It’s here! Fiat has unleashed its white-hot Abarth 500, and the scorpion-badged model has a sting in its tail.
The racy supermini, set to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March, has a small but punchy 135bhp 1.4-litre 16v turbocharged engine under its stubby bonnet – an increase of 35bhp over the naturally aspirated Fiat version. The Abarth’s motor delivers maximum torque of 206Nm when Sport mode is engaged using the dash-mounted button, and 180Nm when Normal mode is selected. Power reaches the front wheels through a five-speed manual box.
To make the best use of the turbo performance and maximise grip, the hot 500 uses an evolution of Fiat’s TTC (Torque Transfer Control) traction control system. As a result, the Abarth should be able to achieve a 0-60mph sprint of around eight seconds and reach a top speed of 125mph. The standard 1.4-litre model’s figures are 10.5 seconds and 113mph respectively.
The suspension has been uprated to provide more involving handling and less body roll through corners. And to cope with the boost in power, the brakes have been upgraded, too.
Looks-wise, the hot 500 has the show to match its extra go. Designers have given the car an aggressive bodykit to make it stand out alongside lesser models. But the external updates also provide improved aerodynamics. There’s a large roof spoiler at the rear which, along with a race-style diffuser, controls the airflow over and under the car.
Along with the body-coloured side- skirts, this should boost downforce to provide added grip and stability at speed. Twin exhaust pipes complete the visual enhancements.
At the front, a redesigned nose accommodates the larger engine. This features a grille with additional vents to feed air into the intercoolers. The small car’s aggressive stance is completed by retro-style alloys, similar to those used on the racing Abarth 500s of the Sixties and Seventies. As standard, these are 16 inches in diameter, but there’s an option to upgrade to 17-inch rims like those pictured.
Inside, the dashboard instrumentation has largely been carried over from the basic 500, although a number of significant additions have also been made. For example, an analogue turbo-boost gauge has been added. This features integrated LED lights to help the driver optimise their gearshifts by indicating when it’s best to change up or down.
The newcomer also gets a flat-bottomed, race-style steering wheel, similar to that in the VW Golf GTI. The track-inspired theme continues with drilled aluminium pedals and a reshaped leather gearknob. The standard front chairs have been replaced by figure-hugging bucket seats with integrated headrests.
Buyers can choose from a variety of fabrics and two shades of leather – red or black. Prices for the newcomer are likely to start at around £13,000 when it goes on sale later this year. As a result, that pitches the Abarth 500 directly against the likes of the big-selling MINI Cooper.