Were you thinking that a high-performance, Abarth variant of the Fiat 500 might render the 500 Sport model superfluous? Yeah, so were we. But we wanted to withhold judgement until we had a chance to drive the Abarth and the 500 Sport back-to-back. Now we have, and opinions are divided.
Rusty Blackwell, copy editor: "The Abarth makes me less enamored of the 500 Sport. The Abarth's shift action is less floppy, its steering feel is nicer, and it offers more driving character. Our 500 looks cool but feels fairly normal from behind the wheel; the Abarth feels as special as it looks."
Eric Tingwall, senior editor: "The Abarth injects some much-needed testosterone into the 500. The exhaust note and extra thrust are enough to make you forget you're flogging one of America's smallest cars. Unfortunately, the Abarth doesn't address the upright seating position and non-telescoping steering column, both of which we've complained about in our Fiat."
Phil Floraday, senior web editor: "That Abarth is a riot, except for the fact that I hate the seating position. The Sport has the same god-awful seating position but no turbocharged engine to make up for it."
Jennifer Misaros, managing editor, digital platforms: "I really wanted to like the Abarth, but despite an increase in power and attitude -- both visual and audible -- the sporty little Fiat is ultimately let down by the dynamic and ergonomic shortcomings of the 500 on which it's based. I expected that the little Italian's wonky seating position was a quirk that couldn't be fixed, but I was hoping that the performance-oriented folks at Abarth would breathe some more life into the uncommunicative steering and uninvolving shifter. Honestly, I would rather drive the 500 Sport."
Ben Timmins, associate online editor: "My night in the Abarth was a laugh. Getting back into our long-term 500, though, I expected to be disappointed. Imagine my surprise when I wasn't -- the Fiat 500 Sport is still pretty good."
Evan McCausland, associate online editor: "When I'm in the normally aspirated 500, I miss the power, the noise, and the grip of the Abarth. But it's still possible to have fun in our Four Seasons car. I enjoy wringing the little thing out on winding back roads. What's that overused adage about driving a slow car fast? It kind of rings true here."
David Zenlea, assistant editor: "The 500 Abarth highlights what is missing from our long-term 500 Sport. Specifically, the Abarth treatment cleans up much of the 500's handling sloppiness, giving the little car the sort of go-kart feel I expected to begin with. The Abarth shifter also seemed a bit smoother, though it still isn't nearly as precise as I'd like. That said, I'm not so sure I'd be willing to plunk down the extra $3000 for the hotter 500. With a sub-20k window sticker, the Sport qualifies in my mind as a deal. With the Abarth surcharge, 500 suddenly finds itself within spitting distance of serious performers like the Volkswagen GTI."