Abarth EsseEsse 500c 2014 review

Abarth EsseEsse 500c 2014 review

Abarth 3I knew I looked a little odd in the Fiat 500 from the moment I picked it up. I am six foot and sized like a long-retired prop. In a car the size of a small picnic table, that leaves me hanging out the seams.

The amusing look hit me when another journalist decided it would be a wonderful idea to take a picture of me in it – and not for genuine editorial reasons.

I did not care.

It may be small, it may be flawed, but the Abarth 500c Abarth 6EsseEsse (don’t call it a Fiat) is fantastic, fast and fun.

The essence of the EsseEsse is a turbocharged version of the companies 1.4 litre 16v turbocharged four, delivering 118kW of power and a solid 230Nm of torque. That is not a massive tally for a sports car, but the Abarth is a relative featherweight at 1035kg – meaning a 7.4 second run to 100km/h.

There are two transmission options, both five-speed manuals – the difference being one runs the ‘Dualogic’ Abarth 7system – automated with shift paddles on the steering wheel and buttons where the transmission stick would be to select park, reverse, and so fourth.

The Dualogic is a blessing and a curse. It is quick to shift, generally, but at times can be a little slow to do its thing. Pick the wrong time to turn across traffic and you may find yourself waiting mid-maneuver for second gear to kick in.

The car has another transmission trick, a Torque Transfer Control designed to distribute torque where needed to help with traction. It has not solved the problem entirely, and you will find the 500 scrabbling for grip and the sculpted, leather sports wheel shimmying in your hand. It is fun!

There are options for overall power delivery, with all the boost only available in a ‘Sport’ mode. There is quite a difference between the two, and while most of the time I enjoyed the full margarita pizza, around town the less peaky standard setting made for an easier drive.

The chassis may be small but it is full of fun. It is firm, but Abarth 1despite the short wheelbase it does not pitch and rides surprisingly well. The forged 17-inch wheels look great too. Combined with direct steering the Italian is eminently checkable. Grin factor 10.

Of course one of the big appeals of the ‘c’ is that the roof can slide back, folding itself down above the small but useful boot. It can do this at the touch, and hold, of a button, even while the vehicle is moving. It is not a full convertible, but is more than enough to get you sunburnt. It also means you can hear the exhausts town and the whirrs and whooshes of the turbo.

Inside, the usual 500 deal is enhanced with leather sports seats, which despite the size of the car, are supportive yet accommodating for non-mini(sized) people. They feature racing-style ports for a harness. The Abarth steering wheel shares the same chic stitching, along with the brand’s scorpion motif.

Air-conditioning is climate controlled, and the CD stereo has wheel controls, usb and auxiliary input. Fiat’s Blue and Me controls the systems settings and Bluetooth functions well enough, but it is a little slow to work through processes initially.

At $42,990 the Abarth is a cool little performance package. You can get most of the package for around $20k with an entry level 500 if you are looking for a day-to-day ride. The Abarth brings a load more fun, power, style…

And a giant grin.

Price $42,990

Pros

  • A huge amount of fun, even standing still
  • Great little chassis and direct steering
  • Comfortable and supportive front seats
Cons
  • Forget the rear seat, no room
  • Rearward visibility zero with the roof down
  • Boot is small, access to it even smaller
Specifications
Engine 1.4L 4-cylinder In-line Petrol, 16V, turbocharged
Maximum Power – 118kW @ 5500rpm,
Maximum Torque –  Normal 201Nm @ 2750rpm, Sport 230Nm @ 2750rpm.
Fuel consumption – Combined 6.5L/100km, CO2 155g/km.
Exhaust Emission standard – Euro 5
Transmission 5-speed manual, automatic shift with paddles, front wheel drive, TTC Torque Transfer Control.
 Performance: Top speed 209km/h, 0-100 in 7.6s.
Safety
 Safety rating – 5-Star Euro NCAP rating
 Equipment – Seven airbags. ABS with EBD & Hydraulic Brake Assist. . ESP with ASR Anti-Slip Regulation.
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