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Abarth 500 EsseEsse road test

by Mark Walker

22nd March, 2013

Home > Road Tests > Abarth

Related story:
Abarth 500 EsseEsse released
10th March, 2011

Quick question. When is a Fiat not a Fiat? When it's an Abarth! And what is an Abarth? Let's find out.

Test Car particulars

The vehicle driven for this story is the Abarth 500 EsseEsse finished in Bianco (white) with Rosso (red) mirror caps and Nero (black) cloth trim.

Model background

Abarth is an Italian brand steeped in history. Founded by Carlo Abarth, the brand initially made an impact in motor sports and was bought by the Fiat Group in 1971. Fiat now market Abarth as a separate brand offering Fiat product with additional performance.

Abarth now offers Australian buyers its products based on the Fiat 500 super mini city car.

The Fiat Group changed importers in Australia during 2012. The new, factory owned importer has sharpened the pricing of several models, increased product marketing and commenced expanding the dealer network to include regional centres.

Variants and Prices*

Two variants are available: the 500 EsseEsse hatchback and the 500C EsseEsse convertible. The 500 EsseEsse hatchback, as driven, is priced from $34,990* and the convertible is priced from $38,990*.

Driving the 500 EsseEsse hatchback

There is no mistaking that this is a fun car to drive. The EsseEsse is powered by a 1.4 litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine which produces 118kW of power at 5,500 rpm. Peak torque is 230Nm at 2,750 rpm when Sport mode is selected.

The hatch is only available with a 5 speed manual gearbox which only adds to enjoyment of driving to EsseEsse. The prominent turbo boost gauge on the dash has a shift indicator to light up. In sport mode, it lets you rev higher with more fuel for more power and torque. With sport mode switched off, the swift lights come on low in the rev range to encourage fuel efficient driving.

Straight line performance is good but not ground breaking with acceleration from stand still to 100 km/h taking a claimed 7.4 seconds. The 500 EsseEsse can continue on to a claimed top speed of 211 km/h. The ride is firm without being overly harsh and the cornering grip is excellent thanks to the well balanced chassis set-up and the relatively light weight. The Abarth 500 tips the scales at only 1,035 kg.

This can be a car for everyday use or just as easily be a fun second car.

Living with the 500 EsseEsse hatchback

The little 500 sticks out in the crowd thanks to its unique exterior and loud paintwork. The Abarth 500 sets itself apart from the standard Fiat 500 on the outside with red mirror caps, red side stripe, red brake callipers, 17Ē forged aluminium alloy wheels on 205/40 ZR17 tyres, dual exhaust pipes, side skirts and a neat rear spoiler. The Fiat badges are replaced with the Abarth logo.

Space is at a premium inside the cabin of the 500 but it doesnít distract from the fun factor. The seats are trimmed in black cloth with red stitching and look inviting. The sports seats in the front hug the body very well and offer good comfort and support. The rear seats lack headroom making them unsuitable for adults and leg room would only be produced by compromising the comfort of occupants in the front seats.

The flat bottom steering wheel and gear stick are both leather covered and suit the car well. There is also a prominent turbo boost gauge on the dash with a shift indicator to add to the sporting intentions.

The boot is a decent size, particularly given the small cabin. With the rear seats down, there is plenty of space for a couple of golf bags and other cargo. The glove box is small and open.

Climate control and power windows are standard. The window switches are mounted on the dash to save space on the door. Even the lever to adjust the driver seat height is located in the centre as there is simply no space between the seat and the driver side door. Itís easy to grab the seat lever instead of the hand brake and vice versa if youíre not paying attention.

Bluetooth connectivity is standard for telephone use but you cannot stream audio via Bluetooth. An auxiliary port enables streaming of audio via a cable connection which is a bit inconvenient due to the lack of space to store the phone/MP3 player if the front passenger seat is occupied. Voice activation for telephone control is also standard as part of the Blue&Me system and works well.

Parking is a breeze thanks to the compact dimensions and visibility is very good in all directions.


The driver and front passenger are protected by front, side and curtain airbags. There is a driver knee air bag too. Other safety features include anti-lock braking, electronic brake force distribution, hydraulic brake assistance, electronic stability programme (ESP) and torque transfer control. There is also a hill assist function to prevent roll back on hill starts.

Fuel and emissions

The temptation to plant your right foot on acceleration will send the fuel consumption sky rocketing for some people. We measured our consumption at a surprisingly decent 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres. The manufacturer claims consumption of 6.5 litres per 100 km on a combined cycle as per ADR 81/02. Around town, the rated consumption is 8.5 litres per 100 km as per ADR 81/02.

Itís got a tiny fuel tank with a capacity of just 35 litres. Premium unleaded 95 RON or above must be used.

Emissions are rated at 155 grammes per kilometre.


Length: 3,657 mm
Width: 1,627 mm
Height: 1,485 mm
Wheelbase: 2,300 mm
Weight: 1,035 kg
Boot capacity: 185 litres

After Sales

The Abarth 500 is covered by a limited warranty for 3 years or 150,000kms, whichever comes first. During the warranty period, itís also covered with roadside assistance.


Weíre surprised not to see more Abarth 500s on the street. Its main strengths are the unique design and driving appeal. The price is very reasonable. The only minor downside is the lack of interior space.

NOTE: * Manufacturer's List Price (MLP) excludes dealer delivery fees and the numerous statutory charges (commonly known as on-road costs). Additionally, please note that all prices, fees and charges are subject to change without notice, as are the specifications.


More Abarth News ..... here

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