Fiat 500 Abarth review: Juvenile delinquent

The newest version of Fiat's retro 500 pumps up the horsepower and the handling, gearing toward pure, juvenile enjoyment.

Josh Miller/CNET

If the classic looks of the Fiat 500 could be compared with a Fellini movie, then the Abarth version is a Spaghetti Western. Where the 500 introduced last year was all about economy and design, the Abarth adds that missing ingredient: driving fun.

To build the U.S. version of the Fiat 500 Abarth, Chrysler's performance team installed a Honeywell turbocharger, lowered the gear ratios, and tuned the suspension. Along the way the team ratcheted up the exhaust note to announce the little car's presence.

This work resulted in a car made for the winding road. Despite a high roofline, it stays flat in the turns and welcomes trail-braking. The turbocharger brought the horsepower up from 101 to 160, a huge jump but absolutely enjoyable, the manual gearbox allowing redline antics.

As for useful features such as a Bluetooth phone system and stereo, the interface would render these almost unusable if it was not for the excellent job integrating the optional TomTom navigation system.

Read the full review of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

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