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Video | Here’s Everything That’s Broken on the Cheapest Fiat 500 Abarth

When I unveiled my latest purchase, a 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth, to the world, it seemed like half the comments wanted to correct me on my pronunciation of Abarth. It seemed the other half just wanted to comment that Fiats were junk — and to tell me how stupid I was for buying one. Given the cosmetic condition of my Abarth, it’s clear the car didn’t have an easy, pampered life so I was curious how it was holding up mechanically after nearly 80,000 miles. Turns out it’s doing pretty well.

I suspect the majority of commenters who dismissed the Abarth as unreliable junk have never owned one, as from what I can tell based on firsthand ownership experiences posted online, it’s really not that bad. Early Abarth models have the occasional Turbo failure and it’s not uncommon for a few trim pieces or wheel liners to fall off but there haven’t been rampant reports of catastrophic failures. Obviously, these cars are still very new and most haven’t crossed over 100,000 miles yet, but so far, ownership reports seem pretty encouraging.

The mechanical inspection on my Abarth was also encouraging and compared to my other recent purchase disasters, it was a welcome relief. It took a while to stop my mechanic, the car wizard, from giggling at the red skull shifter and “mood lighting” installed around my sunroof but once he finally started digging around, he didn’t find much wrong. Lifting the 2,500-lb Abarth in the air yielded no surprises other than a leaking, damaged passenger-side CV axle, which I suspect happened after a curb strike. That would explain why the wheel wasn’t matching and the rear wheel/tire showed evidence of a less severe impact — as if perhaps it ran over whatever damaged the front as well.

Other than the damage from this impact and the animal attack in the interior, there were no other leaks or serious issues to speak of. Unfortunately, rectifying this damage from negligence is going to be costly, as replacing the CV axle itself is $500 and buying a used matching wheel along with a new set of tires is another $850. A used leather shifter to replace my Red Skull is $300. With an oil change and a new air filter, I’m looking at $1,800 to sort my cheap, battered Abarth.

While this is a lot of money to spend on a $4,000 car that will never look pretty ever again, I think I will still be sitting in this Abarth for less than what a normal, sorted car is worth. It probably would have been smarter to spend $8,000-$10,000 for a nicer, lower-mileage example but nobody tunes into Hoovie’s Garage for me to make smart decisions. Plus my mechanic has mouths to feed — and yachts to buy.

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  1. I haven’t experienced an Abarth 500, but my wife’s ’15 500 is up over 60k miles and has been easy and cheap to own, giving no major issues despite the fact that she’s not gentle with it.  The only disappointing (though not unexpected) item is the interior quality, with the driver’s armrest breaking multiple times and the drivers’ window regulator needing to be replaced.

  2. You don’t need to buy everything new. I’m sure you could find a shift  knob in a junkyard pretty easily, and for a lot less than $300. If not, I second the other commenter and get an aftermarket one. 

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