Fiat 500 Abarth: The Car Bible
A low-cost ticket to Italian performance with an exhaust note you won't forget.
Welcome to the Fiat 500 Abarth Car Bible. As you scroll down you’ll learn all about this vehicle’s quirks, features, finer points, and shortcomings. If you’re thinking about buying one of these, want some help maintaining or modifying one, or just want to deepen your knowledge for the next round of car trivia, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a living document that’s updated as we learn (and confirm) new valuable info. That’s also why the comment section is open. Got something to add? Drop a comment! Got a question we didn’t answer? Go ahead and ask. Our staff will try to reply, and if they can’t, you might get some insight from another reader. Don’t be shy; the more dialogue we have the better this Car Bible will get.
–Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles Editor-In-Chief
(Disclaimers; Disclosures: Some Car Bibles will have links to specific forums, groups, brands, shops, or vendors for parts shopping and such. We have no sponsorship deals or official affiliation with any of them unless explicitly stated. We also have to explicitly state that you work on your own car and follow our advice at your own risk.)
- The Short Story
- Fast Facts
- Spotter’s Guide
- Check This Car Out If…
- Important Trim Levels and Options
- Year-To-Year Changes
- General Reliability and Ownership Costs
- Obscure Details
- Red Flags and Known Issues
- Where To Buy Parts
- Aftermarket Support
- Popular Modifications
- Key Technical Details
- Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
- Factory Service Manuals
- Other References and Resources
- Professional Reviews
- Owner Reviews
- What They’re Worth Now
- Where To Find One For Sale
- What To Ask A Seller
- Competitors To Consider
- Photo Galleries
- Pop Culture References
- Enthusiast Inquiries
- Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
- Comments Disclaimer
The Short Story
After a series of not-so-good attempts at making cars for the U.S.A. in the 1970s, Fiat cut its losses and abandoned our market. Decades later, seeing the opportunity that was Chrysler post-bailout and Cerebus acquisition, Fiat merged with the American automaker in the late 2000s creating the entity formerly known as FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). As of this writing, the current version of that company is called Stellantis. Anyway flush with a new dealer network inherited from Chrysler, Fiat decided to try the US market again with its retro-chic city car, the 500. Fiat had had a compact car called 500 in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s too, when its name referred to its engine displacement. The new-for-2007 500 was remarkably similar-looking, albeit bigger to comply with modern crash regulations and packing more HP to keep up with modern traffic.
The driver-focused Fiat 500 Abarth dropped after the revived 500’s debut with a turbocharged engine, stiff suspension, and the most ferocious exhaust note this side of a Ferrari. Today, it’s a great used enthusiast car option and probably one of the cheapest tickets to Italian performance.
Although the Fiat 500 is cross-shopped against the Ford Fiesta and others, it’s actually an “A-segment” car, smaller than the “B-segment” Ford Fiesta.
In Europe, Abarth is actually an entire brand. Overseas, this car is branded as the “Abarth (Model) (Trim level)”
The U.S. and Canada-spec Abarth only comes in one engine specification, the 160 HP variant of the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. This is known as the “Abarth 500 esseesse,” elsewhere. The entry-level European Abarth 500 comes with 135 HP. The lesser output variant was sold in the US (with few alterations) as the Fiat 500 Turbo.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is a five-speed manual, because none of Fiat’s six-speed manual transmissions will physically fit in it.
The “sport” button actually increases the amount of boost pressure.
The Fiat 500 Abarth was available in both hardtop coupe, but also in convertible form – as the Fiat 500 Abarth C.
The Fiat 500 was introduced in 2008 but was not released in the U.S. until 2011. Fiat made some pretty extensive changes to the structure for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
The Fiat 500 Abarth looks a lot like the regular Fiat 500, but with a much more aggressive stance and body kit. The doors, roof, and most of the body shell are the same between the regular 500 and 500 Abarth. Yet, the Abarth has a slightly wider stance, sits about an inch lower to the ground. The front bumper is a bit more protruding than the regular 500, as it has to accommodate the turbocharger not found on the regular 500. The rear bumper has an integrated air splitter, and the trunk lid has a much larger rear wing spoiler. The 500 Abarth has big side skirts, too.
