Jonny Smith gets behind the wheel of the feistiest 500 on sale. Does he think Abarth’s first EV has the bite to back its synthesized bark?
Since the late 1950s the Turin based tuner, Abarth, has specialised in transforming humdrum Fiats into flamboyant and aggressive performance machines, fizzing with character and charisma. And for many enthusiasts, the raucous engine note and power delivery were crucial ingredients in the Scorpion’s recipe.
This must have left Abarth with quite a quandary when developing an all-electric successor to the spicy 500. How do you make an engine note exciting when there isn’t one? Well, you can either embrace the lack of sound and focus on other areas for driving thrills, or (like Hyundai with the Ionic 5 N) you can synthesize a soundtrack and pipe it through speakers. Guess which road Abarth took?
That’s right, the tuned-up 500e sings its own whacky augmented tune, and Jonny is quick to clarify that he’s not a fan. While he finds the ability to ‘rev’ the motor at idle somewhat childish, his biggest concern derives from the lack of simulated gear changes to quieten the sounds down at motorway speeds.
Thankfully though, Jonny is far more positive about the rest of the car. With 152hp and a seven second 0-60 time, the headline stats might not be as dramatic as you were expecting, but this doesn’t spoil the fun out on the road. Thanks to a wider track and a longer wheelbase than the standard car, grip is plentiful, and the instant turn-in response is “addictive”.
Obviously, when it comes to everyday practicality, the Abarth isn’t targeted at long-distance motorway cruising. However, with a useful 150-mile range the hot Fiat should be perfect for the school run or blasting down a backroad. Plus, Jonny is also impressed by the more spacious interior dimensions and improved build quality compared to other Fiats.
For those who still bemoan the loss of excitement from piston power, a convertible version is also available for some wind-in-the-hair motoring. At a £3,000 premium over the standard car’s £34,000 entry price, it’s not a cheap option though.
For the full review you’ll need to watch Jonny’s video above, but in the meantime, do you think performance cars like this need fake engine noises to be engaging?
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