Fiat 500 Abarth (2007)

Published: 22 May 2007

CAR Online scoops the new Fiat 500 Abarth

If the new Fiat 500 is one of the most intriguing new cars of 2007, this must be one of the highlights of next year: the Abarth version of Fiat’s latest retro supermini, aimed squarely at the fashionable Mini set. CAR Online’s spies were at the Nurburgring in Germany when Fiat’s engineers took this prototype out for testing. Click ‘Next’ to check out our four photos for the full lowdown on the smallest Abarth for a generation.

So what’s different from the standard 500?

Fiat whisked the covers off the regular 500 back in March, and this Abarth version won’t be shown until later this year or early in 2008, our sources say. However, the car in these photos spills several secrets to whet the appetites of enthusiasts of small hot hatchbacks. The air intakes at the front of this prototype are significantly bigger than the standard car’s, feeding air to the turbocharged 1.4 that’s tipped to power the Abarth. The wheels are bigger than on the standard cars and wear low-profile rubber – somehow emphasising the rollerskate’s wheel-at-each-corner stance. They are one of a series of chassis tweaks to make the junior GTi handle like an Abarth should.

What else is new on the 500 Abarth?

At the rear, there’s a hint of a roof spoiler nestling under a strip of black tape, and most of the brightwork (bar the door handles) from the 500 is dechromed, replaced by body coloured red or black trim. Does it work? To our eyes, yes – the 500 Abarth looks sharp and purposeful and, above all, fun. Just what a sporting 500 should be. The red paint on this prototype is telling; Fiat is planning an unparalleled range of colours inside and out for the new 500, with the hope of surpassing Mini’s extensive choice of personalisation. So expect lots of scope for tailoring your 500 to your exact whim. Fiat has used online microsites to gauge fans’ interest in picking wild options and decals, so expect some pretty wacky toys with which to spec your car.

Is the 500 worthy of the Abarth badge? How fast will it be?

We don’t know yet, but with around 150bhp from its 1.4, you can expect lots of fun. The 500 will be lighter than its Mini rival, and with less girth to lug around, the small turbo should offer fast reflexes. We’re talking 0-60mph in around 8.0sec, enough to qualify for proper warm hatch status. Fiat only recently resurrected the Abarth badge on the Grande Punto, which shares the same engine. If offered in the same level of tune, it means drivers will have up to 170lb ft of twist on offer for overtaking manoeuvres. Will there be a hotter 500 in the pipeline? The Grande Punto is rumoured to get a 180bhp upgrade, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Fiat will maximise the promise of the 500. It’s been a long, long time since the Italians had such a potential hit on their hands, and they’re unlikely to squander the chance.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet