My Abarth 500: Experiences: 24.7.2011

Bella Italia 2011

In July it was once again time to visit in the traditional italian vehicle meeting Bella Italia in Tammela. It was interesting to see more exotic cars this year compared to previous years. There were approximately 10 Ferrari's plus several Maserati's including a lovely Maserati Bora. In addition to these there were couple of very rare cars on display this time: a Lamborghini Urraco and an Iso Rivolta Lele. My ex Alfa 147 GTA had also arrived to the meeting this year. 

Here are a couple of shots from the meeting. A larger picture can be opened by clicking on the picture.

Bella Italia 2011 - yleiskuva

An overview of Bella Italia 2011 meeting

Bella Italia 2011 - Maserati Bora

The crown of the Maserati area was a Maserati Bora.

Bella Italia 2011 - Iso Rivolta Lele

Iso Rivolta Lele. I hadn't seen this one in nature previously.

Bella Italia 2011 - Lamborghini Urraco

Lamborghini Urraco, a very exotic car in Finland.

Bella Italia 2011 - Alfa-rivistöä
Alfa Romeo lineup.

Bella Italia 2011 - Fiat 850 Coupe
A pretty Fiat 850 Coupe.

Bella Italia 2011 - Abarth 500
My own Abarth spent its time amongst older generation Fiat's. Another Abarth 500 esseesse on the background, this was the same car as in last years meeting.


My Abarth 500: Experiences: 19.2.2011

Winter experiences 2010/2011

Crisp and snowy winter is here and so far the Abarth has survived it quite good. The car has started faultlessly even in the coldest mornings - although the cold morning starts are quite "fresh" since I don't have an additional engine and interior heater in the car. The stiffening of the gear change which was evident last winter has not been as big problem this winter. The coldest start of this week took place in -30 C and in that kind of temperatures the gear change is still stiff in the beginning but now you can change gear with one hand only whereas during the previous winter it would have required two hand to change gear. Possibly the gearbox has just required some running-in to work better in cold temperatures.

The Abarth has not been driven that much since there is only 11.500 km on the clock at the moment.

A first actual fault has also appeared during the winter since there has been a need to add coolant fluid occasionally. This problem has given me the chance to test how well the new local Fiat dealership manages warranty issues. The experience in dealing with the local Mega-Auto was quite good although it took two visits to cure the problem since the fault was only diagnosed on the first visit but the garage didn't have parts for the repair and I had to make another visit to get the fault repaired. The leaking of the coolant fluid was caused by a small leak next to the water pump and the pump was changed under warranty.

Abarth 500 moottoritila

A new water pump was installed under warranty due to the leaking of the coolant fluid.


My Abarth 500: Experiences: 13.9.2010b

Bella Italia 2010

I visited the the traditional italian vehicles meeting Bella Italia once again this July. It gives you a chance to see a lot of different italian vehicles in a nice athmosphere in the Tammela Mansion. The Ferrari club was especially active in this year's meeting. My Abarth managed to get into the story of a Finnish newspaper called Iltalehti during the meeting.

Here are a couple of shots from the meeting. A larger picture can be opened by clicking on the picture.

A line-up of small Abarth's/Fiat's.

A green Fiat Dino and another rare Fiat model which I didn't recognize.

My Abarth was joined by another Abarth 500 esseesse. The owner of that  grey import car is living in Tampere.

The oldest Fiat in the meeting.


My Abarth 500: Experiences: 13.9.2010

First year - 8,800 km

Shiny and almost new Abarth in May 2009.

The first year of Abarth ownership is behind and I had 8,800 on the clock on 18 May 2010 when the first year had passed. Here is a summary of the experiences during this first year.

Day to day experiences:

It's been fun. The performance of the car - especially considering it's size - is very good and the car is small and agile. That is a combination which evitably leads to joyous experiences.

The performance of the Abarth is adequate also on motorway speeds and the acceleration while passing other cars by is good. The weakness of a small turbocharged engine is the lack of torque on low rpm (under 2,000 rpm) but once the turbo starts rolling the fun begins.

SInce the car is small it is also very agile and somehow driving it is always fun. The suspension is stiff and sporty but unfortunately the spring/shock tuning is not exactly spot on since the ride can be bumpy on certain road conditions. A short wheelbase also contributes to this. A set of good quality coilovers would probably cure this tendency and it would be number one on my list if I would like to improve the car somehow.

The short wheelbase in combination with wide winter tyres is not the best possible combination in Finnish winter conditions and this causes nervous handling behaviour on some occasions. Still the car is perfectly usable also in winter once you acknowledge some of the small shortcomings of the car. More info on the winter experiences can be found here.

The interior space in the rear is not very good - as you would expect. However the 12 year old girl in the family can travel in the rear seat on short distances. The space in the front is good and even a tall person like me (191 cm) fits nicely inside. The driving position is quite high and the visibility from the car is pretty good. The lack of the reach adjustment on the steering wheel is a minus on the car. On the other hand the gear level is positioned very nicely.

The equipment level on the car is good for a small car and includes a climate control and a bluetooth connection among other things.

The dasboard looks nice and individual.

The attitude of other people towards the Abarth is mainly positive and curious. The Abarth scorpion logo is something that many people seem to be interested in and most people don't have an idea what kind of car this is. There are exceptions however and sometimes I've met people who remember the old days of Abarth. It seems like it is impossible not to like the looks of the car based on the comments of other people. There are of course the occasional Audi/BMW-driver who gets upset when they notice that this little scorpion is faster than they think.


The list of faults is very short since there hasn't been any real faults during the first year.

There has however been some external damage to the car. First of all another person hit the rear bumber of the Abarth on the parking lot and the bumber had to be re-painted. Another incident was a stone damage on the windscreen which has also been repaired.

In addition to these the Blue&Me player has not always managed to play all the mp3-tunes from certain memory sticks. This has been cured by removing the lead from the car battery for a while. Last thing worth mentioning is the fact that the gearchange gets sticky on temperatures below -15C. Possibly the gearbox oil is too thick for the Finnish winter conditions.


The main costs have been due to the fuel since there have been no faults which would've had to be repaired. The average fuel consumption has been 7.6 l/100 km during the first year according to the trip computer.

The buying of the winter tyres has been the only other usage related cost during the first year.


Individual and positive car, fun moments, no faults worth mentioning, cheap driving - all and all a nice little pocket rocket despite some shortcomings.

Now all I got to do is drive more.


My Abarth 500: Experiences: 22.5.2010

Winter experiences

Abarth on a sunny winter day during winter 2010.

The first winter with Abarth is now behind which means that I've got enough experience on how to cope with winter in the Abarth. Here is a summary of some winter related experiences.

Driving in the winter:

The short wheelbase of the Abarth does create some unstability in some conditions during the winter. This happens for example while crossing lanes which have some packed snow between them. One reason for unstability is undoubtely the Korean Nexen winter tyres which are not the best possible in these conditions. It is however difficult to assess the actual impact of the tyres without having experience on proper Nordic style winter tyres in similar conditions with the same car. 

Heating and starting the car:

The previous winter was warmer than usually and I started this winter with optimism even though the Abarthd didn't have an addional engine and interior heater. However the conditions in winter 2009/10 were harsher than normally which meant a lot of cold starts. The temperatures were between -15C and -25C most of the time for approximately two month period between December and February and later on in the winter the temperatures were also quite cold in the Lahti region. In these conditions the car started flawlessly every time. I have to say though that the cold starts at those temperartures are quite "fresh" if you are used to having an additional engine and interior heater in your car.

In relation to how the interior heats up in the winter the Abarth is quite normal. When the temperature drops to below -20C you can however tell that it is a small car from the fact that there are not that many air vents in the car and the heat distribution is not that even inside. This doesn't mean that you will feel too cold and the car has always managed to warm up quite nicely. The lack of the heated seats is not very nice though.


 The Nexen non-spike winter tyres on the car have had quite good grip on cold, dry winter conditions. Also when the temperature is just few degrees below zero the grip has been reasonable on snowy surfaces. The Nexen's are however no match to proper Nordic type winter tyres especially on icy surfaces. Altogether it is possible to manage through the Finnish winter once you know what are the deficiencies of the tyre and you don't have to drive a lot of longer journeys. I wouldn't recommend them for a proper winter conditions if you would drive a lot with your car.


