Road Test

Road Test: 2012 Abarth 500 Esseesse

July 2, 2012

Abarth 500 2012_02The Abarth 500 has a turbocharged, 1.4-litre 16v engine. It produces 135 horsepower and 206 Newton metres of torque. Enough to provide quite a good performance for this small car. Sprint from zero to 100 km/h takes 7,9 seconds and the top speed is 205 km/h. For those of you, who want more, Abarth offers the Esseesse tuning kit. Tuned with the Esseesse kit, the 1368cc T-Jet engine produces now 160 horsepower and 230 Newton metres of torque. With its better power reserves, the Esseesse model can reach 100 km/h in 7,4 seconds and the top speed is 211 km/h. The fuel consumption and the emissions are the same as they are in the standard model. Combined fuel consumption is 6,5 l/100km and the CO2 emissions are 151 g/km.

Esseesse kit isn’t just about the power. The kit also includes perforated, ventilated 284mm front disc brakes, perforated 240mm rear disc brakes, high performance front brake pads, red springs and Koni shock absorbers with FSD valve. The wheels size is updated from 16 inch to 17 inch. And to make sure that other Abarth owners recognize your updated model, you get a new engine cover and esseesse badge to the tailgate. Every Abarth 500 comes as standard with the specially designed bumper that has been extended to create space for the turbocharger. The three air intakes are there to provide perfect airflow to the engine and twin intercooler. Abarth model also has a large rear spoiler and twin tailpipe as standard. As this car was equipped with the optional Record Monza exhaust, there were four tailpipes.

Engineers from Abarth and Magneti Marelli have desinged the Record Monza exhaust to improve the engine sounds. Exhaust has a pressure valve which at 0.5+ bar redirects the gases differently to improve gasflow. Under normal driving conditions, at low boost situations the exhaust gases are directed through the silencer. But as soon as the pressure increases, the valve directs gases through the straight through pipework. The Record Monza exhaust provides surprisingly loud sounds, considering that there is only a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder engine under the hood.

You would expect the 160 horsepower and 230 Newton metres of torque to provide really good performance for a small car, especially as they are delivered with impressive exhaust sounds. Therefore the first take off is a bit of disappointment. At lower revs pretty much nothing happens. In these days we are quite used to the fact that a turbocharged car starts to deliver torque on low revs. Well, this is not the case with the Abarth 500. The top torque is available at 3000rpm and all the 160 horsepower come to play at 5750rpm. So the engine needs revs to deliver its true performance. At higher revs the car is quicker, but there is still something missing. The throttle response feels very slow. Luckily, there is a Sport-button on the dashboard. With the Sport-mode engaged, the throttle response is improved significantly. The Sport-mode also makes the steering a bit sharper. Now this is what Abarth 500 should feel like. The car is much more enjoyable to drive as the engine responses quickly to the throttle and the performance is closer to that what you would expect from an Abarth.

Without a direct comparison, it’s hard to say how big is the difference between the standard and this Esseesse suspension. At least this kit with new springs and Koni dampers provide a very hard ride. With this suspension the Abarth 500 is very good to drive, but the bad thing is that you can feel every little bump in the road. The body roll is minimal and the car is real enjoyable on a curvy road, as long as the pavement is in a perfect condition. Abarth’s brakes provide excellent stopping power, but if this isn’t enough, there is also a Brembo brake kit available with bigger front discs.

Now, when you have a more powerful engine, nicely working suspension and brakes that really bite, you start to notice those things that have been left as standard. The steering isn’t bad, but it feels like it isn’t on a same performance level as the rest of the car. The same goes with the five-speed manual gearbox. It isn’t bad, but the gear stick movement could be more accurate for sporty driving. The Abarth 500 has a bit of a same problem as it is with the sports cars. It is fun to drive on a curvy road, or if you want to take a little evening drive around the town. The small car is good to drive, has a nice performance and quite impressive exhaust sounds. It also has the looks which draw some attention from other drivers. But unfortunately this small car is not always fun to drive. It is quite uncomfortable on uneven roads, can be a bit boring to drive on a longer journey and isn’t very practical for a daily use. The Abarth 500 would be nice to own, but I would have to have a second car for all my daily driving.



  • Petrol
  • 4-cylinder
  • 1368cc
  • Turbo


  • 118 kW (160 hp) / 5750rpm


  • 230 Nm / 3000rpm


  • 5-speed manual
  • FWD

0-100km/h / 0-62mph

  • 7.4 seconds

Top speed

  • 211 km/h

Fuel consumption

  • 6.5 l/100km

CO2 emissions

  • 151 g/km

Abarth 500 2012_03