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The Sly One

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You probably think of the Fiat 500 as a cute little fuel-sipper that wears its Italian heritage on its fenders. But there is a more venomous edition that will scare the whip from your espresso. Meet the Fiat with an enjoyably bad attitude.

Beyond scorpion logos, you’ll know the Abarth by its 17-inch alloys, low-profile tires and red brake calipers. The 500’s “whiskers and logo” face is accentuated by a bolder facia. Flared wheel arches, side skirts and twin chrome exhausts amplify the visuals—as does a downforce-increasing rear spoiler. Most of the add-ons have purpose.

Designers have upgraded the interior with a high-definition colour instrument cluster and Bluetooth streaming audio.

Our test car came with one-piece charcoal-grey cloth bucket seats with red striping that hug your sides. A thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, body-colour dash panels and automatic climate control enhance luxury. Beats by Dr.

Dre audio with a 368-watt amplifier and subwoofer will rock your socks, but the powertrain will blow your hair back.

The exhaust sounds like a scorned lawnmower, but a turbo­charged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine sends 117kW/157 horsepower to the front wheels through a newly available six-speed automatic transmission. Given the standard five-speed manual’s temperamental nature, get the automatic. Fuel economy is rated 9.6/7.3 litres/
100km city/hwy.

All of the body accoutrement is backed by a track-ready chassis. Engineers lowered the ride height, stiffened the suspension, and specified disc brakes to give the tall city car sportier handling. While it’s no Ferrari, the Abarth plays the part of a performance car.

It’s not all whipped espresso. The driving position is typically Italian with a forward-canted steering wheel, and the suspension thunks over rough pavement.  Except for what’s leather and painted, the plastic-laden interior feels sub-compact chic. My husband loved the rowdy exhaust rumble, but it just made my ears tired.
Your morning drive, whether to a stuffy office or college campus, doesn’t have to be boring. The Fiat Abarth is as practical as every other city-sized 500, but it comes with enjoyably more attitude. An as-tested price of $26,275 puts it against the Mini Cooper S, Chevy Sonic RS, Hyundai Veloster Turbo and Ford Fiesta ST.

2015 FIAT 500 ABARTH

FOUR-PASSENGER, FWD MICRO
POWERTRAIN 117kW/157 hp 1.4-litre T4, 6-spd auto trans
SUSPENSION F/R Ind/twist beam
WHEELS F/R 17”/17” alloy
BRAKES F/R disc/disc
MUST-HAVE FEATURES Style, power
FUEL ECONOMY 9.6/7.3 litres/100km city/hwy
ASSEMBLY Toluca, Mexico
AS-TESTED PRICE $26,275

Casey Williams is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com, and a frequent business traveller to Montreal. He contributes to the  New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.

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