Despite the Abarth mostly meeting expectations for power and interior quality, many are balking at the 5-speed manual transmission being the only option. Unfortunately, with “just” 14 months (short in manufacturing time) to convert the car to U.S. safety and market standards, they were forced to rely on a single solution that worked. My initial guess was the lack of space prevented an automatic or even a 6th gear and I was mostly right. Automobile Magazine has the full details:
To help the 500 meet American crash-test regulations, Fiat had to add lots of additional bracing in the chassis. With that bracing in place, there was no room for Fiat to fit a six-speed gearbox.
If the Abarth is successful, I have no doubt they’ll spend the time to adapt at least a six-speed, if not an automatic as well. Unfortunately, for those looking for the more advanced transmissions, there may be a long time to wait.