Fiat - 500 Abarth
Retro! The definition of the word is to imitate a style or fashion from the recent past. I believe that this should also evoke an emotion, something that cannot be accounted for by kilowatts, revolutions per minute or body styling and dimensions.
That brings me to the little car that quite literally started the retro revival that we now see spreading across manufacturers worldwide, the little Fiat 500, more specifically the 500 Abarth. Why have I chosen to skip right over the Fiat 500? Well, the 500 is ultra retro, but personally, the little Abarth has so much more to offer, including a larger dent in your wallet.
Many people would describe the 500 Abarth as a cute, fun little car that thinks it is a scarier, bigger car than what it actually is. “I am almost a Ferrari” would be the 695 Tributo’s car alarm and it would go off all the time just to remind you, but the little 500 Abarth is a little more menacing than that.
Upon unlocking the car for the first time, I didn’t think too much of the added styling. The same thought crossed my mind while trying to get the seat as low as possible. Spoiler alert, that does not happen. In fact, the seating position is so high that you would suffer from altitude sickness while driving the car in Cape Town. The same can be said for the angle of the steering wheel. It is all just far too high.
Jokes aside, the overall style differences between the Abarth and a Focaccia 500 (plain as bread) is not that impactful when reviewing the car in its entirety. The Abarth stands out as soon as you focus on each flavoursome component individually. All the way from the low Abarth profile wheels, to the “pop-up” boost gauge on the dashboard.
Where the little 500 Abarth really starts to influence the driver is the moment you close the door, turn the key and pull out of the driveway. Right away there is a slight burble from the exhaust. The boost needle flickers and flinches as you roll through the gears and the interior is so dark and so consuming it feels like you have donned a mask. Not any mask, but the mask of Darth Vadar’s not-so-evil-or-dark little cousin.
The Abarth has the ability to influence your overall mood and behaviour. Not saying that it encourages you to take over the entire galaxy, but rather motivates small acts of innocent and mischievous intent. The personality of the car wants to play and perform harmless pranks. Pranks that won’t hurt anyone, but rather just get “one-over” on someone that you don’t even know. It is like the coke-light of evil, like hooting in traffic and acting as if it wasn’t you, or flicking on the window washer-spray and purposefully getting some water onto another car’s windscreen. It is weird, yet addictive, almost as if the Italian engineers somehow captured the wily trickster spirit of the Norse God of Mischief himself, Loki.
So how does this affect you as a driver, especially as a petrolhead? Well, it makes you forget that the seat is too high, it covers up that the steering wheel is at an awkward angle and it makes you forget that the ride comfort is spine shattering. Loki also encourages you to drive the car in and out of boost just to watch the needle dance around on the dash, which absolutely distracts you from the fact that your fuel consumption is far higher than that stated in the brochure.
Now the above may not help with daily CO2 emissions or overall monthly fuel consumption, but where this little stinger stands out is that it distracts you from your daily routine commute. It turns talk-radio into a constant stream of never-ending parody hits.