The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6

The Abarth 500 is one of the most stylish hot hatchbacks around, offering plenty of punch and sharp handling. It's more exclusive than the Fiat 500, but it's also pricier and has a much firmer ride.

Reasons to buy

  • Great looks
  • Pocket-rocket performance
  • Responsive steering
Best on a budget
Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet
Cheapest Abarth, if not the hottest
Best seller
Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet
Standard model is extreme enough for most
Blow the budget
Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet esseesse
Raucous performance from the tuned 158bhp engine

How good does it look? 4/5

The standard Fiat 500 has cute retro appeal but the hot Abarth 500 version makes it even more desirable. An aggressive body kit, go-faster stripes and cool alloy wheels add a dose of masculinity to help it stand out from the crowd. The iconic scorpion badges hark back to Fiat’s previous hot Abarth cars, while the two-tone red and white colour schemes look the business.

What's the interior like? 3/5

The Abarth 500 is very similar to the standard Fiat 500 inside, with a high, dash-mounted gear lever. There are a few sporty touches such as the red stitching and aluminium pedals, while the body-hugging seats can be specified with leather to match the colour scheme. However, the quality of the materials isn’t as good as that in, say, a Ford Fiesta Zetec S. The seating position is also quite high up, which detracts from the Fiat’s sporty nature.

How practical is it? 3/5

Boot space isn’t the greatest asset in a Fiat 500 and it’s a similar story in the Abarth 500. At 185 litres, it has 15 litres more than the regular MINI, but most rival hot hatchbacks offer 250 litres or more, like the Vauxhall Corsa VXR with 285 litres. Rear passenger space is also uncomfortable for anybody over 6ft.

What's it like to drive? 3/5

You can have a lot of fun in the Abarth 500. There’s plenty of grip, the steering is responsive and it stays very flat through corners. Fiat has fitted a system called Torque Transfer Control, which helps the 500 to find grip on the way out of a bend. The Fiat’s Achilles’ heel is its ride comfort, which is so firm that it can be very uncomfortable on rough surfaces.

How powerful is it? 4/5

The standard Abarth pumps out 133bhp from its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, which is enough to get it to 62mph in 7.9 seconds. There’e plenty of punch in any gear and the five-speed manual gearbox is smooth and easy to use. If you fancy upgrading your Abarth 500 to true pocket rocket status, the optional esseesse upgrade boosts power to 158bhp.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

Despite a hefty insurance group 26 and the fact the Abarth 500 costs more than many rivals, including the Renaultsport Twingo, residual values are strong. You can also expect an average 43.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km.

How reliable is it? 4/5

The Abarth 500 uses an engine now common with many Fiat models, with no common faults reported. Fiat has taken steps over the past few years to make its models more reliable, and they seem to have paid off.

How safe is it? 4/5

The Fiat 500 - which is the same car as the Abarth version - scored just three stars in Euro NCAP safety tests, which is a disappointing result. Electronic stability programme and anti-lock brakes are fitted as standard, as are seven airbags, one of which is mounted on the steering column to protect the driver’s knees in the event of a shunt.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Front fog lights, air-con, alloy wheels, electric front windows, remote central locking and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity are all standard. Sat-nav, climate control and leather seats are on the options list should you feel the need to spec it up. There’s always the esseesse performance upgrade to consider, too.

Why buy? 3/5

If you want a fast Fiat 500 with instant cult status and charm in abundance, the Abarth 500 is your only option.