No faults have appearer during the first winter but one interesting feature has appeared. That is the stiffening of the gearchange at cold temperatures. Slight stiffening can be notices at approximately -10C and at -15C you already have to use fair amount of power to be able to shift gears. When the temperature drops to below -20C you have to use your both arms to be able to shift. Once the car warm up it gets easier. I wonder if the oil in the gearbox is too stiff for the Finnish winter conditions.

Like I said there have been no actual faults at the car so far and it has been quite unproblematic so far. 

In summary the Abarth might not win a winter car of the year award but it is a car which you can use even in the harsh Finnish winter conditions like any other modern car.


My Abarth 500: Experiences: 2.1.2010

Equipping the Abarth for the winter

Abarth at home in the winter.

As the winter was coming closer it was time to start thinking of the winter tyres and an additional engine and interior heater. I had reserved the 17" esseesse wheels for the winter tyres and I had sold the Michelin summer tyres which originally came with the wheels. I started looking for the winter times well ahead of the time when it would be mandatory to use winter tyres ie. from the beginning of December.

However it was more difficult than I imagined to get winter tyres in the correct 205/40/17" size since no manufacturer had proper spiked tyres or so-called Nordic non-spike winter tyres in their program. The non-spike variety which is normally used here in winter is different to the ones used in countries outside Scandinavia since we use tyres with much softer compound than the winter tyres used in the Continental Europe or UK. The soft compound tyres usually have lower speed rating (usually T or Q) and they have better grip on snow and ice than the harder compound winter tyres.

The hard compound winter tyres on the correct size were available in Pirelli's and Bridgestone's program in addition to few cheaper brand tyres. The Pirelli manufactures W210 Sottozero and Bridgestone makes Blizzak LM-25 in size 205/40/17". Since those hard compound tyres are not that great in the Finnish winter conditions I did look for other options. At one point I went to one tyre fitter to try out 215/45/17" size winter tyre but it seemed like there is not enough space to fit that size on a 500A esseesse so that option had to be ruled out.

Finding the Pirelli's or Bridgestone's was also harder than expected since it seemed like nobody had them in stock. I tried approx. twenty places in Finland and Europe but nobody had four Sottozero's in the correct size available. The Finnish Pirelli would've had two but that didn't help me much.

The Bridgestone's were also hard to come by so finally after more than two months of active searching I had to look for Korean made Nexen winter tyres. By that time it was already December and temperatures were around -15C and there had been snow on the ground for a while already. At those circumstances driving with the summer tyres on was not very pleasant.

I ordered the Nexen's from a German eBay seller at a reasonable price. The exact model of the tyres was Nexen Roadstone Win-Sport 205/40 R17 84V. Once the tyres arrived I immediately had them installed on the car. When that happened it was already second half of December.

The winter tyres and the wheels of the Abarth. The tyres are Nexen Roadstone Win-Sport 205/40 R17 84V.

The experiences on the tyres are limited at the moment but at least on dry snowy roads on temperatures ranging from -15C to -23C the tyres have worked adequately. Once or twice when the conditions have been more slippery it has become clear that these tyres do not work nearly as well as good spiked tyres.

Finding an additional engine and interior heater has not been easy either since neither of the big brands which make electric engine heaters (Calix and Defa) do not have an approved heater for Abarth 500. That's probably because nobody has asked for one previously since Abarth is not imported to any of the Nordic countries where the electric heaters are widespread. There are however heaters which fit normally aspirated Fiat 500 engines and heaters that fit other Fiat Group cars with 1,4 l turbo engines.

Almost all of the cars in Finland have some kind of an additional engine heater and they are mostly electrical heaters but there are also some heaters which use fuel for heating. They are usually lot more expensive than the electric heaters but they are also very nice. Mostly they are made by either Webasto or Eberspächer. Eberspächer for the Abarth would cost closer to 1,500 euros including installation.

