Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio or Mini JCW Convertible. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Mastine-Frost
The compact convertible segment has always been a fun category to test, even though it is wrought with girlie jokes and questioning of one’s masculinity. I had a hard enough time testing the Miata earlier this summer with the constant stream of onlookers and ladies snickering as I drove past, so when the idea came for me to test these two drop-top hot-hatches I was a bit torn. I knew I was in for a whole lot of fun, but did I really want to deal with the Snark and Co. commentary while putting the cars through their paces?
Oh, who am I kidding, it’s just like riding a scooter. Not many people want to own up to it, but it’s actually a whole lot of fun! So the equation is simple. We’re going to fire through a round of questions to see whether you’re more well suited to a topless Italian stallion or something a bit more uptight and British.
And so, we present this handy Pop Quiz, designed to help you make the choice: Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio or Mini JCW Convertible?
How many people live in your home?
A: I live alone downtown
B: I live with my significant other and our two-year old
If you answered A: Both of these options will do the trick, but the Fiat’s the one if you never plan to cart around more than one friend at a time. The rear seats of the Fiat are best considered storage space for groceries, luggage, small pets or any combination of the above, unless you and your friends are all no more than five feet tall. The trade-off is that the smaller size of the Fiat will also mean that you’ll have just a bit more luck wedging yourself into those tight parking spaces than people who opt for the nominally larger Mini.
If you answered B: The Mini is really the only way to go if you plan on letting the family share in that fun in the sun. Although these are both small cars the Mini feels significantly larger when sitting in it, and as that wee two-year old grows up there will still be room you to drive him and his first date in high school off to the movies. You could still opt for the Fiat while the little one is using a car seat, but be prepared to outgrow the car sooner rather than later.
When it comes to gadgets, you prefer to get your hands on:
A: The latest and greatest tech available
B: Something simple that just gets the job done
If you answered A: This would be a landslide win for the JCW Mini. The Mini is chock full of tech goodies including streaming Bluetooth audio, on-board hard drive, and Mini’s interesting Connected app that lets you run Facebook and Twitter through your car. That’s right – you can tell all your friends and followers about all the fun you’re having while behind the wheel. I have a hard time thinking of a more fun yet pointless bit of gadgetry out there right now but this will be a welcome treat for those who can’t stand not being plugged in every waking moment.
2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio. Click image to enlarge
If you answered B: Unlike the Mini, Fiat stands by the logic that if you’re in a fast and fun convertible you don’t need distractions. Their audio system is simple and easy to use, but it is far from being anything high-tech although Bluetooth audio, satellite radio, and USB and auxiliary inputs are all still available. If you like cranking the tunes up loud enough to drown out the engine the $495 Beats Audio upgrade option is worth every penny.