The message we got from the specialists we talked to is that the Abarth 500 is a well-built, reliable, durable car. Fact. ‘We’ve seen no real problems with Abarths at all,’ says Neil Smith at Italian-car specialist NJS Motor Vehicle Services in Pershore, ‘and they are very well built.’ Nigel Bennett at tuning specialist Nuova 500 Shop in Leamington Spa concurs: ‘The build quality is far above anything Fiat ever did before. We’ve had a 500 Cup car with a wide body which has done 140,000 miles in two years, and nothing has gone wrong with it.’
The engine is a development of the old Fiat FIRE engine, the first to be built automatically by robots, and the tough block has changed little. There appear to be no recurring problems with it and it demands little attention – official service intervals are a massive 18,000 miles. ‘Most people specify an intermediate oil change at 9000, which we recommend,’ says Smith. A little oil usage between changes is normal.
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Tuning upgrades are popular; ‘We’ve done 70 Abarths so far,’ says Bennett, ‘and because we don’t have to worry about worldwide emissions standards like the manufacturers do, we can create a more linear torque delivery and make the engine less peaky.’
No problems here. The gearbox and driveshafts have proved durable in the Abarth’s short life to date, and Nigel knows of only one 500 that’s had a new clutch. And that was a diesel. A recent addition to the options list was a double-clutch transmission with paddleshifters.
Again, the cars are too new to have shown up problems here, although NJS has replaced a few anti-roll-bar droplinks. Bushes, dampers and ball joints have so far proved trouble-free. The electric power steering is proving reliable, too.
Check which springs and dampers are fitted to a prospective purchase: standard, Esseesse kit or aftermarket tuning items.
Bodywork, interior, electrics
‘We’ve seen a few niggly trim problems but nothing major,’ says Bennett. ‘The washer jets can fall to pieces and the outside door handles can work loose, but otherwise it’s pretty robust.’ It’s worth checking that stripes and other body graphics are still firmly attached as they might be starting to peel off.
The Microsoft-based Blue&Me ‘infotainment’ system in early 500s wouldn’t talk to iPods owing to internecine warfare in the computer industry, but this nonsense can be fixed with an adaptor. Later cars communicate as they should.