Fiat 500 Abarth and Aston Martin Rapide: Closer than one would think.

Go ahead and use your favorite browser to see if the Fiat 500 Abarth and Aston Martin Rapide have ever been mashed together before.  Insane as it seems, for the sake of argument, lets say that the Abarth and Rapide are competitors.  Quite a head scratcher, so let us first examine the differences, examine the cars themselves, followed by why they are a great match.  For a little more detail into the 500 Abarth, click here for an older MSS blog with the easier-to-swallow comparison to the Hyundai Veloster.

Abarths rock a 1.4L, 160hp turbo four to the Aston’s 470hp 5.9L V12 liar (markings suggest it’s a 6.0L when it’s 5935cc’s).  Then we have the doors… a pair for the Fiat and twice that for the AM which feature a handy upward swoop to avoid curb rash.

At least they seat the same numeral of four, though the Fiat does so with a bench in back while the English super-saloon is rocking buckets surrounded by a huge center console, which is necessary with it being rear drive to the little Italian front-wheeler.  Prices are separated by an extra zero at the end: $22,000 for an Abarth versus a base 2013 Rapide starting at $207,000 (though a’14 Rapide S somehow drops to $198,000 despite a horsepower spike from 470 to 550hp).  Just the rear track of a Rapide is nearly as wide as the whole Abarth.

Yet there are striking similarities, so why can’t they compete in that fashion?  After all, both the Abarth and Aston seat four, are hatchbacks (well, a hatchback and a fastback), and are flawed to a point where I have a love/hate relationship them both.  That, and they both make good noises: the Fiat with it’s belchy snarls and the Aston with that intake growl before the wail in the exhaust awakes.

Where the Fiat falls flat comes down to packaging: the short wheelbase combined with a tall, skinny body often lends to unsavory ride and dynamic behaviors.  A tall seating position further enforces the experience as most any reviewer would use the words “barstool,” “upright,” or “minivan” in their content.

The Rapide has a different issue, sitting more with proportions in length.  Every Aston Martin under design chief Ian Collum is supposed to fit the “Rule of Thirds.”  This rule determines the size of the grille against the width of the car and height of the nose, the size of the passenger cabin to the length of the car, and so on.  For some reason, this stretched Aston doesn’t pull it off as cleanly as the coupes in the company line-up.  The roof is too long compared to the rest, giving it a damned-near Porsche Panamera (a close competitor) rear end hump.

Astons stacked

Not to scale, for roofline comparison purposes only.

The lack of any additional slices in the front fascia doesn’t help the face at all, either, making it somewhat dull, while the DB’s and Vantages get scoops to break the bleak beak.  For 2014, the Rapide S comes with an ever more offensive grille size, but at least sharpens the front with low spoilers.

Rapide S

Standard Rapide front end.

Neither car is really seen as roomy inside.  For the tiny Fiat that doesn’t come as a surprise, but the limo-like Rapide might as well be a two-door.  For example, the Rapide has 37.3” of headroom up front, while the Fiat holds 38.9.  In back, it’s a 36.9/35.5  split advantage to Aston, making for yet more close numbers.  Front leg room of the Aston is a stretchy 42.8″ to the Fiat’s sketchy 40.7”, though the rear passengers have a mere 30.1” in the sedan while the diminutive hatch holds 31.7”.  When considering the 27” difference between the wheelbases of the two cars, one can see that much of the Rapides’ size makes way for the engine.

Trunk space for an Abarth reaches a mere 9.5cuft with rear seats up, and 26.8 with rear seats down.  The rakish rear of the Rapide encompasses 11.2cuft with the rear buckets up, and 31.3cuft when not in use.  Yes, the Rapide is larger for cargo, but the improvement from seats up to seats down barely beats the Abarth, as the increased capacity climbs 35.4% for the scrappy Italian to the high-brow Brit’s 35.7% improvement.

One really can’t call a winner or loser here.  Of the vast differences, each vehicle sets out to be an interesting and convincing package in their own right.

Make the easy argument the Rapide will be the rarer, more exclusive, personally tailored, and more practical machine… but is it?  Yes, it’s a far more civilized machine with more crafted garnish, but the margins of practicality are minimal and there are still pieces that aren’t bespoke enough to hide the Ford ownership of yore.

The Fiat makes no claims of being anything more than a cheap, cramped, flamboyant toy (it doesn’t claim an extra .1L of false displacement, either).  Where the Aston Martin has some real competitors (see and hear them here) from the likes of the equally flawed characterful Maserati Quattroporte, and the coldy Germanic Porsche Panamera, the Abarth has far less to worry about.  There are also cooler cars wearing wings like the Vanquish, DBS, and Vantage at Aston Martin, while the 500 Abarth really does show itself as top-dog in the Fiat line.  For that, the Scorpion-bearer pulls me a little more as a winner.  That begs another question: with the odd similarities of the Abarth and Aston for compromises with character, why didn’t Aston Martin make the better suited Fiat 500 the Cygnet and not the Scion iQ for the owner-exclusive citycar?


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