Fiat Panda Aria and Grande Punto Abarth SS

Published: 17 September 2007

Aria goes green, Abarth gets sporty, 500 goes large…

Fiat’s signature white stand featured both ends of the car spectrum: From the eco Panda Aria concept to a new even sportier version of the Grande Punto, the Abarth SS prototype. It arguably had the best show stand gimmick at Frankfurt too – a giant Fiat 500 model the size of a two-storey building housing a monorail on which punters could ride life-size 500 cars around its innards – entered through the giant 500’s wheel arch. Anyway… what about this eco Panda thingy…

This eco Panda…the leaf design on the Aria’s outside means it’s green right?

Oh yes, the Fiat Aria ‘concept’ is subtle like that. But look beyond (or through) the questionable styling of the clear exterior body panels with the designed foliage on top of this normal Panda shell and you’ll find a super clean engine and plenty of recycled materials lurking beneath.

What’s so clever about the engine?

The 80bhp 900cc turbocharged two-cylinder dual fuel unit operates with petrol or a mixture of 70% methane gas and 30% hydrogen. Two less cylinders equates to a 20% weight reduction and 25% less size compared to a four-cylinder with the same power. Mix in stop/start tech, clever engine management and experimental ‘ultra-green’ tyres and Fiat says a super low 69g/km CO2 rating is possible. Some of these technologies are already on Fiat cars (it claims to be the world’s leading natural gas carmaker) and more will inform future production cars.

The 150bhp 1.4 petrol Turbo Grande Punto Abarth shown in Geneva flagged up the brand’s return but the lowered Super Sport ‘SS’ prototype was the main Frankfurt news with 180bhp, a roll-cage, enhanced braking and with almost every conceivable custom option added – from cool new alloys to smart go-faster red stripes. Fiat also showed a rally-only Abarth S2000 that is nothing to do with Honda but is an even quicker and more stripped-out Grande Punto offering 270bhp (above). The ‘basic’ Grande Punto Abarth you will actually be able to buy from next summer in the UK will be sold without Fiat badging to distinguish its status as a separate marque through selected Fiat dealers. An ‘SS’ version and a 500 Abarth are expected to follow.

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator