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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2015 Fiat 500C Abarth

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      Driving a drop top during a frigid week


    Every automotive writer has a wish list of absurd ideas they would like to do. I have been very lucky to cross one of those items off my list - driving a $130,000+ vehicle for a week. A couple weeks back I was able to cross another item off that list: Driving a open-top vehicle in the winter. What vehicle afforded me the chance to accomplish this wish? It happens to be one of the smallest and sportiest open-top vehicles on sale today; the 2015 Fiat 500C Abarth.

    The Fiat 500 is one of the most iconic designs in the automotive world with its short and rounded shape that offered enough space for a small family, while having a price tag that everyone could afford. When it came to designing the new 500, designers took the basic shape and gave it a bit of a modern twist. The new 500 is slightly large, but retains the short front end and rounded cabin area. Abarth models give the 500 some attitude with a 0.7-inch suspension drop, Abarth badging on the front and rear; stripes running along the bottom edge of the doors, new wheels with a red scorpion cap, and a rear diffuser.

    Now this being the 500C, Fiat did something clever with the transition to a convertible. Instead of hacking off all of the roof, Fiat left the roof rails in place and installed a canvas top. By leaving the roof rails, it allows the 500C to retain a fair bit of structural integrity without fully resorting to adding rigidity towards to the bottom of the vehicle. Now the canvas top allows the driver to have it open in various positions such as a panoramic sunroof to fully open. The downside is when the top is fully open, it scrunches up at the bottom and causes a major blind spot to appear. I wish Fiat could figure out a way to stow away the top or at least offer a backup camera and blind spot monitoring. During my testing, the Detroit area had some of coldest temperatures with lows dipping into -20F. I was worried that the canvas top would make the week unbearable, but the top was able to retain the heat and make it a pleasant place to be in.

    The Abarth’s interior is very much full of sporting intentions paired with a bit of retro styling. The dash boasts a large piece of grey plastic with the 500C name on the passenger side to evoke the 500’s past when the dashboard was metal. This is paired with such details as sport seats wrapped in black cloth and a new steering wheel with stitching. Seats are mostly comfortable and provide excellent support in enthusiastic driving. Oddly, the seating position has you feeling like you’re sitting on a stool. I thought the seating position worked, while others complain about it. Your opinion may vary on this. Even though the 500 has seating for four, it's best to think to think of it as a two-seater as there is no legroom.

    2015 Fiat 500C Abarth 12

    My test Abarth came with equipped the Beats audio system. The optional system includes six-speakers, an eight-inch subwoofer, and a new amplifier. The optional system is impressive with providing excellent sound no matter what I played through it. I wished Fiat could have done a little bit more sound deadening so I didn’t have the volume up as much to try and drown out wind and road noise. The Abarth also included an optional TomTom navigation system. While it might look a little out of place, I have to give Fiat credit for hiding the power cable and other bits inside the dash.

    See the next page for thoughts on powertrain and driving experience.


    Powering the Abarth is a turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder with 157 horsepower and 183 pound-feet of torque (or 170 pound-feet when equipped with the manual). My tester was fitted with the optional six-speed automatic, while a five-speed manual is standard. Start the 500C Abarth up and you’ll be inundated with one of the sweetest engine sounds on sale. With cracking and popping, this engine is a joy to work. Aside from the sweet noises, the engine is quite spunky. Power comes on fast and gets the Abarth moving at a decent clip. The six-speed automatic provides crisp shifts, though I found the shift logic a bit wonky as it tended to hold gears slightly longer than I was expecting. Fuel economy is rated at 24 City/32 Highway/27 combined. My week saw an average of 26 MPG.

    Out on the curvy bits, the Abarth shows off what it can do. The stiff suspension provides excellent body control and doesn’t make your passengers feel sick. Now the Abarth is a little bit twitchy due to the suspension and small tires, but it is easily controllable thanks to the engine and steering which possesses good weight. I did wish the steering had a little bit more feel. You might think the stiff suspension would make the ride unbearable, but the Abarth isn’t that unpleasant. The ride is bouncy, but you don’t feel like your spine is being shaken out. This may get old if you decide to take a long trip, along with loud exhaust that provides those sweet engine notes. I wonder if Fiat could look into a dual-mode exhaust into cutting back the noise for those times when need it.

    2015 Fiat 500C Abarth 10

    Despite the cold weather, the Fiat 500C Abarth proved to be amazing vehicle. Its has the looks and engine note to get noticed. Plus the handling and performance that can give you a big grin. Some may wish the 500 Abarth was a little bit more button down like the MINI Cooper in corners, but I think it would take away something from the model - its character. Few can match the 500C Abarth for driving fun and noise - even when its 20 below outside.

    Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500C Abarth, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2015

    Make: Fiat

    Model: 500C

    Trim: Abarth

    Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged, MultiAir SOHC Four-Cylinder

    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 157 @ 5,500

    Torque @ RPM: 183 @ 2,400 - 4,000

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/32/27

    Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico

    Base Price: $26,395

    As Tested Price: $32,045 (Includes $850.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    Heavy-Duty Six-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,350.00

    Comfort/Convenience Group - $900.00

    Beats Audio Package - $700.00

    TomTom Navigation with BLUE&ME - $600.00

    16-Inch Aluminum Wheels - $550.00

    Black Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe - $450.00

    Black Trimmed Lights - $250.00

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    It would seem on initial go over that Abarth put quality into the auto that Fiat clearly is lacking. Now to see just how long these last. A coworker has one of these at work and at 27K miles it is shooting blue smoke. He as an appointment to go into the dealership about the blue smoke.

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    50 degrees is about my lower limit to put the top down.... but that's with the windows up, gloves and 180s on, and the heat on.

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    Changed the pic:

     

    1950NashRamblerConvertible-a3.jpg

     

    In retrospect, ^ this move is generally seen as 'cheaping out' vs. a true convertible. :shrug:
    Note that somehow Rambler figured out how to do a properly stowed top 65 years ago. Good luck, fiat, open a book once in a while.

     

    - - - - -

    Curious as to the definition of "small family" because the fiat lends new dimension to the descriptor "tight" WRT interior room. Packaging is good, but who cares about exterior relative size when you are eating your kneecaps in the back seat.

    Edited by balthazar

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    Around here in Seattle plenty of Horror stories about the 500. Mostly a lemon from the first day of purchase. Around Seattle you can find plenty of used Fiat 500 all with milage below 10K for around 10K in price and if you go to the 500L you can find them below 10K around the 12-15K price.

     

    You have to ask when you see so many low mileage cars priced so low. What is the common denominator.  

     

    Clicked on a few that had free carfax reports and the one thing I noticed is they all spent considerable time in the shop being repaired. Not good for reliability.

     

    Balthazar the pic loads for me but is a black pick with faint white outline of the auto.

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    Wow that fiat actually looks relatively sporty and pretty nice! I haven't thought of Fiat as very sporty cars compared to the past, but I guess they have kind of held under their own now! I kind of like the styling of the 500c Arbarth, it reminds me of a volkswagen beetle, but without the overall uncormfortable aspect of it. Nice review and keep them comming!

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    Changed the pic:

     

    1950NashRamblerConvertible-a3.jpg

     

    In retrospect, ^ this move is generally seen as 'cheaping out' vs. a true convertible. :shrug:

    Note that somehow Rambler figured out how to do a properly stowed top 65 years ago. Good luck, fiat, open a book once in a while.

     

    - - - - -

    Curious as to the definition of "small family" because the fiat lends new dimension to the descriptor "tight" WRT interior room. Packaging is good, but who cares about exterior relative size when you are eating your kneecaps in the back seat.

     

    The Fiat 500 doesn't have a trunk, it is basically a 1-box design. 

