The Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the most hoonable cars on planet Earth. Despite being front-wheel drive, shaped like an Ostrich egg (and measuring about the same size), it oozes character, flamboyance, and drivability. It is, in fact, impossible to drive the little Abarth and not hoon – regardless of what the trip entails: You’ll hoon to the grocery store, hoon to pick up the kids; you’ll probably even hoon to a colonoscopy, such is the intoxicating nature of this mad Italian shoebox. The 500 Abarth is the “everyman’s” hoonmobile, even if you can’t drive for shit.
I know what you’re thinking; how can a Fiat 500 Abarth be better than, say, one of the Toyobaru twins, or a Miata, or even a rambunctious WRX? It’s front-wheel drive, after all, and as we enthusiasts know, that is not the recipe defined in the hooning handbook.
And you have a point, but its validity depends on your skill level. If you are the driving equivalent of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, hammering a rear-wheel drive machine might not be the smartest call. Front-wheel drive ensures a level of security, crucial for any budding hoonster with hopeless coordination and the vision of a one-eyed pensioner smoking weed.
The purpose of this article is to articulate how best to hoon the Fiat 500 Abarth. I may, if you so desire, revisit this formula for a multitude of vehicles: ranging from less hoonable trucks, SUVs, and, of course, the minivan.
As with any car, you need to understand its habits. Test it in the wild, with care, and with respect. Once you feel at home, then, and only then, should you explore its limits. This is also a good time to note that, while we all love driving like idiots, we should be mindful of where and when we hoon. Our safety, and the safety of others, is of upmost importance.
That being said, when you find a suitable time and place — hoon away. But remember, every car requires a different driving technique. The Abarth, as mentioned, is front-wheel drive and decidedly top-heavy: its gruff bark, nippy turbo, and slippery little tires, provide all the motivation one needs; but to truly hoon in style, you must first understand its limitations.
You’ll want the car in sport mode; in normal, the car floats and feels unstable at speed; with sport mode depressed, the car becomes taught and composed. For the timid driver who simply wants to have fun, leave ESC on. If you consider yourself gangbuster, then hold the button for around ten seconds to fully disengage.
Initially, you will notice is how easily the front-wheels spin under acceleration, and how sizable the turbo lag is. The Abarth responds to revs (ideally over 4,500) but that shouldn’t be a problem, as this loony car twists the arm of even the most sensible drivers, beating them into submission, demanding exuberant motoring.
To be a true hooner, you must embrace the virulent lack of traction. Relish the 1.4-liter turbo’s scowl as it feigns a 458 Italia. Bask in the passion exuded from such a diminutive package.
As with most FWDs, if understeer becomes too prevalent, a simple lift off the gas will provide the needed grip. Be ready, however, as drop throttle oversteer may ensue. In fact, if provoked (especially when wet), the Abarth gets its tail out more readily than John Travolta.
Trailbrake whenever possible: carry the brakes deep into the bend keeping the nose pinned. The car will wallow, due to its high center of gravity, but the key is to transfer load to the outside tires as soon as possible – setting the car early allows a more balanced platform throughout the turn.
Heel-and-toe comes naturally in the Abarth: The 5-speed manual’s throw is long but, ultimately, direct and positive. It really is a potent little car to drive at the limit, and that limit occurs at rather low speeds. You can hoon in style without ever breaking the law, eliminating the risk of rectal examinations from your local inmates.
The Hoonster’s Guide To The Galaxy (I just made that up) states, “When undertaking the art of hooning, one must always perform some hoodlum maneuvers:” Namely donuts, burnouts, and handbrake turns – these, of course, should not be done on the road.
The uneducated hoonster might think a FWD Abarth cannot donut. That assumption is correct; except when it’s wet. When the heavens open, reverse donuts are in order: place the Abarth into reverse (with ESC completely off), drop the hammer, and turn the wheel (keep the wheels turned and the throttle pegged). Now bask in the luscious spoor fashioned from burning rubber.
Want to do normal donuts? Throw some plastic trays under the rear-wheels and have at it. Ultimate hoonage!
Despite the lack of traction, burnouts are challenging; while the Abarth goes like hell for its size, (like with the donuts)160 horsepower isn’t really enough to do the job. A wet surface, therefore, helps mightily, as does a working handbrake. So hit full throttle, drop the clutch, and, rather than move your left foot onto the brake – which will kill the wheel spin – keep the handbrake fully engaged and the gas pedal floored. You might not achieve the smokiest burnouts, but, even in the dry, wondrous elevens and hours of uninhibited amusement will be had.
Handbrake turns, on the other hand, are a doddle. Give the handbrake a yank, turn the wheel, and you are granted a pristine drift – as it's FWD, the throttle will help undo a slide that goes awry, so don’t be afraid to stand on it if you’re in trouble.
The Abarth is the ideal machine for the inexperienced hoonster. It’s fast but not scary, understeers more than oversteers, and empowers rather than intimidates. Hoonage is effortless and, with a little help from Mother Nature, as intoxicating as it gets. If you can’t drive for shit, and yearn to hoon, then I highly recommend the Fiat 500 Abarth. And even if you can drive for shit, you won’t go far wrong with the Abarth either.
Let me know in Kinja if you’d like me to explore the hoonability of other cars. And, as always, hoon safely my friends.