I recently had the chance to drive a used Fiat 500 Abarth, and it was amazing. It was amazing for two reasons: One was the driving experience, which was just hilariously fun and exciting and truly made me laugh out loud nearly the entire time I had the car. But that’s not the main reason I love this car so much. I love this car so much because of the price.
I specifically sought out a used 500 Abarth on Turo, which is this site that lets you rent other peoples’ cool and interesting cars instead of normal and boring rental cars; you can visit Turo here and get $25 off your first rental. The main reason I wanted a used Abarth is they’re just such insanely incredible deals.
Here’s what I mean: If you go on Autotrader right now and search for 500 Abarth models from 2014 or before, you’ll find an average asking price of just $11,100. If you cap your search at $10,000, you’ll mostly get 2012 and 2013 models (from the Abarth’s first two years on the market), but you’ll find there are 51 examples listed for sale. Many are under $9,000.
Now, if you haven’t driven an Abarth, your first response will be: So what? Nine grand for a used Fiat? But that’s where the other exciting thing about the Abarth comes in: This thing is no used Fiat. It’s one of the most exciting used cars on the market, and quite possibly the most exciting used car you can buy for nine grand.
First, let’s talk about the specs on paper. The Abarth has a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, and it does zero to 60 in roughly 6.9 seconds. It’s not wildly powerful or wildly fast. What it is is wildly exciting, because the 500 Abarth is just 139.6 inches long, making it a foot shorter than a Mini Cooper, which is already about 2 feet shorter than any normal car. The Abarth also has sport suspension and a growly exhaust that has no business being installed in a tiny, little bubble-shaped hatchback.
The result is incredible fun. You can wring out the engine in every single gear, going all the way up to redline with basically every shift, listening to the far-too-loud exhaust and feeling the turbocharger spool up whenever you get above 4,000 rpm. You never have to worry about getting a huge speeding ticket, because the car isn’t really fast enough to get going at crazy speeds; in fact, there are many times when you’ll find yourself keeping pace with a RAV4 or Nissan Rogue from traffic light to traffic light, except you’re having infinitely more fun.
You can also throw it around corners, because the 500 Abarth is unusually light; even though it’s a modern car with all the modern safety features, there’s just not very much of it, and it weighs in at a hair over 2,500 pounds — making it only 500 pounds heavier than a Lotus Elise. The result is you feel no concern at all about pushing through corners, and you feel like you’re in control of the car with every move you make, since there’s just not all that much car to control.
But it isn’t just the fact that the car is light, small, and loud that makes it fun; Fiat has also tuned everything quite well. The steering provides excellent feedback, the manual shift lever is easy to move, the accelerator pedal revs the engine quickly for easy downshifts, and the clutch operation is smooth. The car is just raucously fun to drive — though I suspect the fun would be dulled considerably with an automatic transmission, since much of the excitement comes from bringing each gear to redline. The early 500 Abarth models were only offered with a stick, but Fiat added an automatic later due to demand.
In short, then, the 500 Abarth is an unusual car: It’s not a fast one, or an expensive one, or a particularly high-quality one; the Abarth I drove had average miles and yet the interior was wearing, the center arm rest had fallen off, and the painted wheels were chipping. But who cares about any of that stuff when you’re having this much fun? Find a Fiat 500 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.