The 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth and 2013 VW Beetle Turbo Convertible are two of the winningest cars in cute-ness, according to the right market segment. I am not that market segment, I’m more of a, “I don’t care what it looks like if it’s RWD and comes with extra tires” kind of person.
But it doesn’t matter if these cars fit attitudes like mine, because they appeal to a mega population with huge buying power; every girl that saw the 500 walked toward it like a mosquito to a bug zapper. Regarding the Bug: There’s been a drop-top Beetle around since 1949. I’d say VW knows what they’re doing. If you want the fastest bits of adorable nostalgia around, and have seen enough MINIs already, these are your choices.
Both of these cars are the fastest, top-trim model of their respective selves. The Fiat 500 Abarth burst on scene by zipping around the interior a house of questionable repute, with Charlie Sheen driving. It has a 1.4L I-4, boosted to an impressive 160hp via a turbo. That’s 114hp per liter (a C7 Corvette only makes 72hp/liter). Sticky tires, racy badging, and an exhaust that sounds like a 30-foot tall, irritated hornet give the 500 presence.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle’s 2.0T make 200HP, smartly put down by a 6-speed dual clutch transmission that can plod or sprint as you wish. Both cars make torque down low, making the rev ranges fun and practical.
The Abarth is the fastest 500, so I should like it, right? If all you want is car that can dart like a scared minnow, this can. It rips around town, slaloming traffic, the miniscule overhangs making you feel like you’re riding a barstool. Parking is as easy as putting a coin in the meter. It’s a kick.
Below 80MPH above? Scary! Freeway driving requires 5-hour energy. The gauges are cramped and orange, so it’s trying to speed-read hieroglyphics. The Bluetooth failed to pair (despite following the manual), and the seat is not lined up with the steering wheel.
It feels odd, but if you master it, find some turns and hang in. It’s a laugh. A tribute to Italian cars that sold on character and visual appeal; the auxiliaries were merely that. “Issa pretty, itta work, what-a else you need?”
This “manlier Beetle” as a VW ad put it, is an improved body on a chassis shared by many other (and good) cars: Jetta, Golf, Audi A3, etc. It drives like a Jetta, and that’s a good thing. The 500 feels like a toy, this feels like a car. It feels roomier, the seating position is better, and everything works.
Handling isn’t the electrified bottle rocket that is the 2013 Fiat 500, but its .85g on a skid pad is only .02 behind the 500. Not bad for a ragtop. It’s faster than the Fiat, and feels just as stable at 20 as it does at 90, thanks to the longer wheelbase.
The Turbo sounds a little Subaru WRX, and I definitely prefer the shapes and stance of this Bug to the last one, which resembled half a cantaloupe. Manlier, yes, but I don’t think anyone would hesitate to car jack me. But it’s not about me. It’s about you. And if you liked any of the past models, you will like this one.
While the interest of either of these cars may have been initiated by; a picture, nostalgia or J. Lo that will wear off. We love novelty, that’s why leasing exists.
The Fiat suits that. It’s efficient, easy to park, and gets attention. The Abarth is quick and impossible not to enjoy around town. And it’s got bark. But a 500 fling won’t endure the way the Volkswagen (or a MIN) will, because it is a good car, not just the accessory of the year.