Did you ever have a friend who is a lot of fun in small doses, but after an extended period, their presence starts to wear on you? That’s kind of how I usually feel about small, underpowered cars. I enjoy the maneuverability and economy of them, and feel that it’s something of a novelty to drive something as small as a Scion iQ or a Fiat 500. Yet, I often find myself requesting small cars to evaluate. So, despite owning a nearly two ton, 304 horsepower sedan as my daily driver, this is the third Fiat 500 I’ve borrowed for a week. (First, I had the Fiat 500C, then I had the Fiat 500 Sport. And now, the Fiat 500 ABARTH.) It was fun to spend a week using the ABARTH, but I could never live with a car this small as a daily driver. Continue Reading →
“What is making that noise??” I certainly wasn’t the only one asking that question the first time I heard a driver behind the wheel of the new Fiat 500 Abarth revving its heavily-boosted 1.4 liter four cylinder engine with low-restriction exhaust. Literally, in a parking lot full of amazing cars – most of which put the Fiat’s 160 horsepower/170 lb-ft ratings to shame – the car whose exhaust note drew the most attention was this little Fiat.
By Andy Bannister
After years of half-hearted neglect, Fiat is now making a serious attempt to capture a slice of the market for super-fast small cars by reviving the spirit of the Abarth racing concern and its evocative badge.
Abarth versions of the little 500 and the Punto are now available and look set to give hot hatch rivals like Ford, Opel and Renault a real run for their money in Europe and possibly further afield.
A self-taught engineer from Austria, Carlo Abarth began his company in 1949, tuning baby Fiats and Simcas. The marque’s scorpion badge he designed was derived from his zodiac birth sign.
These rear-engined cars had tremendous motor sport success – setting five world records at Monza – and were also available as road vehicles. Meanwhile, less affluent buyers who wanted to plug into the Abarth magic could purchase a series of company-developed tuning kits.
In 1971 Abarth was taken over by Fiat, which began to utilise the badge to build its own image. Among the successful vehicles it was used on were included the world-beating 124 and 131 rally cars, which did much to spice up sales and add some excitement to the line-up.
On the road, the badge was haphazardly used from time to time on a variety of models, some closer to the spirit of the founder than others. An early beneficiary was Fiat’s Autobianchi small car division (later absorbed into Lancia), which offered a slightly-warmed over version of its baby hatchback as the A112 Abarth.
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