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Monday, May 23, 2016
Driving the Fiat 500 Abarth Automatic
What is it like to be an automotive journalist? The video below gives a glimpse. Sometimes you are given a car, a route to drive and told to have fun! The car was a 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth equipped with an automatic transmission, and the route was a scenic mountain road in the Hudson Valley. I own a 500 Abarth with a manual transmission and wanted to see how the automatic stacked up. I gave the auto trans a workout and came away impressed.
While traditionalists may question a performance car with an automatic transmission, the auto box in the Abarth is not your grandfather's slushbox. Shifts were lightening fast (upshifts take 150-200 milliseconds at full-throttle!). When sport mode is selected, more aggressive transmission settings are activated, and you get throttle-blipping, rev-matching downshifts along with gears being held longer when accelerating out of corners and when getting off the gas. The transmission also downshifts when getting hard on the brakes to assist stopping performance and to ensure the car is in an appropriate gear to accelerate again. What's more is these fast upshifts are accompanied by a fuel-cut that makes for a nice pop through the dual tailpipes. All great fun!
The heavy-duty 6-speed automatic transmission used in the 500 Abarth is manufactured by Aisin, the world's number 1 manufacturer of automatic transmissions. The transmission has been thoroughly beefed up for high-performance use with more clutch plates and a more robust heat treatment to allow for higher torque capacity. To make sure the performance of the 500 Abarth wouldn't suffer, Abarth engineers bumped the torque output of the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo to 183 lbs.ft, up from 170 lbs.ft for the manual transmission cars. Horsepower is down slightly to 157 from 160 in the manual trans cars, but remember the old quote "torque wins races, horsepower sells cars". Zero-sixty mph performance in the low 7-second range means the 500 Abarth equipped with the auto trans is within .2 seconds of the manual car.
For the fuel misers out there, fuel economy for the 500 Abarth Automatic is EPA rated at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway for a combined average of 27 mpg. This is just slightly less than the manual transmission's 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg figures.
Changes for the 2016 model year bring an upgraded infotainment system, new colors, and some additional alloy wheel options. The Uconnect 5.0 system with 5-inch touchscreen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command is a nice upgrade over previous year's systems. Abarth enthusiasts will also look forward to four new, additional exterior paint colors: Grigio Cenre (light gray), Rhino (dark gray), Celeste Blue (light blue) and Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow). These are available along with last year's Nero Puro (Straight Black), Bianco Perla (Pearl White Tri-Coat), and Rosso (Red).
Summed up the Fiat 500 Abarth automatic is easy, fast and fun to drive. Road test one for yourself and see.