Fiat really wanted you to understand that the 500 Abarth was an Abarth, not a regular 500, so everywhere you’d expect to see a “Fiat” logo, you’ll see a red and yellow scorpion Abarth logo. Fiat also offered an “Abarth” vinyl banner in either red or white as an option on the side of the vehicle.
The Abarth also has either 16 or 17-inch wheels, an upgrade from the 15 inches found on non-Abarth cars. In 2016, the whole Fiat 500 line got a mild facelift that included revised front headlights, and a new interior center stack that added the pretty-great UConnect offered on other FCA products.
The Abarth was manual-only until 2015, where it got an option for a six-speed torque converter Aisin automatic. If you see an automatic car, it’s 2015 or newer.
Fiat’s initial goal of selling 100,000 500s a year was far too optimistic in hindsight, but they still moved a fair amount, for what was a small city car in the wide-open U.S. and Canada. Fiat only made 3,000 Abarths in 2012, but afterward, it’s been a bit hard to parse out numbers.
From 2011 to 2021, Fiat sold more than 200,000 Fiat 500s in all shapes (including Abarth) in the U.S. and Canada. Fiat’s a little tight-lipped about how many Abarths they’ve sold. Searching Autotrader shows they’re a bit rarer than a Ford Fiesta ST, but not quite as rare as a Chevy Cobalt SS Turbo.
Check This Car Out If…
You want a cute, outrageously charming hot hatch full of character.
Important Trim Levels and Options
The Fiat 500 Abarth itself is a trim of the Fiat 500. Still, there are several option packs that can be equipped on the Fiat 500 Abarth.
The Comfort and Convenience package added automatic climate control and heated seats. The Beats audio upgrade added a subwoofer and upgraded speakers. The subwoofer does eat a little out of the tiny trunk, though.
Most cars came with cloth seats and a metal roof, but both leather and a power sunroof could be added as options.
Most notable though, is the option to upgrade the 16-inch wheels, to 17-inch forged units, that really fill the look of the car out.
2012 Model Year:
- Abarth was introduced for the 2012 model year. Production limited to 3,000 units.
2013 Model Year:
- Convertible variant introduced.
- Heated seats offered, as well as a Beats audio package.
2014 Model Year:
- Passenger seat received power height/memory adjustment controls.
2015 Model Year:
- Aisin automatic transmission added as an option for both converible and hatchback.
- Color display installed in the gauge cluster.
2016 Model Year:
- Mild facelift for the entire Fiat 500 lineup. New darker headlights, FCA’s Uconnect infotainment added, replacing Microsoft Blue&Me (Windows Mobile) system.
2017 Model Year:
- Color palette expanded from the black, grey, white, and red originally on offer.
2018 Model Year:
- The colors Giallo Moderna Perla, Celeste Blue, and Rosso were dropped.
2019 Model Year:
- Final Model year for the Fiat 500 Abarth.
General Reliability and Ownership Costs
The Fiat 500 Abarth’s reliability and Ownership costs are… OK. Other similar cars like the Fiesta ST and Civic Si tend to be a bit better made and are easier to source parts, but the Fiat isn’t as bad as most tabloids and stereotypes have made it out to be.
The most frustrating part of the Abarth is the lack of aftermarket replacements for some parts, which necessitates a trip to a Chrysler/Jeep/Fiat dealership, or a specialized Fiat mechanic or website. It seems like Fiat and Chrysler didn’t always do their due diligence with updating parts interchange numbers for non-dealer-related sites, so sometimes parts are completely wrong. Like, Rock Auto, Autozone, etc all insist they sell aftermarket axles for the Abarth. That is wrong, those axles are incompatible with the Abarth.
Still, Fiat parts aren’t that expensive, even if you have to go to the dealer sometimes.
The U.S.-spec Fiat 500 got a thorough upgrade to its structure before it was introduced into the market. That’s part of the reason why it gained a bit of weight when it was finally imported to the U.S. in 2011, after being on sale in Europe since 2008.
The European models do not have MultiAir. The engine block in the U.S. and EU models is the same, but the head on the U.S. car is slightly different. Output between the two engines seems to be virtually identical, though.
Red Flags and Known Issues
- Broken halfshafts. The 500 Abarth’s equal-length half shafts do an excellent job reigning in torque steer, however, they are somewhat prone to torn inner boots. These inner boots protect the “tripod bearing” and if the boots are torn, water and dirt will get inside, and destroy the bearing. The torn boots are very easy to see, and usually, they’re accompanied by a terrible vibration under acceleration and grease flung all over the axles.