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      Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/29/27
      Curb Weight: 3,276 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $29,150
      As Tested Price: $ 30,380 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
    • By William Maley
      For the past decade, Acura has felt lost at sea. Not sure of what it wanted to be as a brand. This was shown by mixed messaging in their lineup as they weren’t sure to focus on luxury, technology, or sport. This muddled mess of identities would cause a fair amount of issues. But in the past couple of years, Acura started to get its act together thanks in part to new leadership. The first fruits of their efforts came last year in the form of the third-generation RDX. 
      It has been over two years since I last drove an Acura, so when the opportunity for an RDX A-Spec landed on my desk, I took it with both hands. It was time to see what Acura has been up to and if they’re taking a step in the right direction. 
      You Want Presence? You Got It!
      The RDX is the first production model to feature Acura’s newest design language and its no shrinking violet. The front end draws your attention with a large trapezoidal grille paired with a massive Acura emblem. Sitting on either side is Acura’s Jewel-Eye LED headlights that add a distinctive touch. My A-Spec tester takes it further with distinctive front and rear bumpers, 20-inch alloy wheels finished in black, and a special Apex Blue Pearl color that is only available on this trim. This crossover garnered a lot of looks during the week I had, something I hadn’t experience in quite some time.
      Cozy, Polarizing Interior
      The RDX’s interior captures the feeling of being in a sports car with a symmetrical dashboard design that cocoons the front passengers. A rotary drive-mode selector found in the center stack echos the design found in the NSX supercar. While it does emphasize the sporty nature of the vehicle, the position of the knob does make the climate controls a bit hard to reach. A-Spec models have some special touches such as red contrast stitching, a suede panel on the passenger side of the dashboard, and new trim for the instrument cluster that help it stand out. Material and build quality are quite close to some competitors from Germany.
      A set of sport seats with increased bolstering and power adjustments come standard on the A-Spec. I found them to be quite comfortable for any trip length and were able to hold me if I decided to be a bit enthusiastic. Back seat passengers will be plenty comfortable with an abundance of head and legroom. I would have like to see the back seat be able to slide forward and back to offer more comfort. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 29.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 58.9 when folded. There’s also a little storage nook under the cargo floor to stash valuables.
      Intuitive Infotainment?
      Acura’s previous infotainment system drew a lot of ire from people. The dual-screen layout was confusing as some functions were split between the two screens such as changing the audio input. Not helping was the two different control methods for this setup; touchscreen for the bottom portion and a controller for the top screen. Thankfully, Acura has introduced a new infotainment system for the RDX. A large 10.2-inch screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled by a touchpad on the center console. Seeing the touchpad for the first time sent chills down my spine as I thought back to my frustrating experiences with Lexus’ Touchpad Controller. But Acura says this controller is much easier and logical to use than competitors. Okay, challenge accepted.
      Acura’s touchpad controller is slightly different from Lexus’ setup as it is mapped to the screen. So if you want to access the navigation, you tap that part of the pad that corresponds to the screen. This removes the dragging of the finger across the touchpad to get it to the selection you want. This seems quite logical on paper, but I found to be somewhat frustrating. It took me a few days to mind-meld with the system as I was still used to dragging my finger across the touchpad to select various functions. This made simple tasks such as changing presets or moving around in Apple CarPlay very tough.
      There is also a smaller touchpad that controls a small section of the screen. This allows you to scroll through three menus - audio, navigation, and clock. This would prove to be the most frustrating aspect of this system as it didn’t always recognize whenever I scroll down on the touchpad to move to another screen.
      Thankfully, Acura has left a number of physical controls for the audio and climate systems. I’m glad that some luxury automakers aren’t falling into the trap.
      Powertrain Goes Back To Its Roots
      The RDX has always found itself with a different powertrain throughout its various generations. The first version used a turbo-four engine, while the second-generation moved to a V6. For the third-generation, Acura went back to the RDX’s roots and settled on another turbo-four engine. The 2.0L engine punches out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic and either front or my tester’s Super-Handling all-wheel drive system.
      The turbo-four is quite a potent engine with little turbo lag when leaving a stop and a seemingly endless amount of power for any situation. The ten-speed automatic is very smooth and quick when upshifting. But it does stumble somewhat when you need a quick shot of speed. 
      I did notice that the 2.0L turbo isn’t a quiet engine when traveling on the expressway, going above 2,000 rpm when traveling at 70 mph. This may explain the slightly disappointing 21.7 mpg average I got during the week. EPA fuel economy figures for the A-Spec SH-AWD are 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. The standard RDX models see a small bump in their EPA fuel economy figures.
      Capable Driver
      Acura is no stranger to building a crossover that is good to drive, the larger MDX crossover is a prime example. But the RDX A-Spec takes that a step further. This version gets a slightly stiffer suspension setup which negates a fair amount of body roll on a winding road. The steering firms up nicely when pushed through corners. When going through the daily grind, the RDX A-Spec will let in a few more bumps and road imperfections due to its suspension tuning. Road and wind noise are kept to very minimal levels.
      Welcome Back Acura
      The 2020 RDX shows that Acura is starting to figure out what it wants to be; a brand that offers something playful in the class. The RDX certainly has the qualities with a bold exterior, punchy turbo-four, and a surprising chassis that offers sporty handling and a mostly-comfortable ride. The slightly-confounding infotainment system and poor fuel economy figures do sour it a bit. But the RDX is a very compelling alternative to many compact luxury crossovers.
      It does give me hope that Acura is figuring out who it wants to be and excited to see what comes down the road such as the new TLX.
      How I Would Configure An RDX: For me, I would basically take the exact RDX tester seen here. That will set me back $47,195 after adding destination and $400.00 paint option. Everyone else should look at the Technology package that will get you most of the safety equipment that is part of Acurawatch, along with a 12-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, and parking sensors. It will not break the bank at $41,000 for FWD or $43,000 for AWD.
      Disclaimer: Acura Provided the RDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Acura
      Model: RDX
      Trim: A-Spec
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VTEC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 6,500
      Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,600 - 4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23
      Curb Weight: 4,015 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: East Liberty, Ohio
      Base Price: $45,800
      As Tested Price: $47,195 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Exterior Color - $400.00

      View full article
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