- - Sunday, October 11, 2015

Get ready for the feisty little Fiat’s latest incarnation, the 500 tweaked for 2016 with new styling inside and out. However, in 2015 from Italy with love, the Fiat still offers everything Americans love about the Italian style and sass from across the pond. The Fiat brand actually dates back to 1957 when it was first introduced then re-introduced not so long ago in 2007 and the 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth is definitely a keeper.

Competition includes the Mini Cooper, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and even the Volkswagen Beetle, but each has its own unique styling so it is more like trying to compare apples to oranges in this class than looking at the similarities across the board.

In 2015, Fiat introduced the automatic transmission on the 500 Turbo and Abarth options and a new instrument cluster design was added as well as some techie additions like audio streaming and an extra USB port. Remember too, if you don’t like the hatchback version there is the convertible style so Fiat has a lot to offer on any level.

The 2015 Fiat 500 comes hatchback or convertible and the hatchback is broken down into the Pop, Ribelle, Sport, Lounge, 1957 Edition, Turbo and Abarth versions while the convertible is the 500C and has options of the Pop, Lounge or Abarth trims.

For the base Pop, you get 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power accessories, cruise control, cloth upholstery, height-adjustable driver seat, 50/50-split-folding rear seats, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio with six speakers and auxiliary audio input and iPod capability.

For the Ribelle trim, add retro styling, red paint on the roof, spoiler, black headlight housing and a variety of paint colors and interior tweaks.

For the Sport, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a sportier exterior with sport-tuned suspension as well as front sport seats and a sport steering wheel with an upgraded sound system. The Turbo adds the stronger engine, roof spoiler, perforated cloth seats and a leather-wrapped shift knob while the Lounge is the luxurious option of the bunch with 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior, a fixed glass roof, higher end cloth upholstery and satellite radio.

On the basic 500C convertible, it is the same as the hardtop Pop and Lounge trims, but add to that a three-position power cloth top and rear parking sensors.

On the Sport and Turbo trims, you can also opt for a Comfort/Convenience package and this will give you automatic climate control, satellite radio and heated front seats. With the Luxury Leather package, it is the Lounge trim with rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

On the high-end Abarth, you get top performance out of this one with much of the turbo features and a stronger engine with distinctive wheels and some upgraded interior styling additions as well as 17-inch wheels.

Under the hood, the 2015 Fiat has several options from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that has 101 horsepower and 97 pound-feet of torque with front wheel drive and five-speed manual transmission to the Fiat 500 Turbo with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with 135 horsepower and 150 pound feet of torque, also a five-speed manual transmission. On both, you can opt for a six-speed automatic as well.

On the Abarth, there is an upgraded turbocharged engine with 160 horsepower and 170 pound feet of torque and a manual transmission offering too, a six-speed automatic, but the automaric option will also change horsepower to 157 with 183 pound feet of torque.

Safety on the 2015 Fiat 500 includes antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, driver knee, front side and side curtain airbags with active front head restraints as well as stability and traction control.

So what’s it like inside the Fiat 500, in my case, the Abarth? It’s comfortable and retro at the same time. If you have driven Fiat in the past, take note that the once popular gauge cluster is now a digital display on all but the Pop trim and the center console is more cup friendly as well as the technology also having been upgraded to add the second USB port.

For driver and passenger in the front seat, there is plenty of room. With the sunroof, there is less head room however. And in the back, unless you are short or very young, it’s not a comfortable fit.

When you put down the rear seats on the hatchback, it’s 30.2 cubic feet, but there is also only a mere 5.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 23.4 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down on the non hatchback version.

As for getting out and making a scene, it’s pure Italian, but the power on this one is not as impressive as most Italian imports. It’s zero to 60 in a very long 12 seconds, but it is fun to drive and shifting gears in the manual version gives you that Romanesque feel as you imagine you are taking to the Amalfi Coast and starring in your own Fellini movie.

Should You Need to Know: The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has a large turning ration worth noting at about 37 feet, which is a little unusual for a car of such small design.

Miles Per Gallon: The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth got 24 miles to the gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway.

Cost: The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback I drove had a price tag of $27,925 with a Custom Preferred Package included.

For more auto tips and information follow Rita @RitaCook13.

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