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A proud punk

Fiat 500C Abarth likes being obnoxious

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The sexy red leather seats don't detract from the Abarth's high seating position, something unwelcome for a sporty car. But once you drop the top, switch off the radio and press the magic 'Sport' button, nitpicks almost completely disappear. (Nick Tragianis/Postmedia News)

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2013 Fiat 500C Abarth (Nick Tragianis/Postmedia News)

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This week, we spend a time hooning around in the hilariously obnoxious 2013 Fiat 500C Abarth.

Jodi Lai: If there was a contest for the smallest-car-to-biggest-sound ratio, the Fiat 500 Abarth would win. It has the personality of a very intoxicated, angry Italian midget. It's rowdy and looking for a fight. It doesn't care that it's smaller than everyone else; it just screams its little head off, threatens to kick you in the shins and insults your mother. And this is precisely why the Abarth-tuned 500 is so charming. It's a hooligan and it's not trying to hide it.

Nick Tragianis: See, that's what I love about the 500C Abarth. Once you take note of those ferocious scorpion badges all over the car, you quickly realize it is more than an adorable car that could probably fit in your pocket. Twisting the key solidifies that; the itty-bitty turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder comes to life with a grumpy and gruff burble worthy of waking up the neighbours three blocks away at 2 a.m. And that's before pressing the Sport button on the dashboard.

The Abarth is good for 160 horsepower at 5,500 r.p.m. and 170 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 r.p.m., a pair of seriously impressive numbers for such a small car. Weighing in at about 1,154 kg, it can hit 100 km/h from a standstill in about 7.3 seconds. There is a bit of turbo lag off the line, though, and once you scoot past 5,000 r.p.m., the Abarth begins to fall flat. That being said, few cars in the Abarth's price bracket will leave you in a childish giggle fit rowing through the gears.

JL: As fun as the Abarth is, our tester rings in at $33,765, and that price bracket is filled with some pretty stiff competition. You can take out many of the options and get a pretty good Abarth for about the same price as a Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, which are more powerful, more stylish and more driver-oriented than the Abarth.

The Abarth's seating position is entirely awkward. The seat is too high and combined with the 500's high stance and high centre of gravity, it feels tipsy when whipped around corners. The pedals and shifter are in quirky positions. When the convertible top is all the way down, it blocks three-quarters of your rear view.

Also, don't even try putting people in the back seat unless they have tiny legs. Some of the perks of having a small car are also taken away by the fact that the Abarth (when compared to the conventional 500) has a very wide turning radius and it requires premium fuel. These are some of the flaws, but it distracts you from them by being hilariously and obnoxiously fun to drive.

NT: Indeed, 33,675 loonies are a lot for a car as diminutive as the Abarth. In addition to the Subayota twins, it also falls into the likes of the Ford Focus ST, Mazdaspeed3 and VW Golf GTI hot hatchbacks. Each offers comparable performance and arguably better levels of refinement, as well as altogether more interior space. Remember when you tested the 500 Turbo a few months back, Jodi? That little guy had the world's smallest snow brush, and I can't imagine the Abarth would fare any better. In fact, I could barely fit my duffel, camera and laptop bags into its trunk.

I'd like to think I could live with the Abarth's awkward interior appointments, but I just absolutely cannot get over the seating position. It just does not afford a sense of speed, contrary to what that cacophonous rumble coming from out back and the reasonably slick manual transmission may suggest. The stickier tires, stiffer suspension and bigger brakes tighten up the Abarth's responses considerably. But again, that blasted seating position pretty much dulls the entire drive.

Still, I absolutely love this car; I honestly cannot think of another hot hatch that has as much character and attitude as the Abarth. If it could, it would take a baseball bat and smack a beehive countless times because it's "fun."

JL: The Abarth is so fun because it does not take a decade of racing experience to drive it like the hooligan it is. The little hatch's limits are not stratospherically high, so you can drive it really hard and still be within legal limits. Plus, if you got stopped by the police, the Abarth would just kick them in the shins and try to make a quick escape.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013

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