are other models for that purpose though. Also, manual trans. aren't only for fun. They give you options the autos don't.
        Love Great Danes
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Vassilis Alex
        Best thing my father did was have me buy a manual Dodge Shadow America for my first car. I asked what the 3rd pedal was for and his reply was "you have the weekend to figure it out before going back to work on Monday" LOL
        RG1527
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Vassilis Alex
        I can drive a manual but if my daily commute involved tons of crawling/city/stop and go traffic I would take an automatic. Nothing on this earth is worse than being stuck in traffic moving along at a leisurely 0 to 5 mph for an extended period of time in a manual trans car.
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Vassilis Alex
        Tell me, oh wise sage, how may I learn to drive a manual? (I actually do want to learn)
          Vassilis Alex
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          A good driving school or a friend or relative who already knows how.
      carguy1701
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm surprised they didn't use the DCT from the 500L. Would have made more sense IMO, given the character of the Abarth. Anyway, it'll bring more customers in. Now can they do something about teh crappy interior materials?
      Jameskey
      • 6 Months Ago
      All for this even though I am a Manual snob- choice is good!
      Len Feldman
      • 6 Months Ago
      With all due respect, this was a long-overdue move by Fiat. There are a lot of people who can't drive a manual or (like me) are uncomfortable driving a manual in hilly country, like the San Francisco Bay Area. (Please post your denigrating remarks below.) Fiat either badly misread the U.S. market or was arrogant enough to believe that people would buy whatever it sold, either of which would explain why when the Dodge Dart initially shipped, it only came with a manual. True, no "real sports car driver" would buy an Abarth 500 with an automatic, but there are many people who would love an Abarth 500 with an automatic and don't care what other drivers think.
        IBx27
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Len Feldman
        Suck it up, hill starts are easy after half a week of learning to drive a real car.
        Vassilis Alex
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Len Feldman
        Handbrake, clutch, throttle, release clutch, you feel the car moving forward, release handbrake and you're good to go.
      Andrew Zotos Breslin
      • 6 Months Ago
      #blasphemy
      Rr778
      • 6 Months Ago
      Makes sense. BMW sells more auto m cars then manuals Same with corvettes and mustangs. You have to sell what the masses want to buy.
        Susan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Rr778
        Corvettes have traditionally been mostly-automatic highway cruisers. But poor BMW has really slid down the suburban comfort prestige slope - profitable, certainly, but not the customer base that appreciated it 15 or 20 years ago.
        r_dezi
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Rr778
        Even in Europe where over 90% of the people drive manual transmissions, the automatic is gaining in popularity.
      alexgts6
      • 6 Months Ago
      At least they got the -/+ orientation correct!
      Can Of Minus
      • 6 Months Ago
      Unfortunately, there are no paddle shifters, as the 500's steering wheel was not designed to accommodate them, but at least there's a +/- manual gate on the gearshift lever." Except, that the EURO Abarth that comes with an automated manual DOES come with paddle shifters, so there is steering wheels already made with them. Also, where the radio controls sit behind the steering wheel is the same location as the paddle shifters in my 2008 R32.
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