Fiat’s petite Abarth to be discontinued after 2020
For Fiat aficionados, the good news is that the 500 minicar will be available in Fiat showrooms well into 2020. The bad news is this cute little car’s run is just about over. Fiat Chrysler announced in September that the 500, all-electric 500e and Abarth models will be discontinued. The larger 500L and 500X, as well as the sporty 124 Spider, will wear the Fiat badge well into the Italian brand’s American future.
Unlike Mini and Volkswagen, Fiat was late to the retro-minicar game. Styled to resemble the original 500 of the 1950s and ’60s, the 500 arrived in the United States in 2011. Times were good for Fiat, at first. Sales soared to 43,772 cars in 2012. But the numbers plummeted every year after that, bottoming out at 5,370 last year. Barring a run on discounted 2019 models that remain in stock, sales will not reach that level this year.
Consequently, our week with a bright-red 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback was doubly nostalgic — recalling the Fiats of the ’50s as well as the 2011-19 version. The Abarth hearkens back to the Italian racing-car company founded by Carlo Abarth in 1949. It sports a more powerful engine than the Pop and Lounge models — 160 horsepower — and a gritty exhaust note. Despite its extra 25 horsepower and slightly longer body, the Abarth has the same fuel-economy rating of 24 mpg city, 32 highway. Fiat recommends using premium unleaded gasoline.
As we’ve noted with past Fiat 500s, the car’s dimensions — just 12 feet long, and a little more than 5 feet wide — make it suitable for urban settings where parking is at a premium. However, 4-door models like the Honda Fit minicar and subcompact Hyundai Accent provide for easier access and roomier quarters for rear-seat passengers.
Many of the competing models also tend to cost less. Our Fiat 500 Abarth was base-priced at $20,495, and the sticker price was a gasp-inducing $28,800. The additional eight grand went for such extras as premium leather-trimmed bucket seats, 17-inch forged aluminum hyper-black wheels, premium audio system with satellite radio, heated front seats, automatic climate control, power sunroof and GPS navigation. By contrast, the “loaded” Hyundai Accent we drove a few months ago was priced at $20,090.
To be fair, the 500 most closely matches the Volkswagen Beetle and the Mini, not the Accent, Chevrolet Spark or Toyota Yaris, in terms of form and function. Both models have higher starting prices than the 500 Pop — $20,895 for the Beetle and $23,400 for the Mini, compared with $16,495 for the Fiat. And for folks who don’t have to transport more than one passenger, the 500’s front seat is quite a pleasant place to be. The ride is fairly comfortable. Power is ample, though not quite as exhilarating as the horsepower and torque numbers would imply, and the Abarth’s exhaust is on the loud side.
2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged inline Four, 160 horsepower, 170 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Curb weight: 2,512 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear
Wheels: 17x7-in. forged aluminum hyper black
Tires: 205/40R17 three-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 9.5 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 30.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 10.5 gal.
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium unleaded (recommended)
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.