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To be fair, I only spent a couple of days behind the wheel of a Fiat 500 Sport, but I couldn't help but feel that it left a lot to be desired. I felt like the exterior aesthetics and faux-luxe interior never really resonated and that the overall experience of actually driving the car simply didn't have the premium or sporty feel implied by the name of the car and its advertising campaigns. Not all of us had the same opinion. Editor-in-Chief David Kiley liked the 500 Sport a lot more than I did.

But listening to my colleagues talk about the Fiat 500 Abarth – which employs a supposedly "beastly" 1.4-liter turbocharged engine – and how much fun it is to drive, I decided I was willing to give the Italian automaker another shot. Truth be told, I've been rooting for Chrysler a bit since it went through its 2009 bankruptcy and takeover by Fiat, and hoping that the Italians could make a decent splash here in the U.S. Maybe the Abarth could be the vehicle that accomplishes this feat.

With a week's time at my disposal and a road trip planned to Las Vegas and back, I was ready to put this car through its paces. It wasn't going to be an easy road for this little guy, as it would have to perform through excessive heat, mountains, crumbling roads and my own somewhat vicious driving style. But if this car could champion such a task and truly offer an engaging drive, I was going to be ready to give it my seal of approval.

So how did the Abarth do? Read on to find out.

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How Much?
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How Much?

MSRP: $22,000
Invoice: $21,035

As Tested: $26,700

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Key Stats
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Key Stats

-1.4L turbocharged engine
-160 hp, 170 lb-ft of torque
-5-speed manual transmission
-28 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway
-Seats 4
-34.7 cubic feet max cargo capacity

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The Competition
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The Competition

While the Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark and smart fortwo compete with the 500, the Abarth has no real competitors right now. The closest you're going to get is probably the MINI Cooper S.

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What We Like
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What We Like

Michael: This vehicle actually exceeded the boasting of my friends and colleagues in driving dynamics. The Abarth is one of the most fun-to-drive cars I have had in a while. Even though its stats don't seem all that impressive on paper, believe me when I say that 160 hp is much more than enough to get this pint-sized 2-door going, especially when switching into sport mode, which adjusts the steering and throttle response.

The Abarth loves to be thrown around, beat much bigger displacement cars off of the line and give its drivers a big smile while doing so. With an exhaust note that belongs in a V8 and enough tweaks to the exterior to make it look and sound rather mean, this 500 Abarth is a seriously sporty ride that's going to get your blood moving, I guarantee it.

Autoblog: We have to talk about the most surprising part of the Abarth experience: its exhaust. The little hatch has a loud, deep, throaty growl that sounds classically Italian and even a bit Lamborghini-esque when you really wind it up. It grumbles and gargles at idle, with our co-driver pointing out that it almost sounds like a tractor at times – downright agricultural – and while cruising on the highway, it's quiet and reserved. If the styling is our favorite thing about the Abarth, the exhaust is easily our runner-up.

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What We Don't Like
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What We Don't Like

Michael: While the Abarth never really struggled going to Vegas and back from a mechanical standpoint, I can't say that this is a great car to spend 10 hours in. The car lacks a touchscreen infotainment system, and doesn't handle the bumps on the freeway well. And as much as I love the sound of this engine, the drone can become exhausting. The seats are quite comfortable, but even the bubbly design isn't quite enough to accommodate taller people when it comes to headroom.

Autoblog: The manual shift knob is now wrapped in leather and there are aluminum pedal covers, but that aside, there isn't much to separate this car from the base 500. The plastics on the door and center console feel cheap, and little details like the chrome rings around the window switches and the general feel of the buttons aren't great. Strangely, even though the two companies have only recently partnered up, there's just so much in this Fiat that reminds us of the Old Chrysler. You know, Dodge Caliber Chrysler.

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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

Quick trips are fantastic in the Fiat 500 Abarth, but shortcomings on the interior and some of the characteristics that come from a bigger engine in a small car could make a long commute in this car rather unpleasant.

All in all, I still think this car is a gem. Its driving dynamics are utterly fantastic, it looks much more poised on the road than the 500 Sport and being behind the wheel is just plain fun. High mileage drivers should probably look elsewhere, but for the person looking for a one or two person car with a kick, this should be near the top of your list.

AOL Autos Score:

3.5/5 Stars


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