I've posted on here before about this little guy, and after spending about a month with it, I figured I'd tell you guys how it feels to live with an Italian hot rod. This isn't a formal review since there's already an awesome Jalopnik review of the Abarth, and I don't think I can really add to that, so this is from the perspective of a commuter. I also picked up a Nokia Lumina 1020 phone yesterday, so I took a few minutes today to play with the camera, and got the shots you see here. I understand that the car is dirty and the pictures suck. Deal with it.
The overwhelming characteristic of this car is the exhaust. At low rpm, it gurgles and rumbles, and whenever you're on the throttle, particularly above 3,000 r.p.m., it roars like it's trying to prove to you that it's a big fast car. I had feared that it would drone on the interstate, but when holding a constant speed, the exhaust note dies away, and the Beats sound system this car came with drowns out the wind noise and remaining exhaust well enough. The 1.4 liter turbo 4 is torquey enough around town, although it needs to be revved to make power. This is fine, because the car demands you drive it like your hair is on fire, fuel economy be damned. Torque steer rarely rears its head, and when it does, it's nothing serious.
I personally have no problem with the ride, although most people will find it a bit stiff. The short wheel base exacerbates the car's bounciness, however, between the short wheelbase and minimal overhangs, I have yet to scrape the front splitter or underbody on anything. Handling is quick and darty, which is awesome around town or on a back road, although the car is a little busy at interstate speeds. I always have Sport Mode on, mainly because it adds steering heft, which helps make the car feel a bit more stable and taut. The brake pedal is immediate and firm, and makes the brake pedal in my Impala feel like stabbing at a wet sponge.
The interior of the car is plenty good for an economy car, and the steering wheel is the business. The sound controls are on the back of the steering wheel, and after I got used to having them there, I can't stand not having them. The beats audio is nice, particularly since I enjoy having a sub in whatever car I'm driving. It has heated seats, a folding rear seat, and automatic windows and climate control. The transmission is alright, the clutch is light with an easy to find engagement, but the shift throws are a little on the long side, and upshifts to third and fifth, particularly fifth, are are vague. Despite not being a standout transmission, I feel like a manual best suits this car, because while it doesn't quite get the mileage of a billion gear automatic, it was designed to be an engaging sporty car, yet not hardcore enough to for a cut-the-last-tenth-of-a-second-off-a-lap-time dual clutch. The manual provides the best engagement for enjoyment. The only thing I can really complain about are the seats. They don't provide as much lateral support as I had hoped, and the combination of a hard seat bottom and no lumbar support has lead to lower back pain for me on longer trips. I'm 6'2", so headroom up front is fine, but the back seat is something closer to purgatory. My friends who are 5'8" and below say it's fine, but don't punish six footers by putting them back there.
Overall, I think the car is fantastic. It oozes character, and demands to be driven, not ridden in, and I would rather have the car I drive every day be interesting, rather than a rolling refrigerator.