- Oil-Air separator oil ring. The oil and air separator present on these cars has a small o-ring that tends to leak on higher mile cars.
- The oil cooler gasket. The gasket for the oil cooler is also a known source of leaks on higher mile cars, too.
- Sticky shifter, from side to side. Sometimes the shift linkage can become a bit thirsty for lubrication, making itself known with a gearstick that’s a bit hard to move from side to side. Some grease fixes this right up.
- Worn Spark Plugs. These cars are very finicky about their spark plugs. There are only a couple of options on the market for the Abarth, and the change interval is somewhat short (30,000 miles). Some owners may neglect this, leading to reduced performance and even misfires.
- Door handle destruction. Common to both the regular 500 and 500 Abarth, the exterior door handles can sometimes break off the clips holding them together.
- The trunk won’t open. Also common, the wiring to the electronic trunk release can sometimes chafe, resulting in a nonfunctional switch.
The Fiat 500 Abarth has a few recalls as specified by the NHTSA.
- Some manual transmission models had faulty shifter shafts that could break.
- A few models had the wrong information printed on the sticker for the spare tire.
- A few models had issues with a faulty clutch diaphragm.
Where To Buy Parts
The Fiat 500 Abarth has more than a few changes from the regular Fiat 500, so not quite everything is interchangeable between the two cars… annoyingly so. In fact, it seems as if both the aftermarket OEM part companies and Fiat itself have kind of ignored this model, so finding certain parts may be a bit trickier than a comparable Ford or Honda. Sometimes aftermarket part listings will be completely wrong
Bob Zecca’s DiCorse is a one-stop shop for aftermarket upgrades, and sourcing troublesome and harder to find replacement OEM parts. They focus primarily on the 500 Abarth, but it has parts that are applicable to nearly every Fiat 1.4 MultiAir engine.
Eurocompulsion also has a big selection of aftermarket and OEM parts.
500 Madness focuses primarily on tuning and aftermarket upgrades for US Fiat models.
One of the most popular modifications is the addition of the “Go Pedal” which modifies throttle response.
Although the Fiat 500’s back seat isn’t so bad for a tiny car, a lot of owners opt to just eschew it entirely, using a rear seat delete kit.
ECU tunes are also popular, and multiple companies offer them. Both 500 Madness, and Tork Mororsports tend to be most popular.
Key Technical Details
Engine: 1.4 liter, single-overhead cam (SOHC) engine, turbocharged and intercooled engine, producing 160 horsepower, and 184 ft-lbs of torque. The block is iron, the head is an aluminum alloy.
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission, or an Aisin six-speed torque-converter automatic
Drivetrain: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Suspension: All Abarth 500s use MacPherson struts in front, with a semi-independent torsion beam and trailing arm setup holding up the rear. In the back, you’ll find a 22mm solid swaybar helping things along.
Wheelbase: 90.6 in; 2300 mm
Overall length: 144.4 in; 3667.3 mm
Curb Weight: About 2,500 pounds
Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
Fuel: Fiat recommends 91 octane minimum for all iterations for the Fiat 500 Abarth.
Battery Size: H5
Engine Oil: 5w-40. The 500 Abarth has an oil life monitor that calculates your oil change interval based upon driving style, but the owners manual insists on not exceeding 8,000 per oil change. Some owners insist on changing the oil every 5,000 miles.
Oil Filter: The Fiat 500 Abarth uses a cartridge-style filter, OEM part number 68094002AA.
Air Filter: The part number is 52022346AA for the OEM air filter. Fiat recommends checking every 16,000 miles, or 12 months. Some have opted for a K&N filter which can be cleaned and oiled for superior performance.
Cabin Air Filter: The OEM replacement filter is 68096453AA. Fiat recommends changing this filter once a year.
Transmission Oil: For the manual transmission, Fiat insists that the gear oil is good for the life of the vehicle. The gearbox itself uses 68092630AA, or “Mopar C Series Manual Transmission Fluid.” Some owners insist on changing the gearbox oil periodically, (every 100,000 or so). Some owners have also used other gear oils like Redline MT-4, or any other 75w-80 gear oil. Use at your own risk.
