If you have heard my reviews of the FIAT 500 or Cinquecento as it is known in Italy you know that I am very fond of the Chrysler parent corporation’s re-entry into the US market. It’s a small car with a big personality that drives lively even though it might be a tad underpowered. It is automotive romance: fun, sexy, economical, nice to be seen with and a conversation starter.

You almost couldn’t do anything to make it better…could you? Oh yeah!

Meet the FIAT 500 Abarth.

Abarth has been souping up FIAT’s since Gina Lolobrigida used to stop traffic on the Via Veneto and they have done a great job with the American version of the 500. From the moment you look at the special striping, rear spoiler, Abarth wheels on Pirelli tires and the unique rake of the 500 you know something different is going on under it’s scorpion badged skin.

Slide into the drivers seat, turn the key and the rumble from the dual exhaust  is unmistakable. It’s the kind of gurgle that evokes the thought of places like Watkins Glen or Lime Rock on a hot Sunday afternoon. I never turned the radio on in a week of driving the Abarth! Boosted up to 160 horses from the base 101 with a turbocharger, the Abarth has the spunk that is missing from its stock little brother. Roll it through the 5 speeds and you feel it in the  precise steering. Power and handling with a soundtrack coming out of the exhaust pipe.

The Abarth tuned suspension is supplemented by Electronic Stability Control and a Torque control system that sends the right amount of power to the front wheels when you are jumping on the car. Less understeer and more traction is the result. Moving it through the corners in the sport mode it feels stable and glued to the pavement with the help of those sticky Pirellis.

Back inside the Abarth, leather seats are comfortable and supportive. You also get a gauge that tells you the amount of boost coming from the turbo and an upshift indicator light if you are having so much fun that you forget to slap it into the next gear.

The Abarth also comes with numerous controls in the steering wheel including FIAT’s Blue&me hands free communication system but take it from me…when you are driving the Abarth you are going to want to shut the cell off and concentrate on what a spectacular, fun to drive car the descendants of Karl Abarth have sent to America!

Sticker price on the Abarth I drove $26,500 and from what I understand they are sold out of the current model year .

FIAT has taken a pretty cool car in it’s 500 and given it some spunk and funk. It was already fun to drive in stock clothing but the Abarth version makes it almost impossible to frown when you are tooling this baby around town.

For more information: http://www.fiatusa.com/abarth/

Vinnie Richichi has been driving vehicles of all kinds and covering the automotive scene for over 20 years. His Drivetime-radio vehicle reviews have aired on radio stations across the US as well as his website www.drivetime-radio.com. You can hear Vinnie weekdays on The Vinnie and Cook Show on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.

Watch & Listen LIVE