Fiat 500 Abarth

The FIAT 500 is offered as a hatchback or cabriolet. The cars come with a 101-horsepower, 1.4L MultiAir 4-cylinder engine and a choice between a 5-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic. Abarth and larger 500L models get a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4. Both of those models are standard with the 5-speed manual, while the 6-speed automatic is optional. The 500e, meanwhile, is powered by a 111-horsepower electric motor. All 500s are front wheel-drive.

Customers don't need to select one of the turbocharged models in order to tap into the 500's fun-to-drive qualities. With quick-ratio electric power steering and a light, nimble driving feel, the FIAT 500 is very sporty and maneuverable at city speeds, yet stable on the highway.

The 2017 FIAT 500 is offered in Pop and Lounge trims, as well as sporty Abarth. Pop models are priced with other affordable, efficiency-minded small hatchbacks but do include Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming, an auxiliary input, iPod controls, cruise control, a trip computer and power windows, locks and mirrors. 500c Pop models also get ParkSense rear park assist, as well as a wind deflector and integrated spoiler, in addition, of course, to a dual-layer cloth soft top.

Lounge models are the next choice up for those who don't want to go the performance route with their 500. Both 500 and 500c Lounge models include special chromed accents in front and in back plus fog lamps, a security alarm, a fixed glass roof (in hatchbacks), 9-spoke cast-aluminum wheels, premium cloth seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, Sirius XM satellite radio, and an upgraded 276-watt, 6-speaker sound system. Lounge models also offer a Sport mode that, with the press of a button, makes throttle response sharper.

FIAT 500 Abarth models bring performance to the mix, with a specially tuned 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4L engine, plus an Abarth-tuned suspension that includes Koni Frequency Selective Dampers and upgraded brakes. The raspier exhaust note lets this model be known both from inside the car and from a distance.

The "Beats" audio system available in both 500 and 500c models offers a high-definition experience, with a special Beats Audio digital sound processing algorithm plus an 8-inch dual-voice-coil subwoofer in the trunk and a 368-watt, 8-channel amplifier.

Editors' First Take

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There are some cars in this world that just bring me joy. My daily-driver Mazda Miata is one, the Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet ZR2 are others, and last week I got acquainted with another joyful little runabout, the 2017 Fiat 500C Abarth.

The Abarth was first introduced to the current Fiat lineup in 2012, playing on the heritage of the Italian Abarth racing team of yore. It sits above the naturally aspirated 500 and below the larger 500L in terms of price, and goes miles above them both in terms of fun.

The 500 Abarth sports a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine, good for 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque when mated to a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available, resulting in a bit less horsepower and a bit more torque, but this is a car that deserves the manual. Having said that, the gearbox could be a bit tighter, but its position high on the center stack, close to the steering wheel, makes for quick gear changes. I continually wound the thing up during my drive, reveling in the raucous exhaust note and poppy backfires when shifting. This thing might look adorable, but it sounds angry.

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