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2013 Fiat 500C Abarth Cruising, Italian Style>

The Fiat 500C Abarth is the convertible version of Fiat’s fun little Abarth pocket rocket. Not a true convertible in the drop head Rolls Royce manner or a rag top like a classic Mustang, the sporty Abarth Cabrio is a roll top that can go from fully closed to sunroof to wide open to the elements with the touch of a button. And in Detroit, in mid- August, there is no better place to let the sun in than at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The Dream Cruise is billed as the largest one day automotive event in the United States. Muscle cars, pony cars, performance cars and iconic cars from every era turn Woodward Avenue into a rolling car show. Where else can the 160 horsepower Abarth rub shoulders with 1940’s Chrysler Town & Country Woodys, 1960s Hemi Cudas, 1970s Plymouth Road Runners, every generation of Dodge Viper and a few Fiat 124 Spiders and X19? The Abarth scorpion hood ornament and badging spell Italian performance as surely as a prancing pony or charging bull, just on a smaller scale.
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As fun as the regular 500 Cabrio is to drive, the 500C Abarth takes it to the next level. Sure, the Abarth Cabrio is still as cute as a bug’s ear, but it is so much more. For starters, the exhaust sound made the optional ($700) Beats Audio sound system redundant. Confident, perfectly tuned, its dual exhausts held their own among the purring side pipes and loud glass packed exhausts out on Woodward. Rev the 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged 4 cylinder engine up and the Abarth all but thumbed its nose at the big dogs.

Like all great performance cars, the Fiat 500C Abarth has three pedals and a manual transmission. Running up and down the five gears is quick and simple, though the closely spaced soft clutch and firm brakes make heal-toe shifting all but impossible. The Abarth Cabrio comes to life at about 2500 RPMs; you can feel the full effect of the 170 lb-ft of torque as the boost gauge climbs. Push in the Sport button and the Abarth goes from Clark Kent to Superman, turn off the ESC to go from mild to wild. There is seemingly no limit to the amount of fun you can have in the Abarth!
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The suspension and handling are beefed up, with a lower ride height, stiffer springs and Koni front shocks, larger diameter brakes with red calipers, and wider Pirelli tires. The 17-inch gloss white forged aluminum wheels ($1,200) set off the 500C Abarth’s white body work, contrasting mirror caps and black graphics($350), the available ($1000) red and black striped driver and front passenger leather high-back seats were oh so Italian in their good looks. Better side bolsters would have been appreciated, especially when pushing the Abarth deep into curves and around corners. The 50/50 split folding rear seats are purely decorative; they are all but useless unless you need quick access to purses, backpacks or camera gear, however, they do make it easier to stow oversized items in the 9.5 cu. ft. trunk. One benefit to the roll top convertible top is that it does not compromise trunk capacity. A large glove box offers a bit more interior storage, though it does not lock.

The 500C Abarth has standard rear park assist. While this may seem frivolous on a 144.4-inch long car, it is very helpful when parking the Abarth, especially with the top down. Like all convertibles, rear visibility is somewhat limited. The optional TomTom® Navigation unit ($500) snaps into a dash mounted bracket; the Comfort and Convenience group ($650), with satellite radio, air conditioning and heated front seats certainly add to the year round appeal of the 500C Abarth, though the low front fascia and 3 season Pirelli tires might not do well in snow. The leather wrapped steering wheel has Bluetooth phone, audio and cruise controls, both the steering wheel and shifter feature bold red stitching.
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Cruising in bumper-to-bumper traffic is not the best way to gauge fuel economy, the EPA estimates the 500C Abarth at 28 city, 34 highway using the recommended 91 octane fuel. At just over 2,500 lbs, the Abarth is no lightweight; the car feels solid and planted. Hill start assist keeps you from rolling backward down steep driveways; the 3-mode Electronic Stability Control (ESC) prevents the Abarth from getting too squirrely when you put your foot in it off the line.

With a base price of $26,000, the Fiat 500C Abarth is a stylish, devil-may-care entry into the performance car segment. A bit rarer than the ubiquitous Mini Coopers, less pricey than the Porsche Boxster, the Abarth 500C is a fun alternative for the sexy Italian in all of us.

Written by Eve Pickman with Editor Christina Selter and photographs by Ingo Rautenberg