Watch out Mini, the Fiat 500 – CAR’s car of the year 2007 – is getting the high-performance treatment. The Abarth version unveiled today is pitched as a new interpretation of the Sixties road racer, but can they make a bigger, heavier hatch as exciting as that?
The 500 Abarth 2008-style uses the Fiat group’s 16-valve 1.4-litre Fire engine breathing with the assistance of an IHI variable-geometry turbocharger to deliver a warm 135bhp at 5500rpm. So this car won’t challenge the upper echelons of hot-hatchdom that now have to pump out closer to 200bhp to be in contention. That honour will befall more tuned Abarth SS versions that are under development.
So how fast is the Fiat 500 Abarth?
Power might not break any dyno rigs, but the Abarth musters 152lb ft at 3000rpm in Sport mode; bafflingly for a warm hatch, you can select Normal mode for a reduced output of 132lb ft at a lower 2500rpm. How fast does this make the Abarth? Sadly we don’t yet know. Fiat is saving the juicier stats for the car’s debut at the Geneva Motor Show on 4 March 2008. The Abarth is, of course, front wheel drive and drives through a five-speed manual ’box.Fiat 500 Abarth: styled for effect
As our spyshots have shown, the Abarth gets a full suite of aero tweaks to reduce drag and improve high-speed stability. Standard wheel size is 16-inches wearing 195/45 rubber), but plenty of owners are expected to upgrade to the 17-inchers pictured (and wearing plumper bigger 205/40 tyres). Twin exhausts and chunky spoilers and sills complete the package – unless you want to add the Eighties-style decals down the flanks.
Will the Abarth be as good to drive as it looks? It gets the same MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear axles, but tuned for sharper handling than shopping versions. The electric power steering has a Sport mode for more digitally enhanced, fake weight. Vented discs bring the Abarth to a halt.
Keep an eye on CAR Online’s first drives to read our thoughts on the 500 Abarth when we get behind the wheel this spring.CAR will be reporting live from the Geneva Motor Show on 4 March 2008. Come back before then for all the previews, news and gossip from Europe’s premier car show