Car Review: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

The Fiat 500 Abarth is a front engine, front wheel drive, four passenger and three door hatchback.  It boasts a turbocharged and intercooled, single overhead cam sixteen valve inline four cylinder, aluminum block and head, port fuel injected engine and a five speed manual transmission.

Since 2009 when Fiat first introduced the 500 Abarth, trying to enter the market that was and is ruled by the Mini-Cooper and the Cooper-S, sales for the 500 have been disappointing.  Trying to turn that around, Fiat has made some changes to 2012 model.

500 Abarth’s looks; scorpions abound

First the exterior aesthetics: The Fiat designers have “muscled up” the exterior, while retaining the distinctive blunt teardrop shape. The hood and bumper openings channel airflow into the engine’s intercoolers.  Dual tailpipes tuck neatly under the rear bumper. The 500 has optional 17-inch aluminum wheels adorned with the Abath scorpion. 16-inch wheels are standard, but still come with the scorpion emblems. In fact, it is nigh well impossible to avoid the scorpion badge as it also is on all four sides of the vehicle. Other nice design features are the red brake calipers, the mirror caps and a roof-mounted spoiler.

500 Abarth’s “serious” interior

The interior is both sporty and serious. The Porsche-inspired seats include side-bolsters that look very cool, but do not do so much to hold the driver or passenger in place in fast, tight turns.  The car has some nice leather appointments on the gearshift, parking brake handle and gauge hood.  The turbo gauge and shift-up indicator are not well integrated with the rest of the instruments, but at least they are there.  However, the non-telescoping, flat-bottomed steering wheel that features hand-grip cut-outs at the two and ten o’clock positions is a very nice touch.  Although listed as a four-seater, the back seat is merely an afterthought.

500 Abarth’s racing heritage

In Europe, Abarth is a separate brand name with an extensive racing history.  This racing lineage has translated to the American version of the 500 Abarth through a stiffer front suspension, Koni front shocks and 11.1 inch diameter front brake discs. Also, the standard 101 Horsepower, 1.4 liter of the regular Fiat 500 has been turbo-charged in the 500 Abarth, giving the power plant a respectable 160 horses with 170 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm.  This should give the car a 0 to 60 time of around 7.0 seconds.  The five speed standard transmission is adequate, but a sixth gear for highway driving would have been good.

Drivers of the earlier 500’s Abarths report that they are an absolute blast to drive.  The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth should be no different, but it is yet to be seen if this will be enough to boost flagging sales.

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