We’re not ready to say goodbye to this cutie pie.
Even though it was Jennifer Lopez tooling down the block in the first Fiat 500 to return to the US market, and she looked great in it, I knew: this car wasn’t for me. Too small. Too unique. Too European. Oh, how life changes.
Back then I couldn’t imagine anything without a third row, room for the Costco haul and able to bound snow drifts in a single acceleration.
Fast forward a *few* years and I’m the one tooling around town on my own, gleefully running errands and catching up with friends while those people who used to occupy my backseat are out on their own. I no longer need to take care of their needs; they’ll take care of theirs, I’ll take care of mine and we’ll meet up at dinner.
That means I have new freedom in the car I choose to drive. I can pick fun, sporty, small, agile—whatever I like. The Fiat 500, which leaves the US market when they are sold out (though the 4 door 500L and all wheel drive 500X will still be sold here), lets me channel my inner Jenny From the Block.
This Car is Flat Out Fun To Drive
Now I see what JLo was smiling about. The Fiat 500 two-door coupe is super fun to drive. It’s not overly powerful, about 135 horsepower in the standard model, 160 horsepower in the Abarth edition, which is plenty to accelerate in traffic, merge onto the highway and take every curve and hill with gusto just to make you smile.
The Abarth edition we drove (pronounce it Ah-BART and earn the respect of aficionados) is a heritage edition designed for the track; it has more power, tighter suspension and steering and is even more fun to drive than the standard Fiat 500.
I found it perfect for driving around my suburban neighborhood which is a mix of tight parking lots, parking decks and narrow roads. It was easy to manage in traffic and very easy to park.
On the highway I did find the Fiat 500 to be a bit noisy. We took a long drive to New Jersey one evening; the Fiat’s size and structure (perhaps not as well insulated as more expensive cars?) were no match for the bumpy, pot-holed roads of the New Jersey Turnpike. We could feel all the bumps and hear the roar of traffic around us.
Cute Looks Accented by Heritage Details
The Fiat is a cutie, no doubt. Part of its visual charm is the reinvention of literally everything in this car; nothing is ‘standard’ but it has everything you need. From the rounded controls to the clever placement of the cup holders (on the floor between the seats) to the USB ports (also on the floor between the seats) and manual screen that pulls across the sunroof, all the functions inside the cabin have been rethought for convenience as well as aesthetics. I loved discovering each detail.
The Abarth heritage is identifiable by a badge on the outside and more inside the car, but it comes at a $2,000 premium for the souped up engine and drive experience. To make it look the part, the model we test drove had red leather Abarth race seats ($1,195), 17” wheels ($1,395), a Beats sound system ($695) and an automatic transmission ($995) which honestly, I’d skip.
Related: Why Correct Driving Position Matters: Driving Safety Lessons From Fiat and Skip Barber Racing School
A Tiny Car, But With More Space Than You’d Imagine
I found the flexibility of the interior to be a huge bonus. The rear cargo area has plenty of room for luggage (suitcase + tote) for two people and with a cargo cover that is removable, it’s easy to add more. And, the seats fold down so you can accommodate something larger. It’s not a huge space, mind you—it is a small car after all—but it’s enough to avoid paying shipping charges on a lot of things. Or, to accommodate an irresistible end of year sale, holiday shopping at Target or a closet-cleaning trip to Goodwill.
I also found the diminutive size of the Fiat to be perfect for stowing my handbag. I could pop it onto the back seat and reach it easily when I needed to. The front seats push forward with the pull of a tab, making it easy put my handbag in back. And, if I didn’t have cups or phones to taking up the cupholders between the front seats, my purse sat there easily, too. I like that there were a few convenient places to put it.
Become a Member of the Fiat Club
This is always a delight: To drive a car that comes with a “club.” Every where I went I saw more Fiats, even Abarths, and their owners and I exchanged knowing glances, smiled, even talked about our cars. And, I was delighted that all the owners I met during my week of test driving the Fiat were women. Outside the pharmacy I ran into two high school girls proudly parking a white Abarth. And, a blue Fiat 500 parked next to my Abarth at the nail salon. Birds of a feather… as they say.
At a starting price of about $18,000 (the fully loaded Abarth we drove had an all in price of $28,000, including delivery), and at a used price of $5,000-$7,000+ depending on options, mileage and year.
But get it while you can. With the 2019 model year, Fiat 500 two-door coupes will no longer be sold in the US, though the 500X four door SUV and the 500L will continue to be sold. While they are still a great car for around town—and can accommodate those back seat passengers and the 500X can bound over a snowbank in a single acceleration— the Fiat 500 is great for around town, as a starter car or as a downsizing option. And, you won’t be compromising the fun factor. This little cutie is simply a delight to drive.
What We Listened to in the Fiat 500 Abarth
Time by yourself, aided by a premium Beats sound system, inspires some great tunes. This is what I listened to during my test drive, and it sounded great.
Disclosure: Fiat provided the 500 Abarth for our test drive; all opinions are my own.