Grins are hard to come by these days, but spend some time in the Abarth 500C and it is hard not to smile.
Inside & Out: 8/10
We have already driven the Abarth 500 and it was a real giggle. So the idea of turning it into a convertible version seemed like a natural follow-on. We have been here before with the likes of MINI, who, despite making its Convertible quite quick in Cooper S guise, still ruined the car by chopping off the metal roof.
This wasn't ever going to be the case with the Abarth because, while you can expose this car to the open air, the fact that the ragtop is little more than a very large sunroof means you retain most of the car's structural rigidity so it remains brilliant to drive.
Plus, being an Abarth it looks pretty darn good. There was a two-tone paint job on the version we tested and sitting as it does on those stunning alloy wheels it looks like a slightly rabid lap dog.
You feel very close to the action in the Abarth, with a cosy cabin that still manages to accommodate a generously dimensioned fella like me. The detailing throughout the interior is really first class with plenty of Abarth badging and finery so you do feel like you have spent your money wisely.
Engine & Transmission: 8/10
Under the bonnet is the same 135hp 1.4-litre turbo engine that you will find on the hard top Abarth 500 and you can of course boost this up to 157hp with the steroidal esseesse upgrade pack.
This Abarth gets the new 'Competizione' gearbox, which comes as standard on the 500C. It is an automated manual with no clutch pedal and a pair of paddle shifters mounted on the steering column.
It can take a little getting used to in slow speed manoevures as you need to select first gear, neutral and reverse via buttons on the centre console, but you can then run the car as an automatic or change gears manually via the steering wheel paddles. These are a little on the jerky side on the upshift if you keep your foot planted, but lift your foot for a nanosecond on changes and they are better. Alfa's new Twin Clutch Transmission would be a welcome addition here.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
The ride is most certainly on the firm side, but then you would expect this, but it is apparently a little softer than on the tin top version, because Fiat reckons that this Abarth might actually appeal to women - and won't just be a plaything for young thrusting males. It certainly isn't as hard-edged as we expected and your fillings will remain in place.
This car is very good at being pushed hard on a back road. It is a proper little go-kart and seriously talented. The gearbox works much better on downshifts and you can have quite a bit of fun snarling down through the gearbox and feeling the rear wheel of the car cock in a tight bend. It is a delightfully mischievous car.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 7/10
It is still a little tricky to talk about price for Abarth models in Ireland, because without a dedicated dealer and the associated economies of scale these cars are only being brought in by Fiat Ireland on an individual basis and to encourage interest in the range. So, while this 500C might currently cost somewhere in and around €25,000 now, this could drop to more like €23,000 in 12 months time.
Standard equipment is generous with items like air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric roof and the automatic box with paddle shifters all thrown in.
Taking away the Abarth's roof hasn't made it any less fun to drive. This is still a great laugh, although we do prefer it with the manual gearbox from the hardtop version.
- Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
- Maximum power: 135hp at 5,500rpm
- Maximum torque: 206Nm at 3,000rpm
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 7.9 seconds
- Maximum speed: 205km/h
- Fuel economy (combined cycle): 6.5 litres/100km (43.4)
- CO2 emissions: 155g/km
- Motor tax band: C
- Annual road tax: €302
- Retail price: Official price of test car without options is circa €25,000