So far no additional engine heater has been installed to my Abarth but I'll have to see what I will do with that matter. In temperatures around -20C it is quite fresh to start the car in the mornings especially since the car doesn't even have heated seats. However the car has started so far without problems and it has been fault free also otherwise except for the Blue & Me media player which has not always played mp3 tracks from the memory stick. I will give more detailed report on how the Abarth copes with the Finnish winter conditions later on once I've had more experience on it.

Abarth in -18C in Lahti by the lake Vesijärvi. More winter pics can be found on the Pictures page.



My Abarth 500: Experiences: 9.8.2009

Bella Italia 2009

A traditional meeting for Italian vehicles called Bella Italia took place in Tammela in July. I have visited Bella Italia previously with my barchetta and GTA and now it was time to visit the meeting with my Abarth. This year my car received quite a lot of attention since it was on display very close to the entrance at the Ricambi Heikka stand.

There is always plenty of Fiat, Alfa and Lancia cars on display at Bella Italia but unfortunately the more exotic Italian brand cars seem to avoid this meeting. This year there was a couple of Maseratis and one Ferrari but that was about it. However the meeting is nice place to see Italian cars and two wheelers in a pleasant surroundings.

Here are a couple of shots from the meeting. A larger picture can be opened by clicking on the picture.

My Abarth at the Ricambi Heikan stand. ©  Raimo Miettinen

A couple of older Abarth's at Bella Italia.

Abarth 1000.

Close-up of another racing Abarth.

There were a couple of old Fiat 500's around too.

The Fiat line-up included two Fiat Topolino's ie. the forefather of the modern 500.

A close-up shot of my Abarth on the Bella Italia by Sami Uotila. © Sami Uotila

Another of Sami's pics. © Sami Uotila



My Abarth 500: Experiences: 2.8.2009

First 2,500 kms

At the moment the Abarth has approx. 2,500 km on the clock ie. I've had a chance to gather some experience on the car and based on the experiences so far the car is good fun. The Abarth is surprisingly jolly companion on the longer journeys since the performance of the car is good even on the motorway speeds. The slight bumpiness of the suspension can however have negative effect on the driving comfort in some situations. On the positive side it is worth mentioning that the brakes have good feel and they are easy to modulate.

In relation to the performance pushing the gas pedal on motorway speeds causes the car to accelerate surprisingly rapidly but on the other hand in situations when the car is rolling on walking speeds on the traffic lights nothing much happens when you press the gas pedal. The revs have to rise above 1,800 rpm before anything starts to happen. Previously I owned an Alfa 147 GTA and its 3.2 litre V6 -engine responded nicely and humbly on all revs but I guess that you can't expect that downsizing would make miracles happen even though the characteristics of the Abarth's 1.4 litre turbo engine are pretty nice in many ways.

The contents of the Esseesse crate. Schenker Logistics was  responsible for delivering the crate to home.

Esseesse number plate.

The car and the esseesse crate at home. The crate contains firewood at the moment.

The fuel consumption has been approx. 4 litres per 100 km lower than on my Alfa and the average consumption so far has been 7.7 l/100 km based on the cars trip computer. The fuel tank is so small on the Abarth (35 l) that visits to gas stations are quite frequent.

The gear stick on the Abarth is located high up on the dashboard and the location is nice and handy. While driving on the wifes car it always feels that the gear stick on that car is far away once you are used to the stick position on Abarth. One negative thing related to driving position is that there is no reach adjustement on Abarth's steering column. I've got quite short arms relative to my lenght and this means that I can't get optimal driving position on the Abarth.

The gear stick is handily placed.

There have been a couple of setbacks since firstly I've had a crack on the windscreen caused by stone and secondly another driver hit the rear bumper of the car on the parking lot. I've had the windscreen crack repaired and also the rear bumper has been repainted.

All this is small potatoes compared to how fun it is to drive the car. Also it seems like the attitudes of the other people towards the car are mainly positive and often people stare at the car. I think that many people wonder what are those Abarth logos all over the car since there is no sign of a Fiat logo outside of the car.

The Abarth logo on the front of the car instead of the Fiat logo.

Now it's time to get on the road again!