Abarth 500C convertible
"The Abarth 500C mini hot hatch loses its top, in the process creating a unique driving experience."
- Handling not compromised by roof
- Wind-in-the-hair thrills
- Distinctive looks
- Not a full convertible
- Rock-hard suspension
- Options can bump up the price
The Abarth 500C is a high-performance version of the Fiat 500C convertible city car. It uses the same 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the Abarth 500, but it has a bit more power. The 500C comes with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox. The automatic lets you shift gears manually using paddles on the steering wheel, but whichever mode you use, it's quite slow to respond.
The 500C comes with some special wheel and colour options not available on the Abarth 500 hard-top, including a pair of distinctive two-tone paint finishes. As with the hatchback, the 500C is great at cornering, but the extremely stiff suspension means it's uncomfortable on all but the smoothest roads.
Three specification levels are available: Custom, Turismo and Competizione, with the high-spec model starting from less than £22,000 without options. But prices can shoot up if you aren't careful with the extras, so watch out.
MPG, running costs & CO2
You shell out a lot for a 500C, but the day-to-day running costs are surprisingly low for such a sporty car. Official fuel economy is 44mpg for most models, while the 595 Competizione version can achieve 48.7mpg. While the five-speed automatic gearbox increases CO2 emissions, the 500C is in the same road tax bracket as the 500 hatchback. Servicing costs will be reasonable, although there are only 16 official Abarth dealers in the UK, so you might have to travel some distance to get your car looked at.
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You'll have to think about maintenance, too and all Abraths can be had with an 'Easy Care' service plan that can cover the car for anything between one and five years. It covers all costs of the service and for a typical three-year plan, it'll cost £499 for any Abarth model.
Engines, drive & performance
As with the hatchback, the Abarth 500C is a fun car to drive fast and the open top only serves to enhance your enjoyment, as you get to hear the noise of the rumbling exhaust. Taking the roof off a sporty hatchback usually affects its handling, but because the Abarth only loses the centre section, it's still a great performer.
The automatic gearbox is fine in day-to-day use, but in Sport mode the shifts become jerky if you don't lift off the throttle when changing up. For this reason, the manual gearbox is better suited to the car – not to mention cheaper.
Interior & comfort
The 500C's sports seats hold you in place well, but the suspension is extremely stiff, so all manner of bumps in the road can be felt in the cabin. When the roof is open, the fabric top sits above the boot, which blocks your view out of the back. Rear visibility is better than in a MINI Convertible with the roof up.
Practicality & boot space
As with the Fiat 500C, the Abarth 500C has a rather small boot. A maximum capacity of 183 litres is only good enough for a couple of overnight bags, but that's well ahead of the boot in the larger MINI Convertible, which only holds 125 litres. The roof opens at the touch of a button, sitting on the back of the car when lowered, so boot space is the same whether the roof is up or down. There's room for four inside, but the chunky sports seats up front mean there's less legroom for back-seat passengers than there is in the regular Fiat 500C.
Reliability & safety
The Fiat 500C has generally proved reliable since its launch, thanks to the fact that the mechanical parts have already been tried and tested in the Fiat Panda city car. Abarth models are built in limited numbers with greater attention to detail than Fiats, while the Competizione automatic gearbox has been developed on the race track, so it should last well.
Price, value for money & options
The Abarth 500C is the flagship of the Abarth range, and costs around £3,000 more than the hatchback, but it's cheaper than its main rival, the MINI Cooper S Convertible. Standard kit includes climate control and Fiat's Blue&Me system, which allows you to pair your mobile phone or MP3 player to the stereo.
The Competizione has 17-inch alloys as standard, along with rear parking sensors and Xenon headlights. It's priced from around £22,000 – around £2,000 more than the hard-top Abarth 500. Options such as the two-tone paint schemes, leather trim and larger other personalisation options can send the price tag rocketing past £25,000 if you're not careful.