The automatic transmission uses Mopar AW-1 fluid. Fiat insists that the transmission fluid is good for the life of the vehicle.
Transmission Filter: No transmission filter is present on the manual transmission spec’d cars.
Automatic cars are “sealed for life” units that Fiat insist do not need servicing. If you insist on changing the filter, the OEM part number is 68110657AA.
Differential Oil: The differential is integrated into the transmission, so this also uses whatever is already in there.
Coolant: Fiat recommends using the OAT Mopar Coolant 10-year/150,000-mile formula. It can get a little confusing; Chrysler/Fiat had a few parts interchange and spec changes randomly throughout the years. Some cars have orange OAT coolant, some have Purple OAT coolant, some may have purple OAT coolant. The coolant in your vehicle needs to be MS-12106 compatible. If you’re unsure, call your Chrysler/Jeep/Fiat dealer, and they can give you the exact fluid needed that will work in your vehicle.
Power Steering Fluid: The Fiat 500 Abarth as electric power steering, so no fluid needed.
Brake Fluid: The OEM rating is DOT3 Spec. Fiat recommends a flush and replacement every two years. Some more aggressive owners who regularly track their cars opt to run DOT4 spec fluid.
Clutch Fluid: OEM clutch fluid is the same as the vehicle’s brake fluid or DOT3. There is no recommended service interval for its replacement by Fiat. Some Fiat 500 Abarth owners opt to flush the brake and clutch fluid at the same time – about once every two years.
Spark Plugs: The Fiat OEM plug is SP070507AC (the standard gap is 0.026”). These cars tend to be sensitive to non-OEM plugs, but the NGK – SIKR9A7 is an OEM spec common replacement. Fiat recommends changing the plugs every 30,000 miles.
Timing Belt: Fiat recommends that the timing belt be changed every 150,000 miles, but a lot of owners insist on doing it sooner, like every 100,000 miles.
Factory Service Manuals
Still workin on this one. If you’ve got a link for this, send it our way!
Other References and Resources
By far, the Facebook group “Broken Fiat Club” is one of the most exhaustive resources to fixing US-spec Fiat products. The admins have done a lot of research and cross-checking to find correct parts and techniques on how to fix these cars. They’ve even got Google documents with confirmed correct part numbers for tricky-to-find parts, like the axles.
Close behind is the Fiat 500 USA (and Fiat 500 USA forum), both of which are good repositories for stuff you’d need to know as an Abarth owner.
“2016 Fiat 500 Abarth drive review: All you need is the engine” (Autoweek, March 4, 2016)
The Fiat 500 Abarth has had a lot of assertions leveled at it for being less performing than some expected, or feeling a bit low rent compared to a Mini Cooper. Yet, it’s still a riot to drive, as Graham Kozak remembered.
“….the 500 Abarth is exactly as much stupid fun as I remember it being. Yes, even in the snow. It spends a second searching for traction when gunning it from a standstill on cold pavement, but if you’re having trouble wrestling 183 lb-ft of torque into compliance, you might want to look into some upper-body workouts.”
“MINI John Cooper Works v 500 Abarth” (Evo, August 19, 2008)
Technically, this is a 2008, EU spec “essesse” model, but a lot of things between the EU and US spec cars are the same, including the charming demeanor and scrappy engine. True, it technically lost the comparison, but EVO still really liked the 500 Abarth.
“….the Abarth is just as enjoyable for the speed it doesn’t generate and the fact that you haven’t got to work hard to feel like you’re bouncing all over the limit. It might not set any dynamic benchmarks, but I didn’t see anyone driving a 500 Abarth anything other than fearlessly flat-out all day long. Very Italian.”
Real Owner Impressions
Showta I. (April 2, 2021)
“I have owned my 2015 Abarth 500 for the last 2 1/2 years. Abarth 500 is rare, loud and super fun to drive in the city and on the highways. It has great exhaust noise, fuel economy and tuning capabilities. It is a great entry level exotic as well as a daily driver. Some things you want to keep an eye on if you’re modifying this car are cv axles and they go bad eventually when the car is lowered. Pre 2014 models are known to blow the transmission after you exceed around 230hp which is quite easily reachable with stock internals & ECU tune. There are a few companies that make tunes/parts for this car including EuroCompulsion and 500 Madness. The only mod I would definitely recommend is a short shifter since, in the stock form, these cars have extremely long shift throws and the short shifters make the driving experience so much better. When you get into the car first, you’ll notice that the pedal box is quite small and the pedals are almost equal in size. You may find this annoying at first, but you will get used to it and you will actually find it extremely easy to heel and toe.The rear suspension is torsion beam and this primitive technology lifts the inside rear wheels quite often especially if you have chassis stiffening parts and short-stroke suspension.
