Fiat's revival of the Abarth name in 2008 followed historical precedent by using the contemporary 500 as the base for a much hotter model. The resulting Abarth 500 upped the performance and dynamics of the cutesy retro city car considerably and it found favour with plenty of buyers.
When first launched, the Abarth 500 used a 135hp version of Fiat's 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine. When Sport mode was engaged, it also served up 152lb ft of torque at 3,000rpm, so the espresso-sized Italian felt quicker than its 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds. Top speed was 129mph, which isn't much to write home to mamma about, but the Abarth was much more about nimbleness than outright
The firm ride didn't please every road tester at the time and it's worth trying the car on a variety of roads to make sure you can live with it today. If you can, you'll find the Abarth is agile and still copes with most bumps well. The steering is electrically assisted and doesn't offer as much feel as a Ford Fiesta ST's, but there's a Sport button on the dash that adds some extra weight when pressing on.
As for the engine, its 135hp is enough to make the most of the five-speed manual that was standard when the car was launched. As it's turbocharged, it rewards the driver who changes up well before the red line is reached.
For those seeking more performance, Abarth offered the Esseesse kit with full warranty on cars that were converted new or up to a year old. The kit came with a remapped ECU chip and free-flow air filter to increase power to 160hp, while torque jumped to 170lb ft. This saw the 0-62mph time drop by half a second to 7.4 seconds.
A less welcome effect of the Esseesse kit was the firmer, lower suspension that made the ride too firm for most UK roads. However the 17-inch wheels and cross-drilled brakes added to the driving experience. One way to get around the ride issue is to simply go for an engine remap that takes the motor to 170hp and costs around £300 versus the original Esseesse kit's £2,500.
Fiat recognised customer demand for quicker versions of the Abarth 500, as well convertible versions of the hatch models. The 595 came in 140hp Turismo and 160hp Competizione versions, while the 695 took power to 190hp and dropped the 0-62mph dash to 5.9 seconds.
Prices for the standard Abarth 500 kick off at around £5,000 for tidy, average miles examples, while the Esseesse goes from £7,500 for well cared for cars.
Door handles can become loose.
Check the washer jets work properly.
Many Abarths are festooned with graphics, so make sure you can live with their looks and also check they're securely attached to the bodywork.
Interiors are hard-wearing but rear seats are cramped even for children.
Fiat's Blue&Me infotainment system would not work with iPhones in earlier cars but this can be solved with an adapter.
Check around the tailgate to see if there's any chafing to the wiring.
The official service interval is 18,000 miles but specialists recommend changing the oil at 9,000 miles to protect both the engine and turbocharger. A minor service comes in at around £120 and a major one costs around £300.
Remaps are popular and can easily take the 500 to 170hp without any stress on the engine. Further increases are possible to 190hp, but that will then require changes to the brakes and suspension to cope.
Both manual and MTA automated manual gearboxes are strong and trouble-free. Clutches are long-lasting and a new one is £200 plus fitting.
Cambelt replacement needed at five years or 75,000 miles and will cost around £250 at an independent garage.
Droplinks wear out and make a knocking noise over bumps. Replacements are cheap and easy to install either for the keen DIY owner or a mechanic.
When changing suspension components, make sure you order the correct parts as there are differences between standard, Esseesse and limited edition model versions.
Inspect the strut tops for any signs of rust.
A set of new tyres will be around £400 for all four. Check for wear on the inner edges of the front tyres.
The Abarth is easy on brakes. New front discs are £150 for a pair and pads costs £80.
SPECIFICATION - ABARTH 500
Engine: 1,368cc inline 4-cyl T
Transmission: 5-speed man
Torque(lb ft): 152@3,000rpm
Price new: £13,600
Price now: £5,000 upwards
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