Scott is an award-winning professional educator with almost 25 years of experience.
A Quick Little Car
The 2017 Fiat Spider Abarth comes from the factory loaded with many performance items. The car is lightweight and handles very much like a Porsche Boxster, due to its' low height, stiff suspension, and sticky tires. It is built on the Miata chassis, but gets a great deal of Fiat designed bodywork added on.
The engine and transmission are all Fiat, and it runs the tiny but robust 1.4 liter Multi-Air injected 4 cylinder with a turbocharger and a sport-tuned exhaust system. The car has 168 horsepower, and 185 foot pounds of torque at the rear wheels, and only weighs in at about 2300 pounds. With just a minor computer tune, the engine puts out 193 horsepower and actually gets better gas mileage.
The rated top speed for this car is 144 mph, although because it is small and low, at 70 mph it feels like you are going much faster. It takes time to get used to driving this car, because everything feels much quicker than it really is. It does not feel scary or unstable at speed; it just feels very fast.
Better With the Top Down
The Abarth feels good to drive, all the time. It is a very quick car with zero to sixty times in the high 5's, depending on how it is tuned.
This car has the six speed, which is smooth shifting and it is all around fun. Once I got the car, I discovered that this modern manual transmission was much better than the sports cars I have had in the past. When taking off on a hill, you can release the brake with the clutch in and the car will not roll back. It has some sort of connection between the brakes and the clutch which synchronizes hill take-offs, very effectively.
Having the top down on an 80 degree day is pure heaven in this car. It is perfectly set-up to keep the wind down under control and makes driving fun and not a chore. There are speakers in the drivers side headrest, so you can hear your phone and talk, even with the top down. This is also great for the built in multi-media entertainment and information system.
High Performance and Cross-Braced
As you can see from the engine compartment photo, the Abarth is cross-braced to stiffen the chassis of the car. Additionally, the tiny motor is loaded up with modern features, and it is very maintenance friendly. In Europe, the little 1.4 liter engine is a mainstay, and it has been put through many rigorous tests. The car has air conditioning, along with many power features as well. It is not a luxury car, but it does have many things to keep you comfortable, while you drive down the road. The interior is very small, but if you are under 5'11" you will fit fine.The trunk holds about six grocery bags, or two carry-on bags for a flight. There are storage compartments behind the seats to give you more space for things like laptop computers or a handbag. The car is more versatile than I expected. I knew it would be fun, and have not been let down at all.
Driving With Little Road Noise
Good on Gas and Economical
The little Spider Abarth is the only performance car I am aware of that can get 30 mpg when it is not in sports mode. This means that you can own a sports car that is also a fairly inexpensive commuter. The little gas tank holds less than 12 gallons of gas. It is a joy to take in for a fill-up and spend less than a third of what I spend on my Tahoe. Maintenance has been very forgiving with this car. It has less than 8,000 miles on it and has only had one oil change. It is not due again until 17,000 miles, as it runs a pure synthetic. I took it in early, not willing to wait until 10,000 miles for my first oil change.
An Awesome Car
This Fiat is beyond compare. For a short while, in the 1980's, I owned a 1979 Fiat Spider that was also really nice, but did not compare to this new modern take on the small European sports car. The quad exhaust is only found on the Abarth model. While the Classica and the Lusso, are also great cars, the Abarth has the adjustable Bilstein sports suspension and the sport tuned exhaust, just to name a couple of enhancements.
Also, this car comes with the Abarth scorpion logo. I know it is childish to say, but I love that scorpion design on my car. When I am driving this car, it takes fifteen years off of my age. It is great fun to drive, and a joy to own.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Scott P Davis
Liz Westwood from UK on April 22, 2019:
I would have mistaken this for a Boxter at distance. I have heard of Spider cars but have not seen one reviewed in such detail. This review could be used by Fiat for promotions.