Overall, it has plenty of power, handling capabilities and exotic appeal to keep up with much more expensive sports cars in the canyons and enough exhaust grunt to call for attention in the cities as well. It would be a great first/college/high school car. You will find yourself using the hand brake more often that you should if you know what I mean.”
Andrea P. (April 26, 2021)
“Having owned two different Abarths for over 6 years now, I really can’t think of any car I’d want more as an incredibly fun daily driver. Not only do they check all the boxes of good gas mileage, inexpensive insurance, and easy maintenance, but they pack so much fun into that “normal car” package. Reliability is respectable so long as the maintenance schedule is followed properly. For added spice, they are also easy to modify and capable of pretty serious power gains without much difficulty. The community of owners is really second to none as a friendly and knowledgeable resource for fixing and modding these cars as well. If you want a car with loads of personality and a fantastic driving experience with a community that’s sure to bring you a few new friends, the Fiat 500 Abarth is second to none!”
Own or owned one of these and want to share your thoughts? Hit up in the comments or email email@example.com!
What They’re Worth Now
The regular Fiat 500’s mediocre resale has made them an absolute bargain on the used car market. A used 2012 or 2013 model could be had in the $6,000 range for a not-so-abused example. Newer models are in the mid to low teens for a low-mile, well-kept examples for sale at dealers.
Where To Find One For Sale
The Fiat 500 Abarth isn’t that uncommon in the U.S., and it’s generally not hard to find one on craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or Autotrader. Later models can even be found at places like Carmax or Carvana.
What To Ask A Seller
When was the last time the spark plugs were changed?
Competitors To Consider
Technically a class larger, the Ford Fiesta ST is considered a direct competitor to the Fiat 500 Abarth. The Fiesta might be a bit quicker and better screwed together, but do we really buy sporty cars because they’re reliable? Uh-huh, naw.
The Mini Cooper S is also a direct competitor. It’s faster and also pretty good handling, but repair costs tend to be higher, and parts are more expensive. It’s also been accused of being a bit boring, but I think that’s overblown. The Fiesta ST, 500 Abarth, and Cooper S are all solid driving cars, drive all three and make your decision.
Favcars.com has more than a few pics of the Fiat 500 Abarth (EU spec, though).
Netcarshow got a good overview of the Abarth convertible, although it looks to be EU spec.
Pop Culture References
The regular Fiat 500 was in music videos for Jennifer Lopez and Carly Rae Jepsen. Then it seems Fiat wanted to trend on controversy, as the Abarth was marketed using the then-spiraling Charlie Sheen. A 500 Abarth – the kind of car you’d whip around a mansion in! Remember this one?
Every car has a collection of common questions that pop up in forums and Facebook groups whenever new blood joins in. We hope a lot of those have been answered above, but here are some Fiat 500 Abarth FAQs we wanted to dig into.
Oh dope, this car is cool! I was going to get some aftermarket wheels, what’s the bolt pattern? Yeah, it’s 4×98. Yes, I know, it’s weird, but this pattern has been common on Fiat cars for years now. Some owners have made 4×100 wheels work using wiggle bolts, but we at CarBibles don’t recommend that, as it compromises safety.
Is Fiat a dead brand? I don’t want to buy a car I can’t get parts for. No, although Fiat might not sell cars here in the US (aside from the 500X), they still sell cars overseas. They are a part of the large conglomerate known as Stellantis, which includes Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, and now Peugeot and Opel. Cars like the Jeep Renegade and Ram Promaster City use Fiat-designed platforms. Also, the 500 is still immensely popular in Europe. Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get parts.
Downloadable Paperback Car Bible (Coming Soon)
If you’re old school and like to keep reference notes on paper, or you’re just a completionist and want a free accessory for your Fiat 500 Abarth, we’ll load up a downloadable paperback Bible soon.
Think of it like an owner’s manual supplement. Keep it in your car and your days of waiting for slow internet on your phone at the auto parts